Watching 1939: Stand Up and Fight (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  Stand Up and Fight

Release date:  Jan. 6, 1939

Cast:  Wallace Beery, Robert Taylor, Florence Rice, Helen Broderick, Charles Bickford, Barton MacLane, Charley Grapewin, John Qualen

Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:  W.S. Van Dyke

Starting in 1844 in Maryland, Blake Cantrell (Taylor) is a plantation owner who is broke and has to sell his property. He’s in love with Bostonian Susan Griffith (Rice), who loses interest when he has no means of taking care of himself. Blake has never worked for a living and ends up working for a stagecoach line run by Capt. Boss Starkey (Beery), which is also owned by Amanda Griffith (Broderick), who is Susan’s aunt.

1939 Notes:
• Robert Taylor was in six films released in 1939. This was one of several films used to toughen up Taylor’s image from a pretty boy.
• Florence Rice was in six films released in 1939.
• Charles Bickford was in eight films released in 1939
• Helen Broderick was in three films released in 1939.
• Wallace Beery was in three films released in 1939.
• Barton MacLane was in six films released in 1939.

Robert Taylor and Wallace Beery in “Stand Up and Fight”

Other trivia: 
• James M. Cain was one of the writers for the film

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
“Stand Up and Fight” is not one of the more memorable films for any of the cast members in this film. Wallace Beery plays his usual scoundrel who ends up having a heart-of-gold (while still backstabbing people around him) and Helen Broderick has a smart mouth as she side-eyes everyone near her.

Robert Taylor with Florence Rice. Taylor is scruffy and made up to be more

But around this time in Robert Taylor’s career were trying to toughen up his image. At the early part of his career, Taylor was a pretty boy in tuxedos in MGM musicals, dramas, and romances. Films like this and “The Crowd Roars” (1938) — Taylor’s last film before “Stand Up and Fight” — showed Taylor getting in fist-fights and getting dirty to give him a more “manly” persona.

I felt like Charles Bickford and Barton MacLane were wasted in the film, because though they were some of the prominent antagonists, they didn’t have that much screentime.

Unfortunately, “Stand Up and Fight” is pretty forgettable. I only watched it a week ago, and I’m having a hard time grasping what all went on. You thought it was going to be a Civil War drama with Robert Taylor standing up for the rights of slaves. But the film was about stagecoaches vs. trains, Florence Rice constantly upset with Robert Taylor (for no real reason), and Wallace Beery stealing every scene with his hemming and hawing.

Not to say, “Stand Up and Fight” is a bad film, it’s just nothing special outside of toughening up Robert Taylor’s image.

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