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.
Left to right: Robert Taylor; Wallace Beery with Mr. Taylor; Mr. Taylor, Mr. Beery and Director Woody vanDyke.
Hi Judith: I watched Stand Up and Fight again the other night, I think it is my second favorite Robert Taylor movie. Such a good story. He was so young and beautiful. I think the chemistry between him and Wallace Beery was so great. The story just kept getting better and better and it seemed like every actor in big or small roles was perfect for their part. Now that I have seen Robert Taylor’s movies so many times I am starting to see character actors that appeared in many of his films over and over again. It is fun to spot them. The old man called Puff who is pal to Wallace Beery in this film also played Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, Charley Grapewin. The scene where Wallace Beery is in the sheriff office trying to find out what happened to Robert Taylor and then Robert Taylor walks in wearing a fantastic black outfit with a hat and long coat and high boots. Took my breath away I have to say. In the beginning of the story after Robert Taylor has sold his plantation he has a moment in the evening with his black slave who had known him his entire life and they know they will be parting ways come the morning, is very touching. When the black man walks away from him and says, “I hope that tomorrow never never comes.” That little scene to me was great movie making and great acting. Regards, Linda Doty
Linda, I thought the film was pretty advanced in its racial attitudes for 1939. And, like you, I did love the black outfit with the tight pants! Judith