The Western is a popular dramatic genre found in books, films and TV shows throughout the 20th century. This movie genre turned out to be rich in depiction of fights in varied forms. Well-informed people state though that in nineteenth century cowboys did not engage in fist fight, they most likely settled a dispute with the blazing bullet. Those knockdown male slugfests are, from a historical view, nonsense. On the other hand, the gals of the Old West, usually sporting women 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. The Wild West is the right place where women are not just allowed, but must stick up for themselves (and not just against men). That is why many women's fighting scenes are quite appropriate and realistic in Westerns. For the most part, the Western catfight is merely a reflection of those same issues, which always had the men raising their fists. However, the stereotypes are stable and some people still consider fighting women contemptuously.
The quintessential Western film catfight (and possibly the most famous screen "SHE-tangle") was run in the movie DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939). Saloon bad girl Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich) and house wife good girl Lily (Una Merkel) engage in the roughest female catfight in the film history over the return of a pair of pants Frenchy won from Lily's husband in a card game. The unladylike, wild, free-for-all western brawl in the saloon (choreographed without stunt stand-ins) lasts almost two minutes, and includes scuffling, hair-pulling, dress-tearing, punching, wrestling, scratching, kicking and rolling on the floor. Peace-maker Destry breaks (or cleans) it up and cools off their heated argument by pouring a bucket of water on them. Feeling publicly humiliated by him, Frenchy vengefully continues the fight with Destry, punching, kicking and clawing at him, then grabbing a six-shooter to aim at him... Though initially the wildcat, mighty Frenchy is eventually given a dose of her own medicine when Lily fights back and proves the weary lass has not the gumption to last the required rounds.
With "Destry rides again" as a model and inspiration, catfights erupted in the saloons all over the motion picture West. 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. Besides this fight, mass female tussle runs in the saloon as well.
Among numerous "Destry" fight imitations, the work of another great actress must be mentioned. Elizabeth Taylor's hilarious knockout rolling brawl in the made-for-TV Western POKER ALICE (1987) is reminiscent of that of another great actress Marlene Dietrich.
"A gang of women terrorizes a town" is the well-developed topic, relatively recent example BAD GIRLS (1994); also DALTON'S WOMEN (1950) and OUTLAW WOMEN (1952). This film by Ron Ormand lays claim to one of the best Destry-like tussles in the "old West". In fine form, Marie 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-for-all.
Another good female tussle, which actually determined the women's brawling style in movies for decades, was the famous fight between two beauties, Brigitte Bardot? and Claudia Cardinale. The two put on a spectacular display in THE LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING (1971). Brigitte Bardot is the train robber, accompanied by her gang of attractive women in this female-dominated movie. Set in a "French" western city in the U.S. Combined with the sexiness is a very humorous, entertaining storyline about rivalry for an oil ranch, as the sexual tension between the two leading actresses (who are rivals) and a goofy sheriff is complemented and eventually superseded by the tension between Brigitte's gang of lovelies and Claudia's supporting brothers (which eventually certainly is not tension). Eventually, the enmity between the two beauties developed into a fabulous catfight, consisting of punches, throws and rollovers in dust. The fight ends in a draw as both succumb to exhaustion. Then the women emerge as not just friends but as partners as they jump on a train and free their gangsters from the hands of the law. In fact, in the most of subsequent "real" women's brawls and even in martial art fights in movies, the brawlers act kind of similar to this intensive duel.
Many producers try to make catfighting as eccentric as possible. As far as oddities are concerned, LADY GODIVA RIDES (1969). Дis 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, which has the distinction of being the longest tussle in cinema history. This movie is a good illustration of the fact that fighting females in Westerns are always regarded with a trace of irony -- against the background of tough men making holes in each other, catfighting does not look too serious. According to the movie classification by the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb), many movies in the genre of Western are also classified as comedy (including "Destry Rides Again" and "Lady Godiva Rides").
You can continue listing numerous catfights in Westerns. Strictly speaking, Westerns, as well as the most of movies containing female fights do not represent the genre of women's fighting - conflicts between women (especially by physical means) usually has not much to do with the development of a plot.
The parody ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLDS (1995) contains several allegories at once, which are important in the context of our considerations. The plot is this. Hollywood beauties competing and posing for a centerfold shoot topless. One of them accidentally overdoses a potion for breasts enlarging that has a nasty side effect: she starts rapidly growing - her clothes ripped as she kept growing and growing to a gorgeous giant who was 60-feet tall. Her spiteful rival finds out her secret, steals one of the vials and has grown to an equally large (and "important") giant. The two gorgeous giants having lost the most of their cloths wrestle just in the streets trashing most of Los Angeles in the process. The plot is poor, acting poor, and special effects poor but the comedy is funny because it's so lame and simplistic - it is one of those that some would say: "It's so bad, it's good". The weird semi-naked giants symbolize Hollywood stars whose publicity and honor substantially exceed their creative and mental dignities. Extraordinary measures must be taken to make them ordinary persons again (as they really are) - spraying them with the "antidot" gas in a machine gun-like sprayer. Really petty rivalry between celebrities developed into the frantic rampage, which destroys Hollywood itself. And finally, a women's fight so much desired by men, appears not as a trivial catfight but as a mock battle of naked busty huge beauties. So, this unpretentious movie, far from being a cinema masterpiece, can be still considered as a milestone in the development of this topic in movies. By the way, it was made as a parody of feminist movie ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN (1958), as well as of some other films about female giants.
Besides the above mentioned movie stars (Dietrich, Bardot, Cardinale and Taylor) who played in fighting scenes, two more must be mentioned - Italian Sophia Loren and French Catherine Deneuve. Young Sophia Loren ardently fights as a miller's beautiful wife in the Italian movie of the same name (in Italy it's known as "LA BELLA MUGNAIA" (1955), which is based on the play "The Three-Cornered Hat" from the Spanish novel of Alarcon. By the way, it was the earliest pairing of Loren and Mastroianni. Elegant Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant are engaged in the picturesque catfight in the French comedy 8 FEMMES (2002). The women were tumbling around on the carpet in their best couture, grappling and clinching, slapping and smacking. The fight finishes up with a very strong, emotional kissing scene. Being asked how she was instructed for this scene, Deneuve said: "Instructions? No, there were not any instructions. I knew it was going to start off as a kind of dispute, turn into a kind of a fight and finish up with a very strong, emotional kissing scene... these are physical scenes, whether it's with a woman or a man, because as soon as you start touching each other physically, you're no longer protected by your words. It means leaving a part of my own intimacy with them, possibly more than I might be expected to give as an actress. It's very personal..."
In fact, staging a women's fight is similar to choreography; a classical example - the dancing-like fight in the move "From Russia with Love", which will be considered in the part IV. In the prewar music comedy DANCE, GIRL, DANCE (1940) a fight between dancers was filmed. For some reason this movie has been canonized as a feminist manifesto (a woman, Dorothy Arzner was the director), in which the women's fight over a man demonstrate women's equality, in particular in solving rivalry issues.
A Western bar fight between two Girl Scouts was perfectly filmed in the comedy AIRPLANE! (1980) пTwo sturdily-build girls engage in a violent bar brawl after one of them catches the other attempting to cheat during a card game The girls fight very skillfully like men punching each other and throwing chairs. Eventually, one of them throws the other along the bar counter. The drunken men do not even pay any attention (as it befits cowboys) to the girl flying by and wiping off all wine glasses. There are quite many rather stupid comedies with catfight scenes (recently mud wrestling prevails), for instance, in the film MUGSY'S GIRLS или DELTA PI (1985) two teams of girls compete in mud wrestling and as usual, good girls withstand bad girls... One more example - the comedy STRIPES (1981) about American army containing not only many awkwardnesses (including wrong Soviet officer uniform) but also wonderful female mud wrestling match...
As far as musicals are concerned, the following ones come to mind: BROADWAY MELODY (1929) with a mass chorus girl catfight, OKLAHOMA! (1955), HERE COMES THE GROOM (1951) and at finally CARMEN JONES (1954). Otto Preminger transferred the Broadway version of the classic opera by Bizet (with all-black cast) to cinema and made that artistically. The film has got many prestigious awards, including "Golden Globe" and Cannes' "Golden Palm"; Dorothy Dandridge (in the title role) went on to become the first African American woman to earn an Academy Award Best Actress nomination. The plot strictly follows the scenic libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II in which Carmen is a southern girl working in a parachute factory. She fights with Cindy Lou (Micaela in the original, played by Olga James), marks her with a knife and then won over Joe (Jose)...
Numerous catfights in TV serials, soap operas, talk shows, et cetera might be ranked among comic genre. In some talk shows, a fight between arguing parties is either provided or provoked by hosts, as it is in "The Jerry Springer Show" and "OKNA" (Windows) by Russian Dmitry Nagiev. Besides, there are shows, in which female celebrities compete in various events, including wrestling (and even boxing). Among them, FORT BOYARD, a French TV show and "SETTE PER UNO" (seven against one) Italian TV show can be mentioned.
Not being experts in cinematograph as well as not considering this review to be anyhow exhaustive, we stop discussing Westerns, Musicals and Comedies at this point. We will welcome in every way possible any impulse to complete and correct this article.
We appreciate the inestimable help by Mr. Lebowsky.
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