Saturday, July 5, 2014

All Spark But No Fire :: A Beer-Gut Reaction to George Marshall's The Forest Rangers (1942)

The Forest Rangers (1942) is a vintage rom-com, where a slightly singed forest ranger (MacMurray) falls head over heels hard for a visiting city girl (Goddard); so hard he marries her on the spot -- much to the chagrin of his old pal (Hayward), whose girly parts our dundering hero couldn't see for the trees or something. 

And so, while some firebug is wreaking havoc in the National Park, and the audience is treated to 42-consecutive choruses of "I Got Spurs that Jingle-Jangle-Jingle", Hayward does her best to sabotage the marriage in a thoroughly misguided attempt to win back Ranger Oblivious. 

Now, the headlining trio do add some spark to this tired triangular plot -- especially their fairly risque threeway when all three combatants share a bed of leaves 'n' twigs together after they all get stuck in the forest overnight. Couple this game of musical spooning with an earlier scene when the two lovebirds pull a per-marital all-nighter together, in an Everly Brothers sense, and, man, 'In Flaming Technicolor', indeed. Whoa.

Despite her best efforts, I don't think there was ever any doubt that MacMurray and Goddard were never gonna break up but I was still rooting for Hayward anyway, finding her to be the most interesting character in the whole movie. (A woman of position who runs her own logging operation but is only seen as just one of the guys and too 'butch' to be a proper wife.) In fact, she might've been too good with her character because one can't help but call bullshit on the climax -- no, not on who was really starting the fires, but the role reversal when our two ladies are caught in the latest raging inferno; a reversal so insipid I simply couldn't buy it. 

The print I watched on YouTube was pretty abysmal, in authentic Drunk-O-Vision, but I bet this thing would really pop if ever restored. All in all, pretty harmless hooey, perhaps slightly scorched, but amusing enough if you're into this kind of screwball thing. 

The Forest Rangers (1942) Paramount Pictures / P: Robert Sisk / D: George Marshall / W: Harold Shumate, Thelma Strabel / C: Charles Lang, William V. Skall / E: Paul Weatherwax / S: Fred MacMurray, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward, Albert Dekker, Lynne Overman

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