Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Overlooked Movies: The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)

After Don Knotts left THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (which we never missed in my house, by the way), he made several movies that I saw at the local drive-in, like THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN and THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPET. But somehow I never saw THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST, which is a remake of the Bob Hope movie THE PALEFACE (which I have seen and liked). Watching THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST for the first time now is kind of an odd experience. We've watched quite a few episodes of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW on MeTV lately, and Knotts is really good as Barney Fife, especially when the scripts give him something to do other than bluster. On the other hand, he's the second banana in that show, which is a lot different from having to carry a movie. In other words, a little of that typical Don Knotts schtick goes a long way.

However, there's more to THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST than that, and Knotts is good in the more restrained moments. It also has statuesque redhead Barbara Rhoades in it, and while she might not have been a great actress, she was one hell of a statuesque redhead. Elsewhere in the cast, Don "Red" Barry and Jackie Coogan are the villains running guns to the Indians, who are supposed to be Comanches but look more like Heckawi to me. (Bonus points if you remember the Heckawi Indians.) Several other Sixties sitcom supporting actors are on hand, and in fact the whole movie has a very sitcom-ish feel, not surprising considering that the script is by two of the regular writers from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and the movie was directed by Alan Rafkin, who directed a ton of sitcom episodes. Also showing up briefly is poor old Ed Faulkner, who appeared what seems like hundreds of Westerns, usually getting killed after two or three minutes of screen time and half a dozen lines of dialogue.

Clearly, Don Knotts is no Bob Hope and THE SHAKIEST GUN IN THE WEST is nowhere near as good as THE PALEFACE, but I still had fun watching it and am glad I finally saw it. I probably would have enjoyed it more, though, if I'd seen it at the Eagle Drive-In in 1968.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

"Who the Heckawi?"

Bill O said...

His dentist scene outdoes even the WC Fields short in sexual innuendo. Knotts' true undiscovered masterpiece is The Love God - the film that ended his solo starring career.

Ron Clinton said...

Enjoyed both the Hope and Knotts version of this story, though I agree the Hope film is the better of the two. Sure wish these kinds of movies were shown on TV from time to time, like they used to be. I can't remember the last time I saw a Hope & Crosby "Road" movie or a solo Hope or a Martin & Lewis or solo Lewis or...well, the list is a long one, but it's also one that doesn't seem to have much appeal for cable TV programmers...which is a real shame. I'm the first to admit that Abbott & Costello, a childhood favorite, hasn't aged well and, sure, Lewis' man-child schtick can wear thin sometimes, but there's an timeless cleverness to many of the aforementioned films that could still be enjoyed today, if given a chance.

Mike Doran said...

Your mention of Ed Faulkner:

My dad was a major character actor buff. I contracted this condition from him.
Back when TV Guide was actually informative, I read the listings every week, searching for names to put with frequent faces.
Dad didn't need this - his lifetime watching movies, TV, and movies on TV gave him a wide knowledge of the Character Actor Pool.
-But occasionally ...

When Edward Faulkner started turning up on TV in the '60s, Dad thought he was John Agar.
This was a period when Agar was pretty much inactive; as far as I could see, the two men didn't resemble each other all that much.
Additionally, I believe Agar was at least a decade older than Faulkner (likely I'm wrong about the exact number; apologies if I am).
But Dad was resolute about this - any time he saw Faulkner in anything, he always said to all of us , "Look - there's John Agar!"
Even when Agar made a late-in-life TV comeback (he played Kate Jackson's father on a couple of Charlie's Angels episodes, among other things), Dad didn't yield.
As a rule, Dad was above average at bit spotting, he did have a brief period of confusing Will Geer and Strother Martin - but that's another story, I guess ...

OK, off-topic, but I thought I'd throw it in ...

Edwin McBride said...

I love MeTV. Gotta get my tail out of bed early every Saturday morning to watch "Trackdown" with Robert Culp!

James Reasoner said...

THE LOVE GOD is now in our Netflix queue. Never saw that one, either.

Abbott and Costello's best movies still hold up for me, but I agree, some of them don't.

Who knew there were other Ed Faulkner fans in the world? I can see a slight resemblance between him and John Agar, and between Will Geer and Strother Martin, for that matter, although Geer was a lot bigger physically. But I love character actors and watch for them all the time.

MeTV has some great stuff on it. Wish I had more time to watch.

I knew somebody was bound to remember the Heckawi.

Cap'n Bob said...

Sure, the Hechawi tribe from F-Troop. I was surprised when they first said it because I remembered a joke about the Fugawi.

Cap'n Bob said...

Oops! Heckawi.

Mike Doran said...

Just back from IMDb:

Ed Faulkner was born in 1932; still around.
John Agar was born in 1921; passed in 2002.
So I was one year off.
I'll take it. God bless both of 'em.

SWB said...

Actually was just thinking about this old movie a few days back:

"He's got Hair in his eye
And a Gleam on his chest
he's the shakiest gun In The West!"
Thanks for posting this! I've enjoyed a few of those old Knotts movies (and harmless silly ones like APPLE DUMPLING GANG RIDES AGAIN).