A great masterpiece of the cinema, ahead of its time by decades, and by the same measure not appreciated.
Hughes is undoubtedly one of the great directors, and a perfectionist on such a scale that he plays a trick on Stroheim just for fun.
There is one who enlists a fight, let us say, and another even more foolish, if you like, who must end it.
That is the main theme, a beautiful secondary theme is about using the enemy’s means to destroy him.
It is not becoming, but Hughes’ filming is a great triumph. The war is a dirty inglorious sacrificial folly, he notes the beauty of dogfights above the clouds, never losing sight of the bloody business there.
Mordaunt Hall saw that, and thought “silly episodes” of the rest in his New York Times review, notably disprizing Jean Harlow’s performance. There was a question of Americans playing Englishmen and Englishwomen, without verisimilitude. Variety was most impressed by the expenditure.
The film has a very simple formal structure despite all appearances (and these, famously, are all critics know).
The animosity of Garrett, the friendship of Holliday, these two neutralize each other and effect the Kid’s escape.
Only Hughes could have produced it, though John Ford’s Stagecoach is a clear and consistent inspiration, as it was for Orson Welles.
The publicity campaign struck critics with such force they could not see the film, which is a great excuse and a pity because it’s a masterpiece and they would know it otherwise, no doubt.