Honky Tonk (1941)

104-106 mins | Western | October 1941

Director:

Jack Conway

Producer:

Pandro S. Berman

Cinematographers:

Harold Rosson, William Daniels

Editor:

Blanche Sewell

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The following written prologue appears after the opening credits: "This is the story of a confidence-man--that often unsung but seldom unhung aristocrat of the old West." The film ends with the following written epilogue: "And when I die don't bury me deep; leave one hand free to fleece the sheep." HR production charts include Rags Ragland in the cast, but he was not in the released film. Actors Ralph Peters, Eddie Gribbon, Syd Saylor, Harry Semels, Frank Mills and Art Belasco were listed in the CBCS as "Pallbearers," but they were not in the viewed print. William Daniels was the film's original directory of photography but in late Jun 1941 he was replaced due to illness by Harold Rosson.
       HR news items and early production charts credit Edwin V. Westrate as the writer of an original story entitled "The Reign of Soapy Smith," upon which the film Honky Tonk was to be based. According to modern sources, although the character of "Candy Johnson" was fashioned after a real-life conman named Soapy Smith, Smith's heirs demanded too high a price for the rights to his story, so M-G-M changed the screenplay. Westrate is not credited on the film, in reviews or the SAB, and the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined.
       Albert Dekker was borrowed from Paramount for the production. Honky Tonk was the first of four films in which Clark Gable and Lana Turner co-starred, all of them made for M-G-M. Their last film together was Betrayed in 1954. Reviewers commented on the box office appeal of the ... More Less

The following written prologue appears after the opening credits: "This is the story of a confidence-man--that often unsung but seldom unhung aristocrat of the old West." The film ends with the following written epilogue: "And when I die don't bury me deep; leave one hand free to fleece the sheep." HR production charts include Rags Ragland in the cast, but he was not in the released film. Actors Ralph Peters, Eddie Gribbon, Syd Saylor, Harry Semels, Frank Mills and Art Belasco were listed in the CBCS as "Pallbearers," but they were not in the viewed print. William Daniels was the film's original directory of photography but in late Jun 1941 he was replaced due to illness by Harold Rosson.
       HR news items and early production charts credit Edwin V. Westrate as the writer of an original story entitled "The Reign of Soapy Smith," upon which the film Honky Tonk was to be based. According to modern sources, although the character of "Candy Johnson" was fashioned after a real-life conman named Soapy Smith, Smith's heirs demanded too high a price for the rights to his story, so M-G-M changed the screenplay. Westrate is not credited on the film, in reviews or the SAB, and the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined.
       Albert Dekker was borrowed from Paramount for the production. Honky Tonk was the first of four films in which Clark Gable and Lana Turner co-starred, all of them made for M-G-M. Their last film together was Betrayed in 1954. Reviewers commented on the box office appeal of the co-stars, and a HR news item in Oct 1941 noted that Honky Tonk was M-G-M's biggest money-maker of the year. Turner recreated her role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 8 Apr 1946, co-starring John Hodiak and Gale Gordon. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Sep 1941.
---
Daily Variety
15 Sep 1941.
---
Film Daily
15 Sep 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 41
p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Sep 41
p. 273.
New York Times
3 Oct 41
p. 27.
Variety
17 Sep 41
p. 9.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Tom Conlon
Phillip Morris
Tiny Newlan
Eddy C. Waller
Elliot Sullivan
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
MAKEUP
Hair styles for Miss Claire Trevor by
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1941
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 October 1941
Production Date:
early June--mid August 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 September 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10727
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
104-106
Length(in feet):
9,438
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7634
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In the 1880s, when conman "Candy" Johnson hops on a train after narrowly escaping tar and feathering by irate citizens, he tells his partner "The Sniper" that he is tired of being run out of towns and vows to find one of his own. Candy sees the beautiful Elizabeth Cotton on the train and mistakenly thinks that she is a fellow con artist, but soon learns that she is returning to Yellow Creek, Nevada from school in Boston. She is greeted at the station by her father, Judge Cotton, whom Candy recognizes. In the saloon, Candy decides that this rich town is the one he wants. When he runs into an old girl friend, "Gold Dust" Nelson, she tells him that the saloon's crooked owner, Brazos Hearn, is also the sheriff. Soon the judge, who is a former conman, renews his acquaintance with Candy and reveals that he is a "pillar of the community," but is starting to be suspected of pocketing the fine money he collects. Soon after, Candy angers Hearn by siding with a local man who says the club is crooked. Candy then challenges Hearn to a game of Russian Roulette and wins $5,000 with help from the judge and Sniper. Later, Candy takes the inebriated judge home, angering Elizabeth, who thinks that Candy is a bad influence. When the judge's housekeeper, Mrs. Varner, mentions that the town doesn't have a church, Candy gives her $1,500 to build a mission. Candy then kisses Elizabeth, telling her that they are alike. A short time later, Candy opens up the ramshackle "Square Deal" saloon. It becomes more popular than ... +


In the 1880s, when conman "Candy" Johnson hops on a train after narrowly escaping tar and feathering by irate citizens, he tells his partner "The Sniper" that he is tired of being run out of towns and vows to find one of his own. Candy sees the beautiful Elizabeth Cotton on the train and mistakenly thinks that she is a fellow con artist, but soon learns that she is returning to Yellow Creek, Nevada from school in Boston. She is greeted at the station by her father, Judge Cotton, whom Candy recognizes. In the saloon, Candy decides that this rich town is the one he wants. When he runs into an old girl friend, "Gold Dust" Nelson, she tells him that the saloon's crooked owner, Brazos Hearn, is also the sheriff. Soon the judge, who is a former conman, renews his acquaintance with Candy and reveals that he is a "pillar of the community," but is starting to be suspected of pocketing the fine money he collects. Soon after, Candy angers Hearn by siding with a local man who says the club is crooked. Candy then challenges Hearn to a game of Russian Roulette and wins $5,000 with help from the judge and Sniper. Later, Candy takes the inebriated judge home, angering Elizabeth, who thinks that Candy is a bad influence. When the judge's housekeeper, Mrs. Varner, mentions that the town doesn't have a church, Candy gives her $1,500 to build a mission. Candy then kisses Elizabeth, telling her that they are alike. A short time later, Candy opens up the ramshackle "Square Deal" saloon. It becomes more popular than Hearn's, and Candy impresses citizens at a town meeting, when he speaks with conviction against "Mr. John Barleycorn," and reveals that he eats candy because liquor always causes him trouble. Elizabeth lets him walk her home and he admits that he admires her brains, toughness and beauty. Gold Dust later tells Candy that when men like him marry "they get good and married," then goes to Elizabeth and warns her that Candy is only interested in "a fancy room in a fancy hotel." When Candy tells Elizabeth that he wants to take her to Sacramento, but is not interested in marriage, she agrees, but suggests that they have a drink first. Though reluctant, he takes a drink at her insistence, followed by another. The next morning, a hungover Candy wakes up in Elizabeth's room and she lets him know that they were married the night before. Rather than being mad, he admires her ingenuity and is amused by her determination to reform him. At the Square Deal, the judge learns about the marriage and is upset because he fears that Elizabeth will be hurt. The judge then tells Elizabeth that he and Candy are both cheap crooks, but she tells him that he will someday be proud of Candy. That night, after noting that they haven't had a proper courtship, Elizabeth locks the door of her bedroom, so Candy breaks the door down, then leaves for the saloon. Elizabeth soon follows and interrupts his private dinner with Gold Dust. After the two women exchange insults, Gold Dust leaves and Elizabeth and Candy passionately kiss. The next morning, as Candy and Elizabeth are happily walking to town, one of Hearn's men shouts a phony cheating charge against Candy and draws a gun. Candy defends himself by drawing a gun hidden in his coat, then rebukes Hearn in front of the town. After campaigning for honest elections, Candy is soon running the town, which booms with newly built schools and churches. At the same time, he builds political influence in the state and greedily amasses a fortune. When Elizabeth becomes pregnant, Candy happily says he will name the baby after the judge, but the judge, who has become increasingly bitter because he thinks Elizabeth has been changed by Candy, says he is moving out. That morning, Candy's henchmen, now headed by Hearn, say that they want to get rid of the judge, who is fomenting trouble in town. To appease them, Candy says that he will send the judge away and puts him on a train headed east, but the judge sneaks off and heads for a town meeting called to discuss Candy's corruption. Candy arrives prior to the judge and tries to defend himself. Then, the judge arrives and is shot in the back and dies in Candy's arms. When Elizabeth hears the news while riding in her carriage, she falls to the ground and is comforted by Gold Dust. At home, Elizabeth loses the baby and when the doctor says that she needs an operation to save her life, Candy threatens to kill him if she dies. After the operation, the semi-conscious Elizabeth tells Candy that she would do anything for him, even lie and cheat, and he is shaken. After being assured that Elizabeth will be all right, Candy gives Gold Dust papers and money for Elizabeth, then leaves. At City Hall, where the townspeople are trying to oust his men, Candy finds that Hearn and his gang have Sniper at gunpoint and want to take back the town. In a confrontation, Hearn draws, but Candy shoots and kills him. Although Hearn's cohorts want to kill Candy, he talks his way out of trouble again by making them think that he is on their side, saying that the governor is sending troops to attack them. Frightened, Hearn's men then leave through the back while Candy and Sniper bravely go out by the front, facing the angry townspeople. Some time later, in Cheyenne, Candy and Sniper are up to their old cons when Elizabeth shows up, summoned secretly by a postcard from Sniper. Candy is glad to see her and by the next morning he is a happily changed man. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.