Monday, September 9, 2013

The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County (1970)

The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County represents a failed attempt to make a movie star out of amiable actor Dan Blocker, the man-mountain who played “Hoss” Cartwright on the classic TV series Bonanza from 1959 to 1972. (The series lasted another year, but Blocker died shortly after this films release.) A would-be farcical Western about the residents of a small town snookering their beloved blacksmith into marrying a dancehall girl so he won’t uproot his business, The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County features a raft of B-list actors, so folks like Jim Backus, Jack Cassidy, Jack Elam, Nanette Fabray, and Mickey Rooney populate the cast. Every single actor, Blocker included, is guilty of shameful mugging; the type of broad-as-a-barn acting on display throughout this laugh-deficient “comedy” went out of style with the advent of synchronized sound. Furthermore, the story is so contrived that there’s not a single surprise in the entire picture. Blocker’s character is a na├»ve galoot who learns to accept the seedier realities of life, Fabray’s character is a cynic who secretly longs to be loved, Elam’s character is an incompetent bounty hunter who’s supposed to add danger to the story but never does, and so on. Some performers make the best of this bargain-basement material, so, for instance, Backus uses double-takes and exasperated line deliveries to make his characterization of a flim-flamming mayor as enjoyable as possible. Meanwhile, others—especially Rooney—deliver work that’s best described as cringe-inducing. (This is the kind of sub-sitcom flick in which Elam, whose character has poor vision, spends several minutes grooming himself while looking at a framed portrait that he mistakes for a mirror.) The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County is harmless inasmuch as the jokes are never offensive, but it’s hard to imagine anyone sitting through the whole lifeless flick without subsequently regretting the loss of 99 minutes.

The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County: LAME


Guy Callaway said...

This smells like a failed T.V. pilot to me.

Mike Doran said...

Not far wrong; actually, this was more of a vanity project.

The writer-producer, Ranald MacDougall, was the longtime husband of leading lady Nanette Fabray.

By the way, the working title of this was A Woman For Charley;
the farcical elements may have been production tinkering.