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The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County (1970)

Yes there really is a movie with this unlikely title for starters.

Thanks to the world of youtube I had the chance to revisit a wonderful cast led by Dan Blocker of Bonanza fame delivering the goods in this family approved comedy western fare featuring Blocker as a well meaning yet lonely frontier town blacksmith.

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When the mountainous Blocker sets himself up with a mail order bride he believes his life will take on a new meaning. The local saloon gang know all about it despite his thinking the whole set up has been his little secret. He’s off to get a new hat and suit then meet the noon train as well as a stop in the local barbershop where Henry Jones is the man with the scissors. The teasing and innuendos from the boys begin. Jim Backus, Mickey Rooney and Noah Beery Jr. are throwing the not so subtle comments his way about married life.

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When his bride winds up a no show his embarrassment is so great he decides to turn tail and leave town. This creates a huge problem for the local businesses as Blocker is “the only blacksmith for a good hundred miles.” The boys along with Wally Cox and Don “Red” Barry get Blocker soundly drunk as they go about plotting to keep him in town while thinking of how to supply him with the bride he so wants.

Enter Nanette Fabray as the saloon girl the men all long for. Blocker’s never seen her as he’s never been a drinker and rarely has the confidence to look a woman in the eye. For reasons of her own she agrees to play pacifier for a few days before telling him she can’t agree to marriage and supposedly head back East. Naturally she hasn’t counted on the soft generous man whom she’ll be sure to fall in love with.

While that’s the basic plot and I’m sure we all know how it’s going to wind up there is a good set of laughs along the way. To see a man of Blockers size manhandling Mickey Rooney like a toothpick is a great bit of casting. Then there’s Mickey in a veil trying to deliver Dan some pointers on how to catch and hold a woman’s hand. “Soft as a Rose.”

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A great deal of the laughs come from Jack Elam who by this time had become accustomed to parodying his bad guy image as a rattle snake mean bounty hunter looking for the infamous Panama Jack. The fact that he wears coke bottles for glasses allows Jack to steal every scene he’s in as he can’t even see the difference between the wooden drugstore Indian and the real Iron Eyes Cody.

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When slippery Jack Cassidy turns up looking for his ex flame Fabray the saloon boys want him shut up quick and in a hilarious bit set him up to have the not so sharp shooter Elam believing that Cassidy and Panama Jack are one and the same. Get out of the way Mickey!

I don’t believe this has ever turned up on the home video market in North America and that’s kind of sad as it’s a great feature for the whole family. At a time when things were a little simpler when it came to family films. There’s a wonderful cast of pros here surrounding Blocker who pulls off the role perfectly. The soft hearted giant is right in his wheel house and seems a bit of an extension from his Hoss Cartwright character on Bonanza. I half expect him to say “Dadburnit.” Sadly it was final theatrical film role as he passed away far to soon at the age of 43 in 1972.

Dan Blocker

Look for this one for not just the laughs and unlikely love story but the roster of character actors who get plenty of opportunity to show their talents.

“One more for the road Charlie” ……… “Goodbye Charlie.”   funny scene but you’ll have to watch it to appreciate it.

6 Comments »

  1. This movie was a mystery that frustrated me for years. I had seen it as a kid as part of a double bill with Pufinstuf. Didn’t remember the title or who starred in it; I only remembered it being a family-friendly western with the saloon gal as part of the plot. I finally solved the mystery thanks to the online Chicago Tribune archives. I remembered sering this at the Ramova, so I combed through the movie listings with January 1971 as my starting point. After going about a year and a half in the wrong direction I worked backwards until the end of July 1970 and found the one-week engagement at the Ramova. Watched it on YouTube and it’s definitely the movie that dogged me for years. Lots of stars in this; really a shame it’s never had an official home video release.

    • Hi Ray. It’s a gem that I saw plenty of times on TV as a kid and loved. Then it just disappeared. Thankfully it turned up and glad u solved your mystery. Funny flick and yes I too wish it would get a release on DVD or blu.
      Thanks for stopping by and do come again .

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