A spectacularly unfunny comedy made by a group of people who should have known better, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox features the promising onscreen combination of Goldie Hawn and George Segal. Despite working so hard to elicit laughter that they sometimes seem close to collapsing from exhaustion, the stars cannot compensate for an uninspired storyline and a litany of wheezy jokes.
Hawn plays Amanda Quaid, a prostitute/showgirl eking out an unsatisfactory living in Old West-era San Francisco. Segal plays Charlie Malloy, an arrogant gambler who recently absconded with $40,000 from a group of gun-toting robbers. When their paths cross, Amanda seduces Charlie and steals the valise in which he’s hidden his cash, so an adventure ensues with various interested parties chasing after Amanda, Charlie, and the stolen loot. The tiresome plot also involves Amanda’s attempts to masquerade as an English duchess so she can secure the job of caretaker to a wealthy Mormon’s numerous children.
Among the film’s myriad problems is the fact that neither protagonist is remotely likeable. Amanda is foul-tempered and Charlie is smug, so the idea that we’re supposed to care about these characters falling in love is dubious. Furthermore, neither character is sufficiently clever to make his or her misdeeds interesting. In a typically witless scene, Amanda and Charlie speak in pidgin code mixing French, Italian, and Yiddish so they can avoid the prying ears of the nearby Mormon whom they refer to as “El Schmucko.” Oy!
The scenes in which Amanda performs barroom tunes are especially grating, since Hawn sings in a crass Cockney accent, and the various chases and shootouts are painfully dull. About the only watchable bit is the long passage during which Amanda and Charlie get stranded in the wilderness, because that sequence relies entirely on the stars’ considerable charm. To its meager credit, the movie looks great, with handsome photography by Owen Roizman, and the costuming and production design are lush. But director/producer/co-writer Melvin Frank, who began his film career writing gags for Bob Hope in the ’40s, was clearly out of ideas, so The Duchess & the Dirtwater Fox is a vacuous wasteland.
The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox: LAME