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Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection

Dallas (1950) opens with a neat trick: Gary Cooper is introduced as Rebel troublemaker "Reb" Blayde Hollister and is quickly put into a showdown with Wild Bill Hickock (Bill Hadley), who promptly guns him down. But this is no flashback movie, and it's quickly revealed that their shootout was a trick as Reb is put upon his horse and drags the Marshall's hat out with him. Sent to usher Reb out of town is U.S. Marshall Martin Weatherby (Leif Erickson), who is set to go to Dallas to straighten the town out, but then Wild Bill comes to explain their ruse. As Wild Bill puts it, some men who are labeled bad guys aren't bad at all, while the men in power are often much worse. Once he's properly introduced to Martin, Reb figures that he should play Marshall while Maritn plays his sidekick, even with Martin's finacée Tonia (Ruth Roman). His motives aren't completely altruistic — Reb's got a grudge against the Marlows, and specifically Brant Marlow (Steve Cochran). But it seems Brant is only the face of corruption, while his brother Will (Raymond Massey) is the brains. Directed by Stuart Heisler, from a smart script by John Twist, Dallas is a fine popcorn oater that has a rousing plot, and a great heroic turn by Cooper. The twists and turns are never that surprising — the hats of the heroes and villains stay the same color after the opening — but it's all delivered in a fun, tight package. One of the more interesting things about the film is that it offers a Western version of "The Baxter" (a term coined from the 2005 film The Baxter for characters in movies who are left waiting on the altar, of which Ralph Bellamy and Bill Pullman are the most archetypal) as Lief Erickson's honorable would-be Marshall finds himself outdone in the manliness scale by Cooper. And like Cary Grant's romance in His Girl Friday, it works because both Cooper and Grant are so charismatic that even the men they've boondoggled know they've been bettered — the pathos of the Baxter came later. Warner presents Dallas, part of "The Gary Cooper Signature Collection," in its original full-frame ratio with a transfer that leaves room for improvement (in one sequence the image shakes a bit) but is otherwise acceptable, while the soundtrack is DD 1.0. No extras. Slimline keep case in the box-set.

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