Friday, February 23, 2024

Tub Time: Washed-Up Westerns

Yes, there have been a fair amount of tumbleweeds and sagebrush careening through The Underworld as of late, but it is what it is! Loyal readers know that I am always looking to uncover cinematic (and often TV) incidents of showering, steaming, swimming and - as we'll see today - taking a bath. Many times, my discoveries are kicked off by a single photo such as a lobby card or a promotional still. Then I explore further to see if there is anything worth watching. Initially, I was only going to bring this first example to the table, but as I was skulking around I found two more, so we're gonna do a total of three this round. The man in the picture above left is stuntman-turned-actor Jock Mahoney and it was that shot which led us on our soapy sojourn. 

Joe Dakota (1957) - This is a western I suspect few of you have seen or heard of. And, yes, Miss Barbara Lawrence has a supporting role in it and it was while looking at her career that I found the pic of Mahoney. Apres po of nothing, at no time in this movie does Mahoney wear a red shirt...!

A stunt performer in westerns of the mid-1940, Mahoney segued into acting roles that combined characters and stuntwork, earning him the respect of peers who most often left the scene and let someone else take all the bruises, falls and so on. He is likely most famous for playing Tarzan in two early-'60s films, though the rigors of that almost did him in!

In Joe Dakota, he plays a stranger who ambles in to a deserted town where only pretty Luana Patten is left, watching over a mercantile store. She explains that the rest of the townsfolk are working at a site down the way.

At said site, Mahoney is met with ambivalence, which turns to animosity when he begins poking around and asking about an old Indian friend of his who used to reside there. The area has become the location of an oil rig.

His antagonists include Claude Akins, Lee Van Cleef and Charles McGraw.

When they tire of his questions and attitude, brothers Akins and Van Cleef (almost sounds like a jewelry company!) tilt the plank he's standing on...

...and laugh as he's tossed into a surface pool of pitch black crude.

Mahoney and every stitch of his clothing is instantly coated down with the greasy, flammable substance.

You can see how anyone would need a bath after this...! Some reports say it took Mahoney two weeks to fully remove all the residue of the gunk from his person.

He walks back to the town in order to avoid destroying his saddle or messing up his horse.

He pulls out from sopping, stained money in order to buy new clothes from Patten, but when she becomes annoyed at him, she goes inside and shuts the door, preventing him from utilizing the upstairs public bath.

She is later awakened from a nap by the sound of singing.

Hanging out the window, she still can't tell exactly where it's coming from.

Behind his horse, in the watering trough, is Mahoney! He's singing a pleasant ditty and shaving.

Travel mirrors can be so convenient...

Hearing her at last, he decides to make his presence known.

A nearby stick helps to edge his steed out of the way.

And now then can communicate, albeit from a safe distance.

Patten exclaims that he cannot bathe there.

However, he's in no hurry to evacuate the makeshift tub.

Trouble is, the townspeople are now arriving from the oil rig!

To get out now might cause even more problems.

So Mahoney opts to keep cool and stay put.

Although they certainly aren't up close, some of the ladies take in the sight of this strange man, shucked of his clothing and taking a bath practically in the street.

Meanwhile, the men folk move in much closer.

Movie baths rarely take place without an audience of at least one and this is no exception!

They all want him up, out and gone! But it's not as easy as all that with circumstances being what they are.

He asks for the towel from his saddlebag, which Akins angrily tosses at him.

It's a flimsy, teeny little thing and I was hoping for a glimpse of him in it, but no...

The sequence fades as he begins to stand up.

Once fully dressed (which presumably occurred in full view of the townsmen!), he's ready to roll - for now.

Fans of Patten, then about 19, need to see this movie as she's beautifully photographed and has an intriguing role.

This poster, though, has a hysterically awful artistic rendering of her!

Fans of Mahoney ought to like this, too, as he's at practically his most handsome, gives a very solid performance and his slate blue shirt brings out his surprisingly lovely eyes. The movie may be seen here.

Washing my hands of this one and moving along now.

I must tell you that I had NEVER heard of this movie... 1974's The Spikes Gang.

In it, Lee Marvin plays a notorious thief (with one serious handlebar mustache.)

After one particularly rough escapade, Marvin is injured, but nursed and fed back to help by three young farm boys (Charles Martin Smith, Ron Howard and Gary Grimes.)  

They wind up following in his footsteps and doing jail time. But he gets them out, then takes their filthy selves to a bathhouse where they can get clean.

The camera begins with Marvin, passing along advice to the tub next to his.

Then it pulls back to show another tub...

...and then another.

All four of 'em are taking baths in a row.

As they've botched their recent robbery attempt and killed a senator in the process, Marvin has words for them all.

I actually sorta liked this look on the grizzled Marvin, then about 50. (No clue if the place charged more to use the metal tub behind him instead of these wooden ones they're in??)

This movie served as a reunion between Smith and Howard, who'd shared the screen in the prior year's American Graffiti. (Like Howard, Smith proceeded to a career in directing.)

Anyway, Marvin informs the youths that now there is going to be a price on their heads.

Needless to say, this generates a certain level of concern.

Compare and contrast the above shot with this publicity photo, clicked on set between takes. Two of the guys are all smiles!

Punctuating the end of their chit-chat (and the baths), Marvin suddenly stands up...

...and rotates around, showing off his variety of wounds and injuries sustained over his career as an outlaw. Although he's presumably naked as he's doing this, we're robbed of any visual proof. It would have been fun to at least have a butt shot, but perhaps the makers were reluctant to do so in this PG film.

And I'm not aware of Marvin ever having shown his behind, so maybe it was he who chose not to do so now. The movie can be seen here.

Our third and final entry, I Shot Jesse James (1949) seems on the surface to be the least alluring thanks to the year it was made and the fact that it's in black & white. But I was nonetheless amused by the way the imagery plays.

Veteran performer Reed Hadley plays Jesse James. The movie concerns how his cohort and friend opted to shoot him dead for the reward money, but then regrets the decision.

Said "friend" is played by John Ireland. Intentional or not (the movie was directed by tough as nails Samuel Fuller - his first one), there is a homoerotic tinge in the air. In this scene, Hadley is gently tending a wound on Ireland's chest as they gaze into one another's eyes.

Hadley seems to sense what's coming, though to have $10,000 on your head in that day and age... well, the offer is beyond tempting!

Ireland's clear distress over the situation can also suggest a certain inner torment. (And folks may recall 1948's Red River, in which he and Monty Clift "compared pistols!")

One day while Ireland is staying with him (recovering from that aforementioned wound), we find Hadley in the barn enjoying a bath.

I mean, he is just loving it!

He's shown vigorously scrubbing his feet.

Still nowhere near done with his afternoon soak, he is awaiting more hot water to be carted in by his guest.

Ireland appears with two steaming buckets of more hot stuff.

Before he leaves, Hadley tells Ireland to come back. He has a present for him.

It's a beautiful silver revolver, which in Ireland's hands is actually worth more than Hadley realizes! Or does he?

Ireland is so close... Then Hadley says, "What are you waitin' for? There's mah back."

Turns out he wants his back scrubbed, which Ireland dutifully concedes to clean! (Should you wish to see the film, it's here.) That's the end of the bath, but not the end of this post. We're going back to those feet! I was snorting at the way Hadley was holding onto and reacting to his feet being scoured clean. Look carefully and see if you get the same bang out of it that I did....