I tend to get lucky sometimes.
I was very excited to see Hopalong Cassidy re-airing on The Westerns Channel – because I love Hopalong Cassidy and also – since I have not heard otherwise – I was unilaterally responsible for getting it on there. (Spoilsport Alert: Though it could be a coincidence.)
Taking sole credit, I must also acknowledge receiving the “books-balancing” benefit. (Which could also be a coincidence. Though I prefer, in both cases, to believe otherwise.)
After taking in “Hoppy”, I temporarily switch away, probably visiting a cable news outlet to catch up on the latest presidential atrocity. Unable to take this abuse to decency too long, I soothingly check back to The Westerns Channel –where the Good Guy inevitably prevails – catching the “tail end” of a John Wayne “B”-movie (before he got permanenty “bumped up” in Stagecoach.)
There, I see something I had never before seen in a western.
Which I see as my “Thank-you-for-getting-Hopalong-Cassidy-back-on-television” reward.
I am not in the habit of pinching myself. (A behavior popularized by Jennifer Pinch, the first to add a punishing “flesh-grabbing” maneuver to “I can’t believe that just happened!”) But if I were in that habit, I would readily have done so. As what I witnessed in that nondescript – as they say in Variety – “Oater” – was well worthy of forearm brutalization.
Although – “Spoiler Alert”-To-Those-With-No-Interest-In-Traditional-B”-movie- Procedure”– You may not personally think so. (Helpful Suggestion: Pretend you’re me about this. It will heighten your subsequent enjoyment.)
My return coincides with the thrill-packed crescendo of the picture. Outgunned by the posse, the gang of bad guys understandably surrenders. The boss bad guy, however, unwilling to pay the piper for his hideous malfeasance – almost surely a “Necktie Party” – seeks to smarmily escape.
Spotting a rickety buckboard, the ringleader bad guy leaps aboard, and mercilessly whipping the horses, “high tails” away from imminent capture.
Spotting the boss bad guy escaping, John Wayne mounts his trusty equine companion, galloping after him in vigorous pursuit.
Okay, before I get to the great part, here’s something I have never “gotten” about horse chases. (As I equally do not understand “An arrow flies in, killing an exposed cavalry trooper. Looking yonder, the survivors spot a horde of Indians, riding spiritedly over the hill. My question is: If the attacking Indians did not ride over the hill until afterwards, who exactly shot the arrow into the trooper, and where exactly were they situated when they did so? If they were, as it would seem, mounted behind the hill, how exactly do you do that? “I just closed my eyes and let fly”? Call me crazy, but these things keep me up at night.)
Okay, back to the horse chasing.
The Good Guy, getting a substantially late start, pursues the desperately fleeing
How exactly does he catch up?
A much faster horse? Maybe. But that Good Guy was really behind, and – in this case – the bad guy’s buckboard has two horses. Still, the Good Guy – surprisingly quickly – narrows the lead.
You can manufacture the miraculous “Catch-up” in editing. But how – logically – do you explain it? It’s like the bad guy’s horses aren’t really trying.
BAD GUYS HORSES: “This guy deserves to get caught. What say we slow down?”
Anyway… before I run out of time…
The Good Guy comes abreast of the bad guy riding the barreling buckboard. The traditional “next move” is this: The Good Guy leaps from his galloping stallion onto the back of buckboard, a fierce fistfight ensues, and the bad guy’s eventually subdued.
Here, instead, is what happened in this picture.
The Good Guy pulls dead even with the buckboard. He then drops his reins, turns to his right, leaps from his speeding horse onto the barreling buckboard…
… and he misses!
Tumbling down onto the ground.
I swear to you, sixty-five-plus-years watching westerns?
This is an absolute first!
The Good Guy totally misses the buckboard!
Forcing him to remount his horse,
… and chase after the buckboard again!
This time, “The Jump” is successfully executed. (Although, obviously compensating, the Good Guy extends his leap and almost rolls off the other side.)
Why did they leave the original “flub” in the picture? Though not definitively certain, I imagine “a tight budget” accurately covers the answer.
“Can we take it again?”
“Sorry. We’re on a tight budget. Besides, who’s going to notice?”
“Pomerantz will notice. The guy notices everything!”
Well, perhaps not everything. But I did – with unbridled excitement – notice that.
Oh, and I also noticed another thing.
During the furious buckboard melee, John Wayne’s hat flies off. Yet, in the closing moments of the movie, there it is, back on his head. Clearly, after the bad guy was vanquished, before delivering him to “The Authorities”, John Wayne rode back on the buckboard, and recovered his hat.
I see the materializing of this striking “B”-western anomaly as a celestial “Thank you” for my “Revitalizing ‘Hoppy’” success. If I receive similar karmic compensation for that “Green Turning Arrow” I enabled at the northbound Fourth Street freeway entrance,
I’m giving serious consideration to Buddhism.