Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Life This Week: April 17, 1939

Really, how could you resist? Dodge City is one of those movies that's so charming and likeable that I forget how ridiculous it really is. It may not be the best film of 1939, but it's certainly one of the most fun.

While delivering cattle and a wagon train of settlers to Dodge City, improbably handsome cowboy Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn) stands up to saloon-owner and all-around baddie Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot). The impressed townspeople want Hatton for sheriff. So, Wade and his buddies (Alan Hale and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams) stick around to clean up the town. Keep in mind that this is the film that helps establish all those Western-genre clichés.

This week's issue of Life magazine has a feature on Dodge City's premiere in Dodge City, Kansas. I would totally drive the 160 miles to Dodge City if Errol Flynn were going to be there. However, I'm seventy-three years too late and evidently historic Front Street was destroyed by urban renewal in the 1970s. When I ask people in Wichita about going to Dodge City, I get one of three responses:
  • "The whole town smells like cow shit."
  • "It's not worth the drive."
  • "The place is full of Mexicans." (I am constantly surprised at the things people in Wichita will say, especially to people they've just met! There seems to be no concern that they'll be thought of as racists or bigots.)
So far, I haven't made the drive. I'm not sure I'm interested in a "recreation" of "historic" Front Street. Seems like I might as well watch Dodge City again (or Gunsmoke reruns). If you'd like to watch newsreel footage from the Dodge City Dodge City premiere, here's a newsreel in color and here's a newsreel from British Pathé.

Top left: Roast Asparagus Salad, bottom left: Steak and Parsley Potatoes,
right: Rhubarb Fool

I thought any meal containing steak would be perfect for Dodge City and I also included Rhubarb Fool, because rhubarb has got to be the most readily-available vegetable in Kansas in April. Rhubarb Fool really grew on me. I have to admit that the first taste was rather "hmmm," but I ended up loving it by the third or fourth spoonful.

Asparagus Salad

1/2 lb asparagus stalks, trimmed
olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon

Preheat the broiler. Place the asparagus stalks in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to cover all of the asparagus. Broil until starting to brown. Cool completely.

When ready to serve, toss the asparagus in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2

Rhubarb Fool

1 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-2" pieces
1/4 cup sucanant, muscovado or rapadura sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, if needed
1 pint heavy cream

Place the rhubarb and the 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is softened. Taste and add extra tablespoon sugar if needed. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

When ready to serve, whip the cream into soft peaks then fold in the cooled rhubarb mixture.

Serves 8

Adapted from Felicity Cloake, "How to Make Perfect Rhubarb Fool" in The Guardian 11 April 2012.

Dodge City poster and photos from Doctor Macro


  1. Interesting! And Olivia DeHavilland sure had an interesting 1939, didnt she? From Miss Melanie to wild west sexpot ;) I think I sorta like this look better though ;)

  2. Wow that was some hootenanny they put on for the premiere in Dodge City. It's a shame about the state of it now. So many great areas here is NYC are being destroyed as well. I love this meal am a fool for anything rhubarb. Missing my garden in Germany now...

  3. I am in England now and I am LOVING the asparagus and rhubarb season here! Great post Lauren and I adore fool.

  4. I know how you love Errol Flynn and I must say Olivia deHavilland looks darling! Don't think I've seen this, unless I watched it with you a long time ago and I just don't remember (you know my memory)!

  5. Love this movie, Lauren. Haven't seen it in awhile though. Also love the other Errol Flynn western, SAN ANTONIO. The man could sit a horse.....sigh. 'Improbably handsome' is right. What a gorgeous man. At least when he was still young.

    Ah, what the heck, he lived the life he wanted as he wanted it. Not very many of us can say that. I wonder though if he ever had any regrets.

    Nah, probably not. :)

  6. Wow, what a response to your question - too bad about historic Front Street disappearing. Having just driven through many small towns, I really appreciated seeing the ones that kept their character and weren't full of strip malls and fast food.

    I have to make rhubarb fool this weekend! I haven't had it yet this spring and always love it.


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