John Wayne hit the A-list with STAGECOACH in ’39, but he also kept making ‘B’ pics over @ Republic. In this one, some nameless college boy stumbles out of a low-down joint only to get hit by a bolt of lightning. Tough luck? Not quite, turns out he was shot before he even left the nightclub. And now the town’s powerful mayor gets the local rag to label it suicide. Cue Wayne, a freshly minted lawyer from the boy’s small town, new to big city ways . He’s there to get at the truth for the kid’s mom, only to fall hard for the mayor’s independent-minded daughter (Frances Dee). That’s a workable set-up, and the prologue comes off with a decent amount of atmosphere & polish. But after that, no one on the Republic lot seems able to develop anything: illogical story construction, witless dialogue, inconsistent characters; the thing hasn’t a chance. And what’s with Ward Bond’s characterization? He’s the first and only village idiot baddass bar bouncer . . . and laughable playing it.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: To see Wayne stretch as an actor around this time, there’s John Ford’s under-rated, little-seen Eugene O’Neill adaptation, THE LONG VOYAGE HOME/’40 with the Duke trying on a Swedish accent. Good Wayne; great film.