Thursday, March 4, 2010

"The First Traveling Saleslady" and a low point for masculinity

Title: The First Traveling Saleslady
Released: 1956
Genre: Musical comedy with damn little music and damn poor comedy
Notable for: Being the first movie to give Clint an actual character
Clint's subliminal message: "Shucks, I like girls."

Cruel fate dictated that mere days after winning a coveted Manly Blogger Guy Award we were forced to watch what must be the most unmanly movie ever to feature Clint Eastwood. Even in "Bridges of Madison County" he played an adventurous loner who liked to get laid. Searching for lessons of masculinity in "The First Traveling Saleslady" is like looking for an incandescent light bulb at Al Gore's place.

The movie itself is almost legendarily bad. Carol Channing, one of the stars, was quoted as calling it the picture that killed RKO studios. The movie poster pictured above even misspelled the title.

Supposedly this is a musical comedy but the entire movie has only one song, excluding the painfully insipid ditty that plays over the title sequence. The comedy is, to be generous, strained. The film is set in 1897 and the plot alternates between silly and remarkably silly. One example is the fact almost every male inexplicably falls in love with the star, Ginger Rogers, at first sight.

In a misguided effort to add social relevance, the film has running themes involving the struggle for women's equality and, oddly, the elevation of barbed wire as a savior of the common man. These themes merge at the end, when a gang of angry Texas townswomen breaks into a storage facility, liberates a huge supply of barbed wire and fences the town. The story is just that good.

Do you think we exaggerate the wretchedness? Check out the trailer by clicking here.

Still, this is a major step up for Clint's movie career. For the first time, he plays a character who actually advances the plot a little. He is named in the credits for the second time in a still-inglorious career. And he appears with three major stars -- Rogers, Channing and James Arness from "Gunsmoke."

His role, however, is highly unClintlike. He plays a lieutenant in the Rough Riders, which sounds manly enough, but his function is to serve as Channing's goo-goo eyed love interest. He has one bloodless and undramatic adventure rescuing Channing from bad guys. Other than that, all he does is smile and stare at her. That's right, he smiles. A lot. It seems a strange romance because Channing, whose character is something of a hussy, is nearly 10 years older than Clint in real life and his character played younger than his 26 years. He acts like a teenager who's hot for teacher. After Clint's first onscreen kiss, which is awkward, the viewer is left to assume Channing marries Clint and rides off into the sunset to teach him sex positions.

So, in summation, this movie stars two women and has women's rights as a theme. Clint smiles often and is overwhelmed by a chick. This is no way to celebrate a Manly Blogger Guy Award.

Next up: "Escapade in Japan."


  1. Look at it this way: it takes a real man to sit all the way through it.

  2. Perhaps the poster was for the British release. In Britain they prefer travelling to traveling.

  3. OK, let me get this straight: the movie is the most un-manly ever because it features a not-yet typecast Clint and a (decades-ahead of its time) big screen “cougar” love story? I think its VERY “manly” to have a little “Maggie May” in your history for character development…

  4. Clint is very pretty in this so it's an awkward moment watching it when Carol asks him if he likes girls.

  5. Clint is very pretty in this so it's an awkward moment watching it when Carol asks him if he likes girls.