I wasn’t sure what I’d watch when Dean Martin’s day came around during TCM’s Summer Under the Stars, but as soon as I looked at the line-up on WatchTCM the day after, the decision was made for me. There it was, right before my eyes: a tiny thumbnail of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin sharing the screen, in Western garb. With my love for Sinatra and my relatively new interest in Western flicks, I couldn’t pass up the chance to watch 4 for Texas.
The film follows Joe Jarrett (Dean Martin), an orphaned drifter who makes money any way he can. He meets Zack Thomas (Frank Sinatra) while they’re both attempting to grab a $100,000 cash shipment from a stagecoach. Also after the money (and after Zack’s head) is Matson (Charles Bronson).
Joe manages to make away with the money, but crosses paths with Zack again in Galveston Texas. A feud grows when Joe decides to help Maxine Richter (Ursula Andress) open up a riverboat gambling saloon.
Robert Aldrich directs 4 for Texas.
This is not a film that takes itself seriously. It’s an action-comedy, quite playful and bright in mood. Sinatra and Martin share plenty of cocky, fun, sarcastic banter, especially in their early scenes together.
The film opens in a very exciting fashion, Dino’s character falling victim to a stagecoach ambush orchestrated by Charles Bronson. The aesthetic is very dusty, with an orange-and-brown color palette, which I love.
We already know from the very first scene that Bronson is the bad guy, since Dean told us so at the film’s opening, but the character is genuinely ruthless. Within the first five minutes of the film he not only leads the ambush, but shoots and kills one of his own men, simply for asking a question! He’s a fantastic villain, and my only complaint about him is that I wish he would have popped up even more often.
In the wake of the ambush, Bronson manages to get chased off, leaving Frank and Dean to fight over who will keep the cash that was hidden in the coach. These are some of the film’s best scenes. The action and tension are well-executed, and much more successful than the comedic side of the film.
There’s a lot of humor woven into the script, but it’s all a bit of a doozy. I had a few laughs, but some bits were much more successful than others. I could do without the French maids and the banker burps, to mention a couple, haha. Also, as much as I hate to say it as a fan of the genre, the romances detract a bit from the action, which is where the film is at its strongest. The film is still enjoyable overall, and even includes an appearance by the Three Stooges to please comedy fans, but I think I would have loved it had it focused more on the heists and gunfights.
4 for Texas is a middling Western-comedy with the potential to be a great Western. I was somewhat disappointed in it for this reason, but it was worth watching for me to see Frank and Dean sharing the screen in the dusty world of Galveston.