The Rare Breed (1966)
Jimmy Stewart. Maureen O'Hara. Brian Keith. A Technnicolor western. What could possibly go wrong?
Stewart is too old, thin, lanky and personable for the role of Bulldog. I mean, really, can you even imagine calling James Stewart "Bulldog" if you weren't being ironic? Ohara's part is severely limited by the script and after the first ten minutes, she is more prop than person. Brian Keith? When you hear the Scottish accent and witness the giant fake red beard he sports, you'll be forever scarred. Oh, and the unbilled co-star is a hornless Hereford bull named Vindicator who settles down and behaves when you whistle "God Save the Queen".
The plot? O'Hara is an English widow who goes to the livestock show in St. Louis to sell the family's prized Hereford bull, which she believes will successfully mate with longhorn stock. A bidding war ensues and vindicator is eventually purchased by an agent of a Texas cattleman (Keith). The agent is more interested in getting under O'Hara's petticoats than he is in the bull. Jimmy Stewart is hired to escort the bull to Texas. He makes an underhanded deal with the losing bidder to "lose" the bull, which is foiled when O'Hara and her daughter decide to tag along for the ride. Eventually, the double-cross is resolved, everyone ends up in Texas, Keith tries to romance O'Hara, but she eventually falls for Stewart who has fallen in love with her and the potential for better livestock offered by Vindicator.
Does that sound bad? It is. And I'm leaving a lot of other really bad parts out of the story. The movie is part western and part unaware parody of western. It's almost a complete disaster. Almost.
I keep saying "almost" for a reason. The movie has a saving grace. Her name is Juliet Mills and she plays Hilary Price, daughter of Maureen O'Hara. She's blond, beautiful, and utterly unforgettable.
Here's what I know about Juliet Mills. She's not as famous as her sister, Hayley. Her movie career hasn't been tht extensive, although she's made a name for herself on television. Apparently, she's still working, playing the role of an older "good witch" in some magic-related series. I'll be honest, though, I intentionally cut my research on Juliet Mills short. I realized I didn't want to know too much about her. I wanted to keep her, in my mind, as Hilary Price.
If you're looking for passionate scenes, revealing outfits, raw sexuality, or a series of opportunities to ogle a young blond, The Rare Breed will disappoint you. The Rare Breed is more Disney than Cinemax late night and Juliet Mills, if I remember correctly, is always wearing an ankle-length skirt. Her dress may actually be consistent with Sharia in that she's usually wearing a hat, too.
Her light English accent is entrancing. Her charm is irresistible. She plays a loyal daughter, an able cattlewoman, and a smarter-than-she-should-be young lady with an earnestness and honesty that deserves a much better movie.
It's hard to steal a movie from James Stewart, but somehow, Mills does it for me. She became every young woman with whom I fell in love. I can't explain it and I'm willing to bet that most viewers of The Rare Breed won't even feel the same way.
Nonetheless, Juliet Mills increases the John Brown rating for The Rare Breed from 1/2 singing cowboy to a solid 2.
(2/5 Singing Cowboys)
P.S. Juliet Mills did get a TV show about 5 years after The Rare Breed. I don't think The Nanny & the Professor was a hit, but this little clip of the opening credits gives you a picture of Juliet Mills, although her look here just isn't the same as in The Rare Breed.
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