William Demarest

Along Came Jones (1945)

When Melody Jones (Gary Cooper) and his friend George Fury (William Demarest) ride into the town of Payneville, Melody is confused and kind of amused when everyone in town seems to be afraid of him.  Melody’s a completely harmless guy, so imagine his surprise when Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young) informs him there’s a gun pointed at him.  She takes Melody and George back to her ranch and along the way, she explains that everyone Payneville thinks Melody is notorious outlaw Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea).  Melody and Monte really don’t look alike, but they do have the same initials and share some of the vague characteristics listed on Motne’s wanted poster.

Cherry urges Melody and George to get out of Payneville right away, and naturally, they take her advice.  But once they get a little bit out of town, they realize their departure would be a perfect diversion for the real criminal to escape, so they go back to Cherry’s ranch to see what’s going on.  It turns out Cherry and Monte had been friends when they were children, and even though she doesn’t like what he’s turned into, she still feels obligated to take care of him and has been hiding him in her barn.  To protect Melody, Cherry lets him stay at her ranch for the night.

The next day, Cherry convinces Melody to take Monte’s saddle so he can distract the posse chasing Monte and Monte can get away.  But when Melody goes to town posing as Monte, Melody gets into some trouble and has to be saved by Cherry.  But there’s one thing that Monte left behind and that’s some of the money he stole.  Even more problems arise for Melody and Cherry when other people come to claim it — including Monte himself.

I really wasn’t a big fan of Along Came Jones.  It was nice to see Gary Cooper having some fun with the Western genre, but it isn’t a particularly well written movie.  The basic premise of the movie had potential, but it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.  If you’re looking for a fun Western, definitely go with something like Destry Rides Again or Cat Ballou instead.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

Lucky (Elvis Presley) has come to Las Vegas to participate in the big Grand Prix race.  The only problem is that his car needs a new engine.  He’s able to win the money he needs for a new engine, but his luck runs out while pursuing swimming instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret).  While singing a song to her, he ends up taking an unexpected dip in the pool and loses his money.  Now not only does he need money for his engine, he needs money to pay his hotel bill, so he and his friend Shorty (Nicky Blair) get jobs as waiters at the hotel.  An added benefit of working at the hotel is now he can enter the employee talent show and win the money for his engine.

When Lucky first set eyes on Rusty, it was love at first sight, but Rusty isn’t so quick to fall for Lucky’s charms (no pun intended.)  But as she spends more time with him, she falls pretty hard for him, too.  The only problem is that Rusty doesn’t like Lucky racing cars, she’s afraid of him getting hurt.  Lucky doesn’t want to quit racing, but his rival Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Denova) is also attracted to Rusty and would be willing to give up racing if the right woman came along.  She goes on a date with Mancini, but her heart still belongs to Lucky.

When the big talent show rolls around, Lucky and Rusty end up competing against each other.  Lucky wins, but it turns out there isn’t a cash prize after all.  But with some help from Rusty’s father (William Demarest), Lucky is able to get his engine, Rusty learns to stop worrying and love auto racing, and Lucky and Rusty can live happily ever after.

Elvis movies generally don’t have the best reputations, but Viva Las Vegas is one worth seeing.  From beginning to end, it’s nothing but fun.  Elvis truly found his perfect leading lady in Ann-Margret, it’s really too bad Viva Las Vegas was the only movie they made together.  The script has issues, but the chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret is so great, it’s easy to overlook those issues and just have fun with it. Not only does it have two fantastic leads, the songs are excellent.  I’m sure I’ll have the song “Viva Las Vegas” running through my head the next couple of days.  I’d say this and Jailhouse Rock are the two Elvis movies most worth seeing.