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Here's something you don't see every day. Then again, would you want to? Several years before the 1950s' Davy Crockett craze, John Wayne donned a coonskin cap to play a militiaman in early-19th-century Alabama. He and his fellow Kentuckians are just passing through--"marching 600 miles," as they merrily sing (and sing, and sing), because riverboat magnate John Howard has refused to haul them. Howard and all-purpose scoundrel Grant Withers are scheming to dispossess a community of French émigrés--veterans of Napoleon's Grand Army who've come seeking life, liberty, etc. in the New World. Howard's also out to marry Vera Ralston, the French general's daughter. Naturally, Wayne's just the lad to gum up both plans.
Wayne himself produced The Fighting Kentuckian, but far from repeating the success of his maiden effort, Angel and the Badman, this is one of the feeblest films in his long career. Writer-director George Waggner never gets a handle on what a pre-Western should look and move like. Consequently, the cast does a lot of standing around looking silly in period costume, waiting--mostly in vain--for the script to establish their connection to one another and something resembling a plot. There is a glossier look to the proceedings than most Republic pictures achieved, thanks to Lee Garmes's pearly cinematography, but this is scant consolation. So is the almost creepy presence of Oliver Hardy, sans Laurel, doing Ollie-shtick as Wayne's jolly sidekick. No, he doesn't say, "This is another fine mess you've got me into!" But he should. --Richard T. Jameson
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