AL JENNINGS OF OKLAHOMA
US, 1952, 79 minutes, Colour.
Dan Duryea, Gale Storm, Dick Foran.
Directed by Ray Nazarro.
Al Jennings of Oklahoma is based on a book by Al Jennings himself. Jennings was a lawyer in Oklahoma in the 1880s and 1890s and, after his brother was killed in a gunfight, he sought vengeance and then had to go on the run with another brother. He joined a group of outlaws and excelled in all kinds of robberies, leading two train robberies. After trying to settle down in New Orleans and become respectable, he was arrested and served a prison term. After being released, he wrote a book about himself and then, in fact, went to Hollywood where he was an actor and an adviser on many westerns, dying in 1961.
It is said that the real Al Jennings was far more ruthless than the more genial type presented in the film. (At the same year, Universal Pictures released The Lawless Breed about another character who was a reformed criminal, Joe Hardin (played by Rock Hudson) who also wrote a book and reformed – although, it is again said, he was far more ruthless in real life.)
Dan Duryea was often a villain in films of the 40s and 50s and gives an ambiguous charm to Al Jennings. Gale Storm was in a few films but made her mark for many years in television and with recording songs. Ray Nazarro, the director, directed many routine westerns over several decades at Columbia Pictures.
1.Interesting western? Based on fact? The book by Al Jennings himself? The film’s sanitised treatment of his character and activities?
2.The Oklahoma west, the prologue with the action in the civil war, the Jennings father and the evacuation of his house, the burning of the house? His wife giving birth? The household, the boys? The father becoming a judge? The boys becoming lawyers? The confrontation between Al and his father, his moving with Frank to another town? Setting up in business? With the other brothers?
3.The incident in the saloon, the death of the brother? Al and his hotheadedness, confrontations, going to shoot the killer? His having to go on the run? Taking Frank with him because he was implicated? Their going to the farm, being employed? Finding the man there who had tried to rob them on their way into Woodwood?
4.The joining the gang, the collage of the robberies? Al and his skills, becoming the leader? The train robberies – and being seen by the rail detective?
5.The initial encounter with Margo, going into town, Al being flirtatious? Finding that his brother was defending her uncle? The court case, the insults to the Jennings by the lawyer, Al and his hotheadedness? The fight in the courtroom?
6.Their going to New Orleans, Frank and Al setting up in business, respectable? Meeting Margo again, the bonds between them, the preparations for the marriage? Frank and his meeting Alice? New Orleans society?
7.At home, the father and the brother remaining at home, the father as a judge? The sheriff, his friendliness? Trying to persuade Al to return? The detective discovering them in New Orleans?
8.The return, the chase, over the border after the robbery? The failed robbery? The arrest, the court case, the father defending his son? His use of jurisdiction? Margo at the trial?
9.Al, the severity of the judge’s decision, the influencing of the jury? Al and his going to jail? The time in jail, his release? The promise of going straight?
10.The portrait of the other brothers, especially Frank, a rather bland character following Al? Margo as a strong character? Alice and high society? The men at the ranch and their robberies? The manager and his wife? Her betrayal of Al? The sheriff, genial? The detectives?