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The Marshal's Daughter

The Marshal's Daughter(1953)

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The film opens with a close-up of a book entitled The Marshal's Daughter by Ken Murray. After actress Laurie Anders is shown holding the book, Murray enters the room saying "Hold it, Laurie, you've got it all wrong." Murray then addresses the audience, saying that they are rehearsing. Anders soon picks up the book again and starts to read aloud, "It all began in 1870..." The action then switches to a dramatized prologue in which a white man with a scar on his face signals a tribe of Indians to attack a groups of wagons. The dead body of a woman is shown near a blanket, from which a small baby pops up. A superimposed title card then appears, reading "Ken Murray presents The Marshal's Daughter." Additional credits unfold over a montage of the baby's growing from infancy to adulthood, accompanied by the voice of Tex Ritter, who sings a ballad that describes the baby's youth. The main part of the story opens when "Laurie Dawson" is having a conversation with "Chico," her ventriloquist's dummy. From that point on, the film is intermittently narrated by Anders, and Ritter's ballad "The Marshal's Daughter." In the film's end credits, Anders' character name reads: "Laurie Dawson and 'El Coyote.'"
       Pamela Ann Murray, who portrayed "Baby Laurie Dawson" was Ken Murray's baby daughter. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film, which is divided into two related, but separate stories, with additional framing segments, used sequences from a pilot for a television series to be entitled The Wide Open Spaces. Anders had previously appeared on the television series The Ken Murray Show, which ran on the CBS network from January 1950 through June 1953. On that show, Anders used the tagline, "I like the wide-open spaces." Actress Bette Lou Walters, who portrayed "Miss Bolton" in The Marshal's Daughter was also a regular on Murray's television show.
       In addition to the opening sequence, there are several other points throughout the film in which books are used for comic effect: A book is prominently displayed in the scene in which Laurie tells "Russ" about her abilities as a ventriloquist. Russ then picks up her book on mastering the art of ventriloquim. When Laurie adds that she has also learned jiu jitsu, Russ turns the book around to reveal the back cover, which reads "Mastering the Art of Jiu Jitsu." In the stagecoach sequence, a parson's face is obscured by the large book he is reading entitled Violence and How to Avoid It. When the parson puts the book down, he is revealed to be the film's previously established villain, "Trigger Gans."
       Although a April 20, 1952 Daily Variety news item stated that Murray was planning to put together a "vaudeville unit" to tour the country with the film "starting in Jun" no additional information on the tour has been found. As noted in reviews and news items, The Marshal's Daughter was Murray's first feature film since his unusual 1946 bird comedy, Bill and Coo (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). In one of the film's flashbacks, Hoot Gibson, as his character, "Marshal Ben Dawson," describes how he obtained his faithful gun. The flashback sequence was taken from a silent Western featuring Gibson. The Daily Variety review indicates that the silent film was made in 1929, but the name of the film has not been determined.
       Reviews also noted the similarities between the use of Ritter's ballad as an ongoing theme in The Marshal's Daughter and a similar use in the multiple-Oscar winning 1952 Western High Noon. A scene in The Marshal's Daughter in which Gans and his gang enter a deserted town was also reminiscent of a famous scene in High Noon.