Go West, Young Lady (1941)

In the small, dusty town of Headstone, the law is facing a crisis. The past four sheriffs have all been murdered by an outlaw, known to the locals as “Killer Pete” (Onslow Stevens).

Tex Miller (Glenn Ford) is headed to Headstone to become the new sheriff, and if his jovial manner is any indication, he has no idea what he’s in for. Rather than fearing that he may be the fifth sheriff murdered, he flirts with Belinda “Bill” Pendergast (Penny Singleton), a fellow passenger who seems to want nothing to do with him.

When the stagecoach is ambushed, Bill saves the day, having been trained in the art of gunslingin’ by her father. But Bill can’t save Tex from all of the trouble that awaits him with Killer Pete’s gang in Headstone. Luckily, he’ll have a bit of extra help in the form of showgirl Lola (Ann Miller), deputy Hank (Allen Jenkins), and Bill’s saloon-owning uncle Jim (Charlie Ruggles).

(Image via Clube Do Faroeste)
(Image via Clube Do Faroeste)
Frank R. Strayer directs 1941’s Go West, Young Lady. The film was scripted by Karen DeWolf and Richard Flournoy.

Go West, Young Lady falls under one of my favorite Western subgenres: the musical/Western combination, with upbeat tunes, a bit of toe-tapping, and a consistently bright mood accompanying its guns and hooves. Without hesitation, after watching Go West, Young Lady, I can say that it’s one of the most enjoyable examples of this particular niche! Promotional materials describe the flick as “alive with gaiety and gunfire,” and the film delivers on both counts.

The film’s songs are delightful to listen to, with Ann Miller stealing the show in her saloon song-and-dance scenes. One slightly-corny but also wonderful number is shared between Miller and Allen Jenkins, with Jenkins singing off-key and Miller teaching him how to become a “dancing cowboy” rather than a “singing cowboy.”

Go West, Young Lady is a little bit of a silly film, with a fairly heavy focus given to an emerging love triangle between Lola, Bill, and Tex. This, of course, culminates in a “catfight” between Lola and Bill, which I would find eye-roll-enducing if not for the performances of Ann Miller and Penny Singleton. Singleton’s performance is somewhat ditzy, similar to her famous character of Blondie, but she’s good-hearted. Miller’s showgirl is perhaps less of a “lady” than seminary-educated Bill, but she’s smart and plenty bold. The actresses sell that fight scene, as well as the animosity leading up to it, with plenty of venom. There’s a little twist to the fight, too, making clear that it’s about much more than just Tex’s affection.

(Image via My Favorite Westerns)
(Image via My Favorite Westerns)
The film is quite short, running only about seventy minutes, but for the most part the best is made of that time with a nice blend of romance, music, action, and laughs. There are a few particularly witty lines snuck into the script that had me laughing out loud, though much of the humor is on the more subtle side, simply contributing to the film’s bright, fun mood. If you’re a fan of singin’ Westerns (like Belle of the Yukon) that don’t take themselves too seriously, Go West, Young Lady is well worth a watch!

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