Honky Tonk


1h 45m 1941
Honky Tonk

Brief Synopsis

A young girl falls for a western gambler.

Film Details

Genre
Western
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 1941
Premiere Information
New York opening: 2 Oct 1941
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,438ft (11 reels)

Synopsis

In the 1880s, when conman "Candy" Johnson hops on a train after narrowly escaping tar and feathering by irate citizens, he tells his partner "The Sniper" that he is tired of being run out of towns and vows to find one of his own. Candy sees the beautiful Elizabeth Cotton on the train and mistakenly thinks that she is a fellow con artist, but soon learns that she is returning to Yellow Creek, Nevada from school in Boston. She is greeted at the station by her father, Judge Cotton, whom Candy recognizes. In the saloon, Candy decides that this rich town is the one he wants. When he runs into an old girl friend, "Gold Dust" Nelson, she tells him that the saloon's crooked owner, Brazos Hearn, is also the sheriff. Soon the judge, who is a former conman, renews his acquaintance with Candy and reveals that he is a "pillar of the community," but is starting to be suspected of pocketing the fine money he collects. Soon after, Candy angers Hearn by siding with a local man who says the club is crooked. Candy then challenges Hearn to a game of Russian Roulette and wins $5,000 with help from the judge and Sniper. Later, Candy takes the inebriated judge home, angering Elizabeth, who thinks that Candy is a bad influence. When the judge's housekeeper, Mrs. Varner, mentions that the town doesn't have a church, Candy gives her $1,500 to build a mission. Candy then kisses Elizabeth, telling her that they are alike. A short time later, Candy opens up the ramshackle "Square Deal" saloon. It becomes more popular than Hearn's, and Candy impresses citizens at a town meeting, when he speaks with conviction against "Mr. John Barleycorn," and reveals that he eats candy because liquor always causes him trouble. Elizabeth lets him walk her home and he admits that he admires her brains, toughness and beauty. Gold Dust later tells Candy that when men like him marry "they get good and married," then goes to Elizabeth and warns her that Candy is only interested in "a fancy room in a fancy hotel." When Candy tells Elizabeth that he wants to take her to Sacramento, but is not interested in marriage, she agrees, but suggests that they have a drink first. Though reluctant, he takes a drink at her insistence, followed by another. The next morning, a hungover Candy wakes up in Elizabeth's room and she lets him know that they were married the night before. Rather than being mad, he admires her ingenuity and is amused by her determination to reform him. At the Square Deal, the judge learns about the marriage and is upset because he fears that Elizabeth will be hurt. The judge then tells Elizabeth that he and Candy are both cheap crooks, but she tells him that he will someday be proud of Candy. That night, after noting that they haven't had a proper courtship, Elizabeth locks the door of her bedroom, so Candy breaks the door down, then leaves for the saloon. Elizabeth soon follows and interrupts his private dinner with Gold Dust. After the two women exchange insults, Gold Dust leaves and Elizabeth and Candy passionately kiss. The next morning, as Candy and Elizabeth are happily walking to town, one of Hearn's men shouts a phony cheating charge against Candy and draws a gun. Candy defends himself by drawing a gun hidden in his coat, then rebukes Hearn in front of the town. After campaigning for honest elections, Candy is soon running the town, which booms with newly built schools and churches. At the same time, he builds political influence in the state and greedily amasses a fortune. When Elizabeth becomes pregnant, Candy happily says he will name the baby after the judge, but the judge, who has become increasingly bitter because he thinks Elizabeth has been changed by Candy, says he is moving out. That morning, Candy's henchmen, now headed by Hearn, say that they want to get rid of the judge, who is fomenting trouble in town. To appease them, Candy says that he will send the judge away and puts him on a train headed east, but the judge sneaks off and heads for a town meeting called to discuss Candy's corruption. Candy arrives prior to the judge and tries to defend himself. Then, the judge arrives and is shot in the back and dies in Candy's arms. When Elizabeth hears the news while riding in her carriage, she falls to the ground and is comforted by Gold Dust. At home, Elizabeth loses the baby and when the doctor says that she needs an operation to save her life, Candy threatens to kill him if she dies. After the operation, the semi-conscious Elizabeth tells Candy that she would do anything for him, even lie and cheat, and he is shaken. After being assured that Elizabeth will be all right, Candy gives Gold Dust papers and money for Elizabeth, then leaves. At City Hall, where the townspeople are trying to oust his men, Candy finds that Hearn and his gang have Sniper at gunpoint and want to take back the town. In a confrontation, Hearn draws, but Candy shoots and kills him. Although Hearn's cohorts want to kill Candy, he talks his way out of trouble again by making them think that he is on their side, saying that the governor is sending troops to attack them. Frightened, Hearn's men then leave through the back while Candy and Sniper bravely go out by the front, facing the angry townspeople. Some time later, in Cheyenne, Candy and Sniper are up to their old cons when Elizabeth shows up, summoned secretly by a postcard from Sniper. Candy is glad to see her and by the next morning he is a happily changed man.

Cast

Clark Gable

"Candy" Johnson

Lana Turner

Elizabeth Cotton [Johnson]

Frank Morgan

Judge Cotton

Claire Trevor

"Gold Dust" Nelson

Marjorie Main

Mrs. Varner

Albert Dekker

Brazos Hearn

Henry O'neill

Daniel Wells

Chill Wills

The sniper

Veda Ann Borg

Pearl

Douglas Wood

Governor Wilson

Betty Blythe

Mrs. Wilson

Harry Worth

Harry Gates

John Maxwell

Kendall

Morgan Wallace

Adams

Dorothy Granger

Pearl

Sheila Darcy

Louise

Cy Kendall

Man with tar

Erville Alderson

Man with rail

John Farrell

Man with feathers

Don Barclay

Man with gun

Ray Teal

Poker player

Esther Hu

Prostitute

Ralph Bushman

Dealer

Tom Conlon

Dealer

Art Miles

Dealer

Harry Fleischmann

Bartender

Demetrius Alexis

Tug

Anne O'neal

Nurse

Russell Hicks

Dr. Otis

Henry Roquemore

Butcher

Louis Mason

Man at tar party

Robert Homans

Man at tar party

Dick Curtis

Tough man

Phillip Morris

Man on train

Lew Harvey

Blackie

Jack Carr

Brazo's henchman

Dorothy Ates

Dance hall girl

Dick Ruso

Dentist

Ray Holderness

Bricklayer

Lew Kelly

Miner

Alonzo Price

Miner

Charles Mcavoy

Miner

Monte Montague

Miner

Joe Devlin

Miner

Malcolm Waite

Miner

Earl Gunn

Miner

Ted Oliver

Miner

Charles Sullivan

Miner

William Haade

Miner

Al Will

Miner

Heinie Conklin

Dental patient

Ed Brady

Waiter

Tiny Newlan

Gentleman

Will Wright

Man in meeting house

Alan Bridge

Man in meeting house

Lee Phelps

Man in meeting house

Howard Murphy

Butler

Edward Cassidy

Citizen

Jack Bailey

Citizen

Carl Stockdale

Citizen

Howard Mitchell

Citizen

William Pagan

Citizen

Jack C. Smith

Citizen

John Sheehan

Citizen

Bill Telaak

Citizen

George Lehrer

Citizen

Tom Chatterton

Citizen

Gordan De Main

Guest

Pat O'malley

Guest

Eddy C. Waller

Train conductor

Elliot Sullivan

Candy's man

Jane Keckley

Lee Shumway

Film Details

Genre
Western
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 1941
Premiere Information
New York opening: 2 Oct 1941
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,438ft (11 reels)

Articles

Honky Tonk
Thursday, November 9, 2006 1:30 AM ET


At the age of twenty, Lana Turner was riding high at MGM and had just completed work on two major releases, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and signed a new contract upping her salary to $1,500 a week. And if that wasn't enough to convince her that she had suddenly been propelled to top stardom, the studio gave her a plum role and equal billing with her new co-star, none other than the king of Hollywood himself, Clark Gable.

Turner had twice missed the chance to work with the actor she had admired since she was a young girl. She was one of dozens of hopefuls, stars and unknowns alike, who tried out for the role of Scarlett opposite Gable's Rhett in Gone with the Wind (1939). Surviving footage of Turner's screen test reveals a green actress well suited for the young, petulant Scarlett but totally out of her league in the more complex, mature aspects of the role. At 17, the woman who would soon become Hollywood's leading blonde actress was being considered as a possible replacement for MGM's recently deceased platinum blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow. Gable and Harlow had made a string of sharp, sexy hits together in the 30s, and the studio was hoping Turner could jump into the successful franchise. Inexperienced and very nervous to be making a screen test with her idol, Turner did poorly. "She couldn't read lines," Gable later said. "She didn't make them mean anything; it was obvious she was an amateur." Three years later, however, she had the experience and the box office appeal, and an obvious chemistry with Gable despite their 20-year age difference, to make the barroom-and-boudoir Western Honky Tonk (1941), one of the studio's biggest hits of the year.

In Honky Tonk, Gable plays con artist Candy Johnson, the kind of lovable rogue character that was a staple of the actor's career. Arriving with his cronies in the town of Yellow Creek, he ingratiates himself to the townsfolk by building a firehouse, school, and, of course, a saloon. He also marries Elizabeth (Turner), the pretty young daughter of the town's crooked judge, Candy's confederate in scamming the citizenry. But the judge (Frank Morgan, the title character in The Wizard of Oz, 1939) is suddenly stricken with a conscience...and a heart attack. His death causes his daughter to miscarry her child and reveal her misgivings about her marriage. Jolted by events, Candy leaves town, determined to give up his criminal ways. But realizing the strength of her love, Elizabeth goes after him.

The pairing of Gable and Turner proved to be a sensation. Recognizing what they had on their hands, the studio's publicity hacks cranked out ads saying, "Clark Gable kisses Lana Turner and it's screen history" and "Let's be specific, they're terrific." Quite taken with his young co-star, Gable sent Turner flowers on the first day of production with a note referring to their earlier screen test: "I'm the world's worst talent scout, Clark." Turner said the two of them had a remarkable "chemical rapport" and admitted being smitten with the King but vehemently denied for the rest of her life ever having an affair with him. That may be partially thanks to Gable's wife at the time of production, the beautiful and talented actress Carole Lombard. Knowing her husband had an affinity for blondes and aware of Turner's reputation as a party girl, Lombard went straight to MGM chief Louis B. Mayer and demanded Lana be told Gable was off limits. Lombard's presence on the set during filming of a steamy bedroom scene so unnerved Turner, she fled to her dressing room and didn't come out until Gable's wife had gone home, apparently satisfied she'd headed off any sexual relationship between the co-stars.

Honky Tonk was such a hit, MGM paired Gable and Turner again immediately in Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). They made two more films together, Homecoming (1948), and Betrayed (1954). Honky Tonk was remade as a TV movie in 1974 with Richard Crenna and Margot Kidder in the Gable and Turner roles.

Director: Jack Conway
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Marguerite Roberts, John Sanford
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Editing: Blanche Sewell
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Clark Gable (Candy Johnson), Lana Turner (Elizabeth Cotton), Frank Morgan (Judge Cotton), Claire Trevor ("Gold Dust" Nelson), Marjorie Main (Rev. Mrs. Varner), Albert Dekker (Brazos Hearn).
BW-105m. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon

Honky Tonk
Thursday, November 9, 2006 1:30 Am Et

Honky Tonk Thursday, November 9, 2006 1:30 AM ET

At the age of twenty, Lana Turner was riding high at MGM and had just completed work on two major releases, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and signed a new contract upping her salary to $1,500 a week. And if that wasn't enough to convince her that she had suddenly been propelled to top stardom, the studio gave her a plum role and equal billing with her new co-star, none other than the king of Hollywood himself, Clark Gable. Turner had twice missed the chance to work with the actor she had admired since she was a young girl. She was one of dozens of hopefuls, stars and unknowns alike, who tried out for the role of Scarlett opposite Gable's Rhett in Gone with the Wind (1939). Surviving footage of Turner's screen test reveals a green actress well suited for the young, petulant Scarlett but totally out of her league in the more complex, mature aspects of the role. At 17, the woman who would soon become Hollywood's leading blonde actress was being considered as a possible replacement for MGM's recently deceased platinum blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow. Gable and Harlow had made a string of sharp, sexy hits together in the 30s, and the studio was hoping Turner could jump into the successful franchise. Inexperienced and very nervous to be making a screen test with her idol, Turner did poorly. "She couldn't read lines," Gable later said. "She didn't make them mean anything; it was obvious she was an amateur." Three years later, however, she had the experience and the box office appeal, and an obvious chemistry with Gable despite their 20-year age difference, to make the barroom-and-boudoir Western Honky Tonk (1941), one of the studio's biggest hits of the year. In Honky Tonk, Gable plays con artist Candy Johnson, the kind of lovable rogue character that was a staple of the actor's career. Arriving with his cronies in the town of Yellow Creek, he ingratiates himself to the townsfolk by building a firehouse, school, and, of course, a saloon. He also marries Elizabeth (Turner), the pretty young daughter of the town's crooked judge, Candy's confederate in scamming the citizenry. But the judge (Frank Morgan, the title character in The Wizard of Oz, 1939) is suddenly stricken with a conscience...and a heart attack. His death causes his daughter to miscarry her child and reveal her misgivings about her marriage. Jolted by events, Candy leaves town, determined to give up his criminal ways. But realizing the strength of her love, Elizabeth goes after him. The pairing of Gable and Turner proved to be a sensation. Recognizing what they had on their hands, the studio's publicity hacks cranked out ads saying, "Clark Gable kisses Lana Turner and it's screen history" and "Let's be specific, they're terrific." Quite taken with his young co-star, Gable sent Turner flowers on the first day of production with a note referring to their earlier screen test: "I'm the world's worst talent scout, Clark." Turner said the two of them had a remarkable "chemical rapport" and admitted being smitten with the King but vehemently denied for the rest of her life ever having an affair with him. That may be partially thanks to Gable's wife at the time of production, the beautiful and talented actress Carole Lombard. Knowing her husband had an affinity for blondes and aware of Turner's reputation as a party girl, Lombard went straight to MGM chief Louis B. Mayer and demanded Lana be told Gable was off limits. Lombard's presence on the set during filming of a steamy bedroom scene so unnerved Turner, she fled to her dressing room and didn't come out until Gable's wife had gone home, apparently satisfied she'd headed off any sexual relationship between the co-stars. Honky Tonk was such a hit, MGM paired Gable and Turner again immediately in Somewhere I'll Find You (1942). They made two more films together, Homecoming (1948), and Betrayed (1954). Honky Tonk was remade as a TV movie in 1974 with Richard Crenna and Margot Kidder in the Gable and Turner roles. Director: Jack Conway Producer: Pandro S. Berman Screenplay: Marguerite Roberts, John Sanford Cinematography: Harold Rosson Editing: Blanche Sewell Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu Music: Franz Waxman Cast: Clark Gable (Candy Johnson), Lana Turner (Elizabeth Cotton), Frank Morgan (Judge Cotton), Claire Trevor ("Gold Dust" Nelson), Marjorie Main (Rev. Mrs. Varner), Albert Dekker (Brazos Hearn). BW-105m. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The following written prologue appears after the opening credits: "This is the story of a confidence-man-that often unsung but seldom unhung aristocrat of the old West." The film ends with the following written epilogue: "And when I die don't bury me deep; leave one hand free to fleece the sheep." Hollywood Reporter production charts include Rags Ragland in the cast, but he was not in the released film. Actors Ralph Peters, Eddie Gribbon, Syd Saylor, Harry Semels, Frank Mills and Art Belasco were listed in the CBCS as "Pallbearers," but they were not in the viewed print. William Daniels was the film's original directory of photography but in late June 1941 he was replaced due to illness by Harold Rosson.
       Hollywood Reporter news items and early production charts credit Edwin V. Westrate as the writer of an original story entitled "The Reign of Soapy Smith," upon which the film Honky Tonk was to be based. According to modern sources, although the character of "Candy Johnson" was fashioned after a real-life conman named Soapy Smith, Smith's heirs demanded too high a price for the rights to his story, so M-G-M changed the screenplay. Westrate is not credited on the film, in reviews or the SAB, and the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined.
       Albert Dekker was borrowed from Paramount for the production. Honky Tonk was the first of four films in which Clark Gable and Lana Turner co-starred, all of them made for M-G-M. Their last film together was Betrayed in 1954. Reviewers commented on the box office appeal of the co-stars, and a Hollywood Reporter news item in October 1941 noted that Honky Tonk was M-G-M's biggest money-maker of the year. Turner recreated her role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on April 8, 1946, co-starring John Hodiak and Gale Gordon.