Pony Express (1953)
A Bit Pony
You can't make a racehorse out of a jackass. - Wild Bill Hickok
"Pony Express" tells a story of how legendary figures Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody helped set up the famous Pony Express. Now whilst both are reported to have worked for the Pony Express at sometime during their life they did not work together to establish the service in the way the movie suggests. In fact it is reported that Cody was only 14 when he was a rider for the Pony Express and Charlton Heston certainly doesn't pass for 14 nor is his character a 14 year old. What that means is that "Pony Express" is a made up story which has Hickok and Cody setting up the Pony Express, dealing with Indians and sabotage attempts from those who are opposed to it as well as a bit of a cliche romantic subplot surrounding two women fancying Cody.
Wild Bill Hickok (Forrest Tucker - Chisum) and Buffalo Bill Cody (Charlton Heston - The Greatest Show on Earth) have plans to establish the Pony Express, a service which will cut the time it takes to deliver mail in half. But whilst some welcome the new service there are others opposed to it from Indians who dislike Cody to those who want California to remove itself from the Union and are looking for a way to isolate themselves.
"Pony Express" opens up with Buffalo Bill Cody in a confrontation with Indians where he manages to fight off several; it establishes him as this tough, fearless character. It also sets up the fact that "Pony Express" is really the Buffalo Bill Cody show because whilst we have a story which sees him and Hickok setting up the Pony Express most of it revolves around him. It is Cody who finds himself falling for Evelyn Hastings whilst also having to deal with the romantic infatuation of tom boy Denny, it is Cody who makes all the decisions, it is Cody who risks his life to fight Indians and come the end it is Cody who is the hero.
Because "Pony Express" focuses heavily on Cody it makes it a little bit hard to actually follow what is going on, as in what are Evelyn and her brother Rance up to as they appear to be in cahoots with stage coach owner Pemberton. We do discover that the Hastings are part of a group against California being part of the union and their involvement is to cause trouble whilst Pemberton doesn't want the faster Pony Express to succeed. But not only does the storyline play second fiddle to the heroics of Cody but it is also hard to follow because it is disjointed, bit of story then a lot of Cody heroics.
As such "Pony Express" is really a movie all about Charlton Heston as Buffalo Bill Cody and Heston certainly delivers this confident, fearless almost cocky character. He delivers the action hero when it comes to fights whilst also the hunk who would have two women interested in him. Yet ironically the most entertaining performances come from Rhonda Fleming as Evelyn Hastings and Jan Sterling as young Denny because they are very different even rivals but have this friendship which forms between them. Sadly because "Pony Express" ends up being all about Cody, Forrest Tucker as Hickok ends up for the most background noise, there to do as Cody tells him.
What this all boils down to is that "Pony Express" is an okay 50s western which conjures up a storyline which sees Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody setting up the Pony Express. But not only is it no different to many 50s westerns it really is a movie all about Charlton Heston playing Cody as a heroic figure and little else.
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