Displaying his reliable macho charm, Clark Gable is in top form in “Honky Tonk,” a colorful, lively Western directed by MGM pro Jack Conway in 1941.
Gable plays Candy Johnson, who along with his pal, the Sniper (Chill Wills), are a pair of frontier sharpers about to be feathered by a mob. Candy’s smooth talk and swift action get them out of trouble, and they jump aboard a passing train.
On the train, they meet Lucy Cotton (Lana Turner), a beautiful girl from Boston, and her father, Judge Cotton (Frank Morgan), who is also a con-man. Candy wins her attention when he donates money to build a church, though the money from Brazos Hearn (Albert Dekker), head of the gambling hall.
Meanwhile, the preacher’s old widow (Marjorie Main) puts up the church, and Candy sets out to organize the town. Soon he controls the whole place, including Hearn’s place. Unbeknownst to Lucy, her father is also part of the deal.
But when Candy leaves his dancehall girl (Claire Trevor) and marries Lucy, her shocked father is too weak to resist him, and he hits the bottle and plots revenge.
After exposing Candy’s plans to take over the town, Brazos shoots and kills him. The shock of the murder causes Lucy to lose their expected child. In the end, Candy shoots Brazos and runs the rest of the gang out of town with Sniper’s help.
The strong rapport between Gable and Lana Turner, exuding sex appeal, contributed to the commercial popularity of the otherwise dramatically rambling and inconsistent picture, which was made just before Gable joined fighting in WWII.
Produced by Pandro S. Berman.
Directed by Jack Conway.
Screenplay: Marguerite Roberts and John Sanford.
Camera: Harold Rosson.
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons.
Score: Franz Waxman.
Editor: Blanche Sewell.
Release date: October 1, 1941.
Running time: 105 minutes.