Stand Up and Fight, 1939, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday July 27 at 7:45 a.m. Closed captioned.
Cynical Southern gentleman Blake Cantrell (Robert Taylor) is forced to sell his plantation and seek employment with a stagecoach company run by Captain Starkey (Wallace Beery) and owned by lovely Susan (Florence Rice). But is the company actually illegally transporting slaves? And can a leopard, the cavalier Blake, actually change its spots?
I didn’t expect much from this movie, and was thoroughly and positively surprised by the sharp writing and ebullient acting, and contrary to many A-movies of its day its aim is no way an aesthetic ‘arty’ one. Made in 1939, this movie addresses all sorts of controversial issues, and they have a way of taking you by surprise along the way. The movie is really about abolitionism and treats its subject with remarkable subtlety, although why and how the lynch-mob, the one that we encounter in the last third of the film, goes after white man Starkey is never made quite clear. Cantrell’s gradual moral reform is well-explained and plausible, not least because of Taylor’s warmth and humanity in the part. Yes, he is handsome, but here it is almost besides the point. Wallace Beery has a field day with the larger-than-life captain, very cleverly balancing on the edge of buffoonery but with plenty of edge and ambiguity.
See it, it makes a deep impression. Review by Michael Bo from Copenhagen, Denmark for the IMDb.