Fighting Kentuckian

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In 1818 Alabama, French settlers are pitted against greedy land-grabber Blake Randolph but Kentucky militiaman John Breen, who’s smitten with French gal Fleurette De Marchand, comes to the settlers’ aid.

ACTORS :  John Wayne, Vera Ralston, Philip Dorn

YEAR OF RELEASE :  1949

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Fighting Kentuckian  Following Napoleon’s Waterloo defeat and the exile of his officers and their families from France, the U.S.Congress, in 1817, granted four townships in the Alabama territory to the exiles. Led by Colonel Georges Geraud and General Paul DeMarchand, the struggling settlers have made a thriving community, called Demopolis, by the summer of 1819. On a shopping trip to Mobile, Fleurette DeMarchand, the General’s daughter, meets John Breen, a Kentucky rifleman, who detours his regiment through Demopolis to court her. But Fleurette, despite her wish to marry for love, must bow to the needs of her fellow exiles, who are at the mercy of the rich and wealthy Blake Randolph, and who wants her as his bride. But John Breen has no intention of allowing that to happen, resigns from his regiment, and takes up the fight against Randolph and his hirelings.

Duke in Coonskin Cap, saves Ralston, with Ollie!

Fighting Kentuckian  John Wayne’s second effort as star/producer (after “Angel and the Badman”, in 1947), “The Fighting Kentuckian” is a VERY enjoyable tale, set in 1818 Alabama, of coonskin-capped Wayne, part of the Kentucky militia, falling for French immigrant Vera Ralston (in her second film with Duke), and discovering a plot to swindle the French community (composed of ex-officers of Napoleon, and their families) out of their land, by aristocrat John Howard and ruthless river boss Grant Withers.

What truly makes this film ‘special’ for me is Wayne’s sidekick, portrayed by the legendary Oliver Hardy, of ‘Laurel and Hardy’ fame. Hardy, while a friend of Wayne, had only worked ‘solo’ once in a feature film in over twenty years (1939’s “Zenobia”), and it took a LOT of coaxing (and Stan Laurel’s ‘blessing’), to get him to accept the role…and what a pleasure he is, to watch! Wayne and Hardy have a rich, warm chemistry, and the rotund comedian, with his infectious smile and Georgia drawl, makes even minor scenes (like swapping recipes with Ralston’s mother) a joy.

With a first-rate supporting cast including Philip Dorn, Hugo Haas, Wayne ‘regulars’ Paul Fix, Jack Pennick, and Hank Worden, and Marie Windsor (who looks eerily like John Howard, in my opinion!), “The Fighting Kentuckian” is, despite the ‘pans’ you’ll see in some of the reviews posted, one of my favorite John Wayne films…He was never more charming than you’ll find him, here!

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