Friday, January 14, 2011

The Forest Rangers (1942): What Do You Get When You Cross Smoky the Bear with Max Factor?

The Forest Rangers (1942) isn’t high drama, it isn’t supposed to be. It IS a sometimes comedy, sometimes action, always colorful yarn from Paramount with some of the studios top stars of the day, tromping around among mile high timbers, dodging the flames of a raging forest fire. Along with striking Technicolor, The Forest Rangers sports a catchy tune, “I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle”, written by Frank Loesser and Joseph J. Lilley, which became a big hit on the airwaves.

Fred MacMurray is the forest ranger, Susan Hayward is a fetching lumber mill owner, who has the hots for Freddie boy, while he meets, gets the hots for and marries even more fetching city girl Paulette Goddard. Redheaded wildcat Hayward doesn’t take too kindly to the new bride (like it’s any of her business) and gives girlie girl Goddard the wilderness once-over. Think along the lines of of Hayley Mill’s treatment of tenderfoot Joanna Barnes in The Parent Trap some twenty years later. Both remained perfectly coiffed and glossed while fighting fires and each other, and MacMurray remains his ever stoic, yet capable self.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Madeline Carroll was originally to play Celia, the part Goddard ended up playing, and Goddard was to play Tana, the Hayward role. After seeing the film, and knowing the way Paramount worked such a treatment during this period, I could see the Carroll/Goddard combo working very nicely, even better than the finished product in fact, as Goddard had vivaciously conniving down pat (see Hold Back the Dawn (1941)).

Susan and Paulette had just come off the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s Reap the Wild Wind, so the two cuties were no strangers to sharing the screen and both did what was required of them in this lighthearted look at love in the lonesome pines. Also sharing the screen with the star trio was Eugene Pallette (always a rotund treat), Lynne Overman and Regis Toomey, who completes the love daisy chain as an airplane pilot who carries the torch (no pun intended….this time) for Hayward’s Tana.


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