Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Payne, Ronald Reagan, Rhonda Fleming, Coleen Gray, Anthony Caruso, Morris Ankrum, Leo Gordon, Chubby Johnson, Joe Devlin, Myron Healey, John Mansfield
Written by: Milton Krims, D.D. Beauchamp, Graham Baker, Teddi Sherman, based on a story by Bret Harte
Directed by: Allan Dwan
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 87
Date: 09/21/1955

Tennessee's Partner (1955)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Western with Harte

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Allan Dwan might have been regarded as one of Hollywood's top artists if not for the fact that he made anywhere between 200 and 500 movies, according to various reports. Most of these are "B" movies, and to wade through all of them looking for a signature style or standout masterworks probably proved more than most critics could bear.

Among his better known titles are the Douglas Fairbanks Robin Hood (1922) and John Wayne's celebrated war film Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). He was also one of Shirley Temple's favorite directors, having helmed Heidi (1937) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938). But Dwan had one other claim to fame; he was the first director to get a decent performance out of future United States president Ronald Reagan.

Their first film together, Cattle Queen of Montana (1954), is worth seeing simply for the pairing of Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck, one of the screen's greatest actresses -- even if the cornball dialogue and Reagan's poor acting get in the way.

Many of Dwan's films boast an easy, natural style, and a quick, economical approach, and Reagan eased perfectly into it. Tennessee's Partner (1955) is Dwan's best and most arresting Western, with Reagan back on board. Based on a Bret Harte story, a gambler Tennessee (John Payne) racks up gambling winnings and makes enemies in a fancy bordello. Reagan saves his bacon just in time to start an awkward love triangle between the two men and sweetheart Coleen Gray.

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