Western Catfights Nineteenth century cowboys did not engage in fist fight. Those knockdown male slugfest are, from a historical view, nonsense. The disputes of the time were handled just as fast as they are today by waring gangs or organized crime figures; with the blazing bullet.

On the other hand the gals of the Old West, usually sporting women (i.e.: prostitutes), and were prone to bodily attack one another when desirous of settling those arguments not resolved by word alone.

Unlike the male resolve in the Western fight scene, the female tussle had a far more realistic base from which to stand. Which leads us to the quintessential Western film catfight (and possibly the most famous screen SHE-tangle). DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939).

It's a hair-pulling, clothes-ripping, melee between salon bad-girl Marlene Dietrich and house wife good girl Una Markel over the return of a pair of pants Dietrich won from Merkel's husband in a card game.

Both women display excellent brawling technique as they tear down table after table, each trying to best the other. Though initially the wildcat, mighty Marlene is eventually given a dose of her own medicine when Markel fights back and proves the weary Germanic lass hasn't the gumption to last the required rounds.

Fortunately for Dietrich the fight is broken up by a pail of water tossed by Jimmy Stewart. In FRENCHIE (1951) (a film often cited as a remake but actually based on Dietrich's character) Shelley Winters is robbed of her victory in similar fashion when her brawl with beaten up Marie Windsor is ended by yet another tossed pail of water.

A true remake of the 1939 film was simply titled DESTRY (1955). This time it was Mari Blanchard against Mary Wickes in a tussle over a hat. The battle is once again halted with the admission of a water bucket this time tossed by Audie Murphy. Both women display excellent brawling technique as they tear down table after table, each trying to best the other.

Though initially the wildcat, mighty Marlene is eventually given a dose of her own medicine when Markel fights back and proves the weary Germanic lass hasn't the gumption to last the required rounds.

Fortunately for Dietrich the fight is broken up by a pail of water tossed by Jimmy Stewart. In FRENCHIE (1951) (a film often cited as a remake but actually based on Dietrich's character) Shelley Winters is robbed of her victory in similar fashion when her brawl with beaten up Marie Windsor is ended by yet another tossed pail of water.

With DESTRY RIDES AGAIN as a model and inspiration, catfights erupted in the sagebrush and saloons all over the motion picture West. Some of the contests were merely conveniences for the leading man to have a lady companion who could take on a villainous female.

Such was the case in THE OLD CHISHOLM TRAIL (1942) when Jennifer Holt wrestled Mady Correl; and in MAN FROM CHEYENNE (1942) Gale Storm beats the daylights of Lynn Carver who winds up dazed on her backside.

TIME IN THE SIERRAS (1947) Jane Frazee lays into gang-girl Stephanie Bachelor who ends up black-eyed and stretched out. Petite Beverly Garland and rotten-to-the-core Allison Hayes slug it out in Roger Corman's THE GUNSLINGER (1956) although it's questionable whether Garland's eventual victory comes from strength or from Hayes striking her head against the bar after taking a solid right hook (the answer comes 40 minutes later when the cowardly Hayes, desperate to avoid a re-match, hires three fightin' bar maids to do her dirty work).

Speaking of Marie Windsor, let us not forget Ron Ormand's OUTLAW WOMEN (1952) which lays claim to one of the best DESTRY-like tussles in the 'ol West. In fine form, Windsor takes the role of Iron Mae the spirited leader of an all-female town fighting to keep it self from being over run by a cavalry of male gunslingers with pistols loaded and cocked for the town's bank roll.

In one scene she goes toe to toe with Jacqueline Fontaine in a fist and foul language free-or-all. Sometimes the Western heroine was handy to have around because her intervention would often save the leading man from being killed by the film's villainess - an act of feminist panache that would have surely discredited the male hero from ever making any fans "Top Ten Tough Guys" list.

Johnny Mack Brown is saved from the rifle of Jo Ann Curtis by quick acting Beatrice Gray in STRANGER FROM SANTA FE (1945) while Dolores Dorn's tackling skills save Randolph Scott from gunslinger Marie Windsor (HELLFIRE) in THE BOUNTY HUNTER (1954).

The Western heroine is of further assistance when she confronts the villainess in an "extract the information" collision - where the villain is reluctant to reveal and the heroine is forced into roughhouse tactics in order the change the woman's reticence to cooperation. For this we recall Coleen Gray (THE LEECH WOMAN) wielding scissors in THE VANQUISHED to persuade a terrified Jan Sterling to sob out the information. Unfortunately Gray did not have those scissors for STAR IN THE DUST (1956) when Randy Stuart slaps and backhands her into the demanded loquacity.

Cathy Downs breaks in a saloon door in THE OKLAHOMA WOMAN (1954) and forces Peggy Castle to talk after a sock to the chin. Laura Lee gets information from Nichle Di Bruno in TIMBER FURY match is ferocious clothes-ripper that concludes with the winner haymaking the loser against the bar.

The defeated feline is then shown slip ping unconscious to the floor, her glazed eyes rolling up in their sockets. Susan Hayward pulls double duty in THE LUSTY MEN (1952) when she has to convince a rival femme to take a hands off approach to her husband.

In their first encounter Hayward's kick to the husband-stealers rear-end proves only to be a temporary restraint. Later Hayward gets rougher and knocks the woman down to persuade her to seek other male company.

Jealous Peggie Castle (of the aforementioned THE OKLAHOMA WOMEN) performs her double duty in JESSE JAMES' WOMEN (-1954). Her first match-up is relatively easy since all that is needed is a right cross that decks Lita Baron - who finds she's outclassed and retreats.Then immediately appearing on the scene is Betty Bruck who receives her right cross from Peggie but comes up off the floor in variation on the Dietrich/Merkel brawl.

Another Eastern gal, Joan Leslie, takes over her dead brother's saloon in THE WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (1953) and engages unruly, snarling Audrey Totter in a savage brawl that no doubt left Totte puzzled about what those supposedly refined Eastern women were real tought.

Joan beats Audrey, kicking her when she's down. Westerner rises and hurls a spittoon which Joan ducks to avoid. She then rushes Audrey, pushes her atop the bar, slugs her unconscious then pulls her the length of the bar at which point she pounds Audrey's head into the floor and then drags the woman by her heels through the batwings to the outside. Not only is this Eastern gal a terrific catfighter, she's one hell of a bouncer.

The victress, like Joan Leslie in THE WOMAN THEY ALMOST HANGED , is often a lady who decides that traditional catfighting techniques should be supplemented by a jawsmacker. Eschewing pulling hair and raking nails for an exchange of knuckle sandwiches are Marilyn Erskine and Lenore Lonegran in WESTWARD WOMEN (1952); Nancy Kovack and Sally Starr in THE OUTLAWS ARE COMING (1954); and Regina Carol and Ellen Stern of JESSI'S GIRLS

Although the one-on-one confrontation is standard in most films there are those select few movies to feature a battle royal scenario wherein more than one woman gets in her licks.

In THE HARVEY GIRLS ( 1946) the saloon girls led by Andela Kelly duke it out on separate occasions. squirming about on the ground in FRONTIER WOMAN. Angela Lansbury -TV's MURDER SHE WROTE THE HARVEY GIRLS (headed by Judy Garland) duke it out in a mass catfight. DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI (1955) was significantly enlivened with a ladies free-for-all.

The girls of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS(1954) have a set to, and the decent "God fearing" women in THE WILD WOMEN OF CHASTITY GULCH (TV 1982) invade a local whorehouse for a furniture and window display destructive ruckus with the prostitutes.

For the most part the Western catfight is merely a reflection of those same issues which always had the men raising their fists. Of those issues the white man Vs the Indian figured very prominently. To follow suit we had catfights along similar lines. In WHEN THE REDSKINS RODE (1951) Indian Sherry Moreland fights half breed Mary Castle and chokes her unconscious. Joan Taylor, a Mexican captive in WAR DRUMS (1957) attacks the Indian girl.

A great topless match occurs in David Friedman's RAMRODDER (1969) when an up start Indian tackles a foul mouthed white woman. Perhaps the most bizarre battle in the history of this cinema category this scene shows the women battling each other by "butting their breasts" together the camera angled up from beneath allowing for the best possible angle to catch all the flesh compressing action. The zesty match climaxes with the exhausted white gal pinned at knife point by her opponent.

In RAMRODDER and THE WILD WESTERNERS the battling desert cats felt the need to augment their ten sharp nails with a thin blade of steel.

Such was the case in THE MAN BEHIND THE GUN (1952) when Patrice Wymore used flying furniture and pottery to successfully defend herself from a blade wielding Lina Romay (not THAT Lina Romay). Unsuccessful with a knife it was sneaky Arleen Whelan who creeped up to stab Katy Jurado in SAN ANTONE (1953) only to find herself outmatched.

A backfire attack also occurs in WILD AND WOOLY (TV 1978) when Jessica Walter falls on her own knife during a struggle.Then in DIRTY LITTLE BILLY (1972) the duel of the ladies is strictly steel with the screaming loser clutching a bloody mess where her ear used to be.

Though the Western women of the screen have various reasons to assault one another, some are hard to categorize other than under the general heading of catfights. DESPERATE WOMEN (TV 1978) has Ann Dusenberry and Ronee Blakely clawing and scratching over the possession of a gun which Ann discovers.

In SCARLET ANGEL (1952) two tough saloon denizens become annoyed at the thought of Yvonne's hoity-toity etiquette blemishing their low life milieu so they engage the seemingly soft lass in a fight. It's only after DeCarlo slugs them, bangs their heads together and throws them to the ground to pound their skulls onto the floor do the duo realize that beneath that ritzy proper exterior lies the abilities of a first-class fighting female.

DRAGOON WILLS MASSACRE (1957) Mona Freeman about in the dirt for no other reason than they just don't like each other. As far as oddities go A.C. Stephen's LADY GODIVA MEETS TOM JONES (aka LADY GODIVA RIDES AGAIN, 1968) is one of the higher on the list.

Two gals begin in a saloon and waste no time in tearing away the tops of their gowns to reveal very pleasing endowments. The fight then carries over into a street fight mud brawl that has the distinction of being the longest tussle in cinema history. Of all the Western catfighters the most surprising participant was Elizabeth Taylor and her performance in the made-for-TV film, POKER ALICE (1984).

Playing a madam-with-a-con science, Taylor insists her girls rest on Sunday and attend a bible study class in the parlour. Both ladies contest the disagreement by punching and tearing each other apart in a battle that extends from a hallway right down a flight of stairs.

It's there that Taylor and Tyrell come face to I face with a solid I right hook from Liz that convinces sobbing Sue to crawl over to the assembled bible class . As a pair of oil ranch divas Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale put on a spectacular display in THE LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING What begins as a simple "catfight at the O.K. corral" turns into a lengthy barnyard brawl.

Bardot looks great in her all black leather gun fighter outfit but it's sweet maiden Cardinale who gets in the most licks before the fight is broken up and a clear winner crowned. In retrospect there are literally dozens more femme-fatale westerns that we have not covered. While some may not contain the prerequisite "catfight" they more than make up for it with their ample doses of gunslinging action.

We recall spaghetti wonders like Elsa Martinelli in THE BELLE STARR STORY (aka LIL MIO CORPO PER UN POKER , 1968); LOLA COLT (aka BLACK TIGRESS aka LOLA COLT FACCIA A FACCIA CON EL DIABLO, 1967) with the seductive Lola Falana. The late Silvana Mangano in OUTLAW GIRL (1955). Monica Vitti in THE GIRL WITH A PISTOL(aka LA RAGAZZA CON LA PISTOLE, 1969).

Then there's Yankee gunslingers like Marie Windsor in the sensational HELLFIRE(1949) andDAKOTA LIL (1950). Jane Greer was a crime boss in STATION WEST (1948); Maria Hart in CATTLE QUEEN (1951). Jane Russell's claim to fame hit THE OUTLAW (1943) and MONTANA BELL (1952). Barbara Stanwyck in both THE CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA (1954) and THE MAVERICK QUEEN (1955). Joan Taylor in APACHE WOMAN (1955); Patricia Medina in THE BUCKSKIN LADY (1957). Lisa Davis in THE DALTON GIRLS (1957). Merry Anders, Irish McCalla, Kathy Marlowe, Bee Carroll, and Luci Blau teamed to form the FIVE BOLD WOMEN (1959).

Jane Fonda was CAT BALLOU (1965). Jennifer Bishop and Regina Carol as the titled FEMALE BUNCH (1969). Anne Francis, Marie Windsor and Sherry Jackson were the WILD WOMEN (1970). Marsha Jor dan drew one of the SIX GUNS FOR SIX WOMEN (aka SIX WOMEN, THE LAST SHOWDOWN , 1971). Raquel Welch as HANNIE CAULDER (1972) Erotic nudes in BRAND OF SHAME (1973). Gun totting babes in LES FILLES DU GOLDEN SALOON (197?) and REQUIEM PARA EL GRINGO (1969). Katherine Ross was the titled outlaw in WANTED: SUNDANCE WOMAN (aka MRS SUNDANCE RIDES AGAIN , 1972); and lastly DESPERATE WOMEN (TV, 1978). Cover Page Index


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