While escaping from the police, English highwayman Dick Turpin meets Joyce Greene. They marry and Turpin settles down to respectability until his mother-in-law discovers he is the famous outlaw. He resumes his old calling along with Tom King and uncovers evidence that proves his arch-enemy, Lord Willoughby, is plotting against King George. He is betrayed by Cecile, a jealous accomplice, and to protect his wife, Turpin rides the 200 miles from London to York.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THE LADY AND THE BANDIT (Ralph Murphy, 1951) **1/2
The second in my mini-retrospective of forgotten Hollywood star Louis Hayward – as part of my ongoing Easter Epics marathon – is this modest and modestly-budgeted (shot in black-and-white, no less) retelling of the Dick Turpin legend. The film does not have much of a reputation at all – a mere ** rating from Leonard Maltin, no IMDb reviews whatsoever and the copy of it I landed is average at best; surprisingly enough, although the historical character of the notorious British highwayman has been brought to the screen a few times since the early Silent days – including in 1925 (Tom Mix), 1935 (Victor McLaglen!) and 1966 (as a Walt Disney TV miniseries) – this should clearly have been the definitive movie version (being made in the age when such fare were still popular movie-going attractions) but it ends up being merely adequate. For the record, the only other Dick Turpin movie I was previously familiar with was the irreverent spoof CARRY ON DICK (1974) with craggy-faced Sid James donning highwayman garb.
The trouble with this film, I think, is twofold: it elects to be just another adventure (in fact, one of his very last exploits) in the life of the roguish robber when it should have been an exhaustive chronicle of his notorious career – the reason he took to the streets is alluded to here, of course, but not seen and, unforgivably, the villain (a wasted Alan Mowbray) gets his comeuppance not at the hands of Turpin himself but rather those of King George II (Ivan Triesault)! Secondly, the film's title hints at a great (possibly bantering) romance between Hayward and his co-star Patricia Medina which never happens: true, her coach does get held up in the film's opening scene by a masked Turpin and she does get to tame him (briefly) and marry him but I never sensed much chemistry between them; watching the remaining two Louis Hayward movies I alluded to at the start, in which he is also partnered by Medina, might yet change my mind!
The narrative is a mixture of known facts – Dick Turpin really did parade under the name of Richard Palmer (which is how his future wife first knows him) – fictional feats popularized in contemporary print – his overnight gallop to York aboard his faithful steed Black Bess (a rather pointless episode here since his partner-in-crime is shot on the scene of the crime anyway) – and improbable flights of fancy – meeting "The Great Garrick" face-to-face backstage during a performance of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and later as a friendly hold-up victim! Thankfully, two of Hollywood's coterie characters actors – albeit hardly associated with the genre in question – are on hand to liven things up considerably: Tom Tully as Dick Turpin's partner from his days at the Orphanage, all through his looting escapades and down to sacrificing his life for him while distracting the advancing posse at Palmer's country house; and John Williams who, after an ill-advised night-time attempt on Turpin's own purse, becomes his personal valet and instructor in etiquette(!) once our protagonist decides to go legit!
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