Incendiary Blonde (1945)

Texas Guinan (Betty Hutton) may not have lived a long life, but she sure made the most of the time she had.  She died at the height of her career and the movie opens on the day of her funeral with a couple of policemen talking about how she was such a success that even her funeral brought a sell-0ut crowd.  After the funeral, Texas’ father and her ex-husband Tim Callahan begin reminiscing about her life.  They remember how Texas landed a job in Cherokee Jim’s Wild West Show after she disguised herself as a man and entered a bucking bronco contest.  When she’s thrown off, she realizes the saddle was loose and announces that the contest was fixed.  The saddle is tightened and she is given another chance and wins.  When she goes to collect her money from the show’s owner Bill Kilgannon, he offers her a job and she accepts.  She becomes a hit on the rodeo circuit and soon proves to be a master of self-promotion when she arranges for an adult midget to crawl out in front of the horses and be rescued by Texas.  That move prompts Bill to promote Texas to headliner.  But when Tim Callahan, then working as a journalist, starts investigating the incident, he realizes the whole thing was set-up.  Rather than lose his biggest star, Bill hires Tim to be the show’s press agent.

Texas has fallen in love with Bill, but at the same time, Tim loves Texas.  Tim envisions great things for Texas and encourages her to set her sights a little higher than just being a rodeo star.  He wants her to try her luck on Broadway.  She’s reluctant to go along with Tim to Broadway, but changes her mind when she finds out Tim’s been hiding one little thing from her: his wife.  When she finds out, she’s so livid that she marries Tim and let’s him turn her into a Broadway star.  Texas starts out as a chorus girl, but shoots straight to the top.  While Texas’ career is a success, her marriage is not and Tim leaves her when he realizes she still longs for Bill.

While performing in New York, Cherokee Jim comes to see her perform and he tells her that Bill’s wife was very ill in a sanitarium with no hope of recovering.  He also tells her that Bill is working out in California in the movie business.  Now that she knows the truth, Texas is eager to go see him and gladly breaks her Broadway contract.  Bill turns Texas into his newest movie star and Texas and her father become investors in Bill’s company.  When the time comes that Bill is finally free to marry Texas, the government begins to suspect Bill’s company of dealing with phony stocks.  To protect Texas and her father, Bill buys them out, but Texas questions his motives and leaves for New York heartbroken.

When Texas returns to New York, she finds it hard to get work after breaking her last contract.  But when she and Tim find out a friend’s nightclub is struggling, they come up with the idea of saving it by throwing a big party for Louella Parsons and charging the guests for dinner.  When the guests find out they’re being charged, they’re not terribly thrilled, but Texas puts on a show that makes it worth their while.  The night is such a success that Texas becomes known as the queen of the nightclubs.  Eventually, Bill comes back to New York and winds up taking over the night club.  Texas isn’t thrilled, but they reconcile again after he saves her life.  Bill and Texas finally decide to get married, but what Bill doesn’t know is that Texas has a heart problem that’s left her with only two years left to live.  Just before they are to get married, Bill kills some gangsters in self-defense, but still has to serve time in jail.  Unfortunately, the length of his sentence is longer than the time Texas has left to live.

Incendiary Blonde may not be one of the all-time great musicals, but it is entertaining.  Playing a gregarious and charming woman like Texas Guinan definitely made this a perfect vehicle for Betty Hutton, so if you’re a Betty Hutton fan, it’s absolutely worth seeing.  I’m really not sure how to rate this in terms of a biopic since I don’t really know anything about the life of Texas Guinan.  All I do know is that I got about two hours worth of enjoyment out of it.  Wouldn’t call it one of my all-time favorites, but I liked it well enough.

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2 comments

  1. One of the things I’m really enjoying about visiting your blog is the number of films you cover that I’ve never even heard of. This one looks very interesting. I am, indeed, a Betty Hutton fan, and I also like these period musicals, but this one slipped completely under my radar.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Thank you so much! I do try to keep a good variety going here, so I’m very happy to hear that I really am getting the word out about some of the overlooked cinematic gems out there.

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