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Calamity Jane Review

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Frontier tomboy Calamity Jane is sent to Chicago to bring a chanteuse back to entertain the folks of Deadwood, but brings the star’s maid Katie Brown instead. Under Katie’s influence, Calamity starts acting more female, and the two girlfriends form an et

★★★★

1950s sock ‘em entertainment, with Doris Day bright as a brass button and ‘fizzy as a busy sarsparilla’ as Calamity Jane, the rough and tumble braggart in fringed leathers who learns to dress and act like a real girl.

The plot is a blatant imitation of Annie Get Your Gun, but this luridly colourful musical earns its place in the classics file for Day's spirited gunwoman, and an unbeatable album's worth of showstoppers from Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, ranging from the lively 'Deadwood Stage' through the witty Just Blew in From the Windy City and the lyrical Take Me Back to the Black Hills to Day's best‑ever romantic torch ballad Secret Love (a Best Song Oscar-winner).

Hailed decades later as a seminal feminist fantasy, this is more likely to appeal for its vibrant silliness, though only Keel’s manly baritone on My Heart is Higher Than a Hawk prevents it seeming like the greatest lesbian date movie of all time as cross-dressing Calamity and ultra-femme Katie set up home together in a cabin – the climax of the story rushes through the male-female pairings and depends on Calamity riding headlong across country to bring back the girl she has accidentally run out of town on the stage.

A moment for connoisseurs: Keel’s underplayed first look at Day dressed up in white feminine finery at the officers’ dance, followed by Day’s puzzlement as she is besieged by cavalrymen who want to fill in her dance card.

Day is on top form as the boastful sharpshooter, but she's ably matched by her supporting cast and the music.

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