Al Jennings of Oklahoma (1951)
Al Jennings the Western
For those who are not aware Al Jennings was a real man and not just a fictional character in the title of "Al Jennings of Oklahoma" and the real Al Jennings was an interesting fellow. At one time he was a lawyer, joining his brother's law firm until a rival lawyer murdered his brother and after the murderer got off Al finished with being on the right side of the law and turned outlaw, becoming a notorious leader of a gang of robbers. Now that is what is used as the basis of "Al Jennings of Oklahoma", altered to work as a movie with some extra characters and unfortunately ending up as a routine 50s western. But then the real Al Jennings story didn't end where the movie leaves off because after being an outlaw he ventured in to politics, wrote a couple of books and ended up in the film industry. It is a shame that "Al Jennings of Oklahoma" just focuses on his early exploits because his story is worthy of an authentic biography.
The fourth son of Judge Jennings (Raymond Greenleaf), Al (Dan Duryea - Winchester '73) follows his 3 brothers in a career as lawyers with them all ending up in the town of Woodward where Al first sets eyes on the pretty Margo St. Claire (Gale Storm). But when a rival lawyer murders Al's brother Ed (James Millican) and gets out on bail Al takes matters into his own hands, killing him when the rival lawyer draws on him. It leads to Al and brother Frank (Dick Foran) joining a ranch of cattle rustlers and having been forced to go on the run Al becomes a notorious outlaw with a huge reward on his head for his capture.
So as already mentioned "Al Jennings of Oklahoma" doesn't really do justice to Al's real story, not because it adds characters or changes events although that is annoying, but it purely focuses on Al's time as an outlaw. It basically uses the murder of his brother as a lead in for Al to kill, go on the run and become a major outlaw and that for the most is it. I say for the most because there is a bit more to the story as Al and Frank wish to go straight with Al wanting to settle down with Margo but it doesn't go into any real detail about his post-outlaw life.
As such "Al Jennings of Oklahoma" is your standard, quickly made 50s western, there is a fight, there is a shooting, there is some horse riding and chases, a few holds ups and quick draw moments and of course a pretty woman. These are the standard elements of many 50s westerns and are just shuffled about here to fill up the screen time which at just 79 minutes is not very long. Now in fairness none of these elements are poor, the action is effective, the romance is nice but none of it is unique.
And that lack of being unique extends to the characters because Dan Duryea plays Al Jennings like he was just any man, a routine western character. There is no real depth to him, yes we get to see that Al knew the law in a slightly amusing scene but beyond that he is a good guy turned bad who loves Margo.
What this all boils down to is that in a way "Al Jennings of Oklahoma" is disappointing because the real Al Jennings lead a fascinating life which extended far beyond what is shown in this movie. But because what we have here is just a good guy turned outlaw it becomes less of a biopic and just another cowboy movie, not a bad one but an ordinary one.
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