For nearly a month now, I’ve been making my way through the 50 films included in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set. Like most Mill Creek box sets, the Fabulous Forties is full of public domain films. Some of them are surprisingly good and some of them are surprisingly bad. And then there are others that are somewhere right in the middle of bad and good. These are films that may not be great works of cinematic art but, at the very least, they serve as a time capsule of the period in which they were made.
The 22nd film in the Fabulous Forties box set, 1948’s Adventures of Gallant Bess, is just such a film. Obviously made to appeal to family audiences, Adventures of Gallant Bess tells a fairly predictable story. Cowboy Ted Daniels (a youngish Cameron Mitchell) captures a wild mustang named Bess. Ted and Bess soon become inseparable but, during a visit to the local town, Bess gets riled up and destroys a few cars. Ted is told that he has to pay for the cars but he doesn’t have any money. So, he enters the local rodeo.
However, the rodeo is operated by the evil Bud Millerick (James Millican) and Bud wants Bess for his own. So, he arranges for Ted’s leg to be broken by a bull. Injured and unable to work, Ted is forced to sell his beloved Bess to Bud. Once Ted recovers, he discovers that Bud is abusing Bess and forcing her to perform in a demeaning rodeo show. What’s a cowboy to do but steal back his horse?
You can probably guess everything that happens in Adventures of Gallant Bess just from reading the plot description but it’s still a pretty likable film. Bess is a wonderful horse and there’s something oddly endearing about the obviously cheap sets and the often melodramatic performances. Cameron Mitchell, of course, is best known for appearing in films like Blood and Black Lace, The Toolbox Murders, The Demon, The Swarm, and Space Mutiny, so it’s definitely interesting to see him playing a simple and honest cowboy here.
(It’s actually difficult to recognize Mitchell until he smiles. Once you see that smirk, you know exactly who is playing Ted Daniels.)
Adventures of Gallant Bess was filmed in color, which was a big deal in 1948. Seen today, it is so saturated with color (and so obviously filmed on sound stages) that the movie actually looks like a live action cartoon. Seen today, it’s perhaps a little too easy to be dismissive of this old-fashioned film but I imagine that, in the 40s, it was quite a fun movie to watch.
And you can watch it below!