A Western Soap Opera
I know it's a very obvious way to start this review but the 1950 movie called "Dallas" has very little in common with the soap opera of the same name. There are no Ewings, no oil empire and no dream sequence in the shower and whilst there were various shootings in "Dallas" the soap opera I don't remember anyone faking their own death. But that is how "Dallas" the 1950 movie starts with Blayde Hollister faking his own death and what follows is a story of revenge, a theme which it does share with the soap opera and it also shares a sub plot featuring a love triangle. The thing is that for a western "Dallas" starts in a surprisingly original manner only what follows ends up western cliche, an entertaining western cliche but nothing any different from countless other 50s westerns.
After his home is torched and family is murdered by the Marlowe brothers, former Confederate officer Blayde Hollister (Gary Cooper - Cloak And Dagger) fakes his own death to throw the Marlowe's off his trail and takes on the identity of U.S. Marshal Martin Weatherby (Leif Erickson) who agrees to the charade as he knows Blayde is going to bring an end to the Marlowe's troublesome ways. But with the eldest Marlowe brother Will (Raymond Massey - A Matter of Life and Death) now working as a supposedly reputable estate agent Blayde must go after the other brothers whilst trying to work out whether Will is involved in all the Marlowe troubles. And to add to the tension is Martin's girl Tonio (Ruth Roman - Champion) who agrees to go along with the pretence but finds herself falling for Blayde.
So as already mentioned "Dallas" is most original at the start as U.S. Marshal Martin Weatherby arrives in town and sees Wild Bill Hickok gun down wanted man Blayde Hollister. It's staged as Blayde and Hickok are friends of sorts and they have faked his death so that he can go after the Marlowe brothers who during the war torched his home and murdered his family. But as also mentioned once this original opening is done with "Dallas" quickly becomes quite ordinary, that is after Blayde persuades Weatherby to masquerade as his deputy whilst he takes on Weatherby's name and role in order to go after the Marlowes.
This basically means that for the rest of the 94 minutes we basically have Blayde going after the Marlowe's pretending to be a man of the law and keeping his true identity a secret from everyone. He has to work out who out of the Marlowe's was responsible especially as eldest Marlowe brother Will seems to be a legitimate businessman but it is a story which plays out in quite a routine way, with just a couple of twists thrown in as Blayde is himself a wanted man.
Alongside this main storyline we also get a romantic subplot as the real Martin Weatherby has a girl in Tonia Robles but with Blayde pretending to be Martin she inevitably falls for him and he for her. And of course this places the real Martin in an awkward situation because he has secured a pardon for Blayde but knows that if he is a free man he will definitely loose Tonio. But whilst this romantic tribulation adds an extra layer to "Dallas" it doesn't really add much depth and plays out in an equally routine way to the main storyline.
Keeping on the theme of being quite routine there is of course the western action and whilst there are a couple of half decent shoot outs, made interesting by having them take place in the dark there is little which really stands out. The most entertaining is a scene which sees Blayde riding after Will and being outwitted as Blayde goes to a sheriff in another town and has him arrested which leads to Blayde having to break out of prison. But it is for the most unspectacular, delivering the same sort of action which dominated many westerns from the 50s.
And sadly the same can be said of the acting as whilst Gary Cooper, Leif Erickson, Raymond Massey and Ruth Roman all deliver solid western performances there is nothing which stands out. In fact the most entertaining performance comes from Reed Hadley who plays Wild Bill Hickok as being quite bolshy but unfortunately is only in the opening few scenes.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Dallas" opens up in quite an original way what follows is most certainly not that original. Basically it delivers the themes, drama and action which would dominate 50s westerns and so turns into just another average 50s western.