Why this apparently standard, cliche-ridden plot? It is necessary upon which to hang almost a dozen Livingston and Evans songs, Nick Castle's energetic choreography, some fancy quickdraws, and a lot of handshakings. It also gives the cast of familiar faces and old pros the opportunity to spout some witty dialogue poking fun at the venerable western genre. The script is by Michael Fessier (That's What Happened to Me) and an uncredited animator turned director Frank Tashlin (Artists and Models), whose distinctive comic touch is evident.
George Marshall directed Red Garters and his way with adventure and comedy was well-established by this time. See also Destry Rides Again, The Ghost Breakers, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, Murder He Says, The Sheepman, and more.
The look of Red Garters is highly stylized and accomplished with garish colours and false fronted buildings. It is as if we are watching a live-action cartoon. The performers match the sets with their mastery of the dialogue and their seamless breaking of the fourth wall.
Popular recording star Guy Mitchell is Reb Randall who came to town seeking vengeance ("It's the Code of the West.") and singing A Dime and a Dollar. Guy is quite appealing in this role as he falls in love with Carberry's ward Susan, a pert young woman played by Pat Crowley. Reb also strikes up a friendship with Rafael Moreno played by Gene Barry. Hollywood should have taken more advantage of Barry's musical talent.
The bandit Moreno may or may not be the man who killed Reb's brother (who was no good anyway, but the "Code of the West"). Moreno has his own romantic entanglement with an icy gal from Boston. Sheila Winthrop is played by singer/actress Joanne Gilbert. Sheila came west with her bombastic uncle Judge Wallace Winthrop played with all sails flying by Reginald Owen.
Truly, the entire cast is in comic support mode but we can add to the ensemble Frank Faylen as the buttinski Billy Buckett, Buddy Ebsen as the dancing Ginger Pete, and Cass Daley as Minnie Redwing. Cass was a popular big band singer who added comedy to her repertoire and found even greater success.
I am assuming that the Minnie Redwing character and character make-up are the reason for the channel's "product of its time" disclaimer prior to my recent television viewing of Red Garters. On one hand, I can't imagine anyone taking anything in Red Garters seriously. On the other hand, I can understand those who would not see the humour in the character. I am one with an inordinate amount of admiration for those who toil for our laughs, and beyond the mugging, Minnie has some potent things to say about Limbo County and its citizens.
Cass Daley and Dorothy Lamour with Whistling in the Light from the western musical Riding High, 1943 directed by none other than our pal George Marshall.
Every movie buff has that period where nothing is working; each new movie seems to disappoint you in the first ten minutes and you don't know what to watch. Channel surfing I came across Red Garters about to start. I hadn't seen it in ages. Did I like it? I must have, after all - George Marshall.
Red Garters, a box office flop in its day proved to be just what I needed. I don't know how long ago I had last seen it, but I must have been dazzled by the design because I had forgotten how pleasant and fun the songs were, how funny the dialogue, and how smooth the performances. It jump-started my movie nights. Perhaps Red Garters will do the same for you when needed, if you are fond of westerns, musicals, laughing, and spending time on the far side of quirky.
The original soundtrack album:
Jack Carson worked with George Marshall previously in the 1939 classic Destry Rides Again which the director remade in 1954 as Destry with Audie Murphy, who starred in the 1961 television series Whispering Smith with Guy Mitchell!