Based on a novel by Louis L?Amour and full of witty exchanges and a striking visual style, the film follows a vaudeville troupe that stays one step ahead of the bill collector as it tours the frontier circa 1880. The centr... more »al premise finds ringleaders Angela Rossini (Loren) and Tom Healy (Quinn) needing a more flamboyant act than normal in order to entertain the citizens of the wild West.« less
"An odd western adapted - loosely - from a Louis L'Amour novel (Heller With a Gun,) directed by Academy Award winning director George Cukor (My Fair Lady copped the Oscar in 1964,) who was better known for more sophisticated, urban fare (Cukor directed Katharine Hepburn in nine movies,) HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS doesn't fit into any easy categories. It's the story of a traveling acting troupe in the old west, headed by Tom Healy (Anthony Quinn) and featuring the lovely Angela Rossini (Sophia Loren.)
Angela Rossini is based on a San Francisco actress named Adah Bertha Theodore, a legendary beauty who was known to the world, as one San Franciscan writer had it, as "the notorious, glamorous, beautiful, and infamous `Mazeppa'." Tom Healy is loosely based on her husband. One of them, anyway. A musician named Alexander Isaac Menken. A scene from `Mazeppa,' the show-stopping scene in which pink-tights clad Angela is strapped to a horse that gallops across the theater, is recreated in the movie. Exciting stuff, even if it's pretty obvious when they cut to the stunt double. In fact, the best stuff in this movie is the behind-the-scenes look at 19th century frontier theater.
I only know what the internet tells me about Adah Menken and the plot of Louis L'Amour's novel. Adah's beauty was legendary, and Loren is a good fit on that score. The movie's plot, which forces the troupe to stay one town ahead of their creditors, is, well, a little forced. Angela/Loren charms some of the flubbered and flustered town bankers into buying her a dress now and then, but the midnight escapes continue. Steve Forrest plays Clint Mabry, a hired gun who wins a little more than Angela should have gambled in a desperate poker game. Mabry makes himself handy to the plot when the troupe finds itself fleeing yet another town, this time escaping into hostile indian territory with nary a guide to lead them out - until the fortuitous arrival of the randy Mabry. This chunk of the film has Mabry trying to collect on his winnings, Angela playing coy, and Healy growing increasingly morose and jealous. If the internet isn't lying, Adah Menken lived a better plot than L'Amour or Cukor would ever dare. The best anecdote of the real article has Adah meeting the famous tight-rope walker Blondin, who, of course, wanted to marry her. Adah agreed, on the condition that he `would let her dance on the tightrope above Niagara with him-a husband-and-wife act.' Fearing that her beauty would distract him, Blondin refused, and they went their separate ways. THAT would have made a heck of a third act.
As it is, we're left with a `lead the rubes out of danger' plot turn and the resolution of a kind of lumpy Loren-Quinn-Forrest love triangle. Although skimpy on action for a western, Loren and Quinn had good on-screen chemistry, and Forrest makes a convincing enough villain. HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS isn't a bad movie, but it is one that all principals could honesty say was not their best work. "
Anthony Quinn and Sophia Loren at their Peak
Russell C. Longmire | Houston, Texas United States | 06/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an offbeat western that has always had a special place in my heart. They do not make them like this any more! The Healy Theatrical Troup travels the west dodging creditors, indians, and outlaws between giving performances that wow the audiences of small western towns. The scenery is picturesque. The acting is terrific. Quinn is great as the sensitive actor who leads the troup and loves Sophia (who doesnt). Steve Forrest is the outlaw who wins Sophia in a poker game and tags along to "protect his investment". And Sophia is at her best in a comedy that showplaces her strong points. Her early comedies have always been my favorites. It is a humorous well thought out piece that was long overdue coming out on dvd. Bravo!"
Loren and Quinn in rousing Western backstage tale
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 09/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Entertaining western comedy with the ever-lovely Sophia Loren. Anthony Quinn has a great role as Tom Healy, the manager of a touring Western theatrical troupe who is always trying to keep his star actress Angela Rossini (Loren) under control.
Colourful tale based on the novel "Heller with a Gun" by Louis L'Amour, deftly-directed by George Cukor (whose background in theatre served him in good stead in this backstage-flavoured story). As usual, Edith Head comes up trumps with her costumes (especially for the show-within-the-show). With Margaret O'Brien, Eileen Heckart and Steve Forrest. No extras but the 16:9 transfer should appease fans of this gem."
AN ENJOYABLE FILM
Kay's Husband | Virginia, U.S.A. | 01/09/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
As you can tell from the other reviews, this is a film loosely, very loosely, based on one of Louis L'Amour's early western novels. I imagine the only enjoyment Louis derived from this film was the money received in exchange for using his book.
The book was published in 1955, and the book's title was Heller With A Gun, not the title of this film. The book languished in paperback from Fawcett Gold Medal mass market books for years before Bantam republished it in 1984, 20 years after being put on film. But in the book King Mabry follows the theatrical wagons after Healy has hired a killer as guide, on a hunch Mabry then follows behind the wagons assuming a 'guardian angel' role. Much different in most respects than the silver screen would have it.
For readers of Mr. L'Amour's book this film will seem very strange as the book is at its best a more serious work, however, the film, since it takes a more frivolous approach, can also be of interest. If for no other reason than with all these first rate actors now being either very old or very dead, a nostolgic air of sorts clings to it, and only the most 'die hard' L'Amour fans will find it objectionable.
Do what I did: read the book and see the movie, both in their own way are very enjoyable entertainment.
Heller in Pink Tights 1960
John W . Ford | Los Angeles , California . U.S.A | 07/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Inspired by best-selling Western author Louis L'Amour (1908-1988) , HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS bring's the curtain up on the traveling Healy dramatic company , a barnstorming 1880s theatrical troupe that speeds part of it's time emoting on stage - and most of its time fending off controntational townfolk , irate creditors and suspicious sheriff . Desperate to find a more flamboyant act to keep their audience entertained , the ensemble's leader Angela Rossini (Sophia Loren 1934 - ) and Town Healy (Anthony Quinn 1915-2001) , Put the *Wild* in Wild West with their comic misadventures . Directed by Legendary Filmmaker George Cukor (1899-1983) , this rollicking Western Spoof also boast a stellar supporting cast includes Steve Forrester (1924 - ) , Eileen Hackert (1919-2001) , Edmund Lowe (1890-1971) , Margaret O'Brien (1937 - ) , and Ramon Novarro (1899-1968) . High Quality Transfer ."