1939 was a very good year in Hollywood. If it were compared to a wine and its best year, it would be a Chateau Talbot 2015.  Among the good and the great of the year DESTRY RIDES AGAIN appeared. Put aside that this was a remake of a 1932 film, the first time James Stewart starred in a Western and the return to form of then box office misfire Marlene Dietrich, it is a zinger.

Horrid cardsharp and land baron Kent (Brian Donlevy), runs Bottleneck. When the sheriff, Mr. Keogh (Joe King), pokes into his business, he has him killed.  “Frenchy” (Marlene Dietrich), his girlfriend and singer plays along. When the town drunk, Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger), is appointed the new sheriff, the belief is the old ways will continue. Dimsdale, has a plan. Tom Destry. Jr (James Stewart), is called upon to make the town return to its former glory. Blood might have to be shed to get the town back to order…

The western moved up a gear with DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939) and STAGECOACH (1939). One gets little love and the other, rightly, is heaped with praise. Behind the scenes Dietrich was box office poison and this was Stewart first western but. Oh but. It is a classic good versus evil story with depth. Sex, shootings, skullduggery and a lovely redemption worthy of the great golden era of the genre. It combines to create a great piece of cinema.


The quality of the 4K restoration is a thing of discussion. I liked it when it was good and hated that it veers into standard def when it cant quite save the footage quality. The film is almost 100 years old, so give it a break.. However you spend your cash and the film is great but it might make you a little angry…


Yes indeed, the extras make the piece. Criterion outdo everyone. They also out spend everyone. The best extra is the Illustrated audio excerpts from a 1973 oral-history interview with director George Marshall. This is a thing of beauty for a film lover. Marshall gives us his story of silent film making and the slides compliment it. It is history told like it should be. With vigour and sex appeal…


  • New 4K digital restoration by Universal Pictures in collaboration with The Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • New interview with Donald Dewey, author of James Stewart: A Biography
  • Illustrated audio excerpts from a 1973 oral-history interview with director George Marshall conducted by the American Film Institute
  • Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1945, featuring actors James Stewart and Joan Blondell
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme

New cover illustration by Marc Aspinall

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.