Destry Rides Again

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when I saw a copy of Destry Rides Again by Max Brand at a tag sale, I picked it up, thinking of the excellent movie with Henry Fonda as Tom Destry and Marlene Diectrich as Frenchy, the saloon owner who famously sings “See What the Boys in the Back Room will Have.”

But as I read through the story, I realized the plot was completely different. Even Destry’s first name was different. In the book it’s Harrison.

I think it’s because the book is so dumb. MGM bought the rights to a popular Western and then they read it and realized they might as well scrap the whole thing and write a whole new story.

The book is by Max Brand, whose real name is Frederick Schiller Faust, one of America’s most prolific writers. He originally wrote for pulp magazines, but got rich after creating Destry and Dr. Kildare, which was picked up for radio, television and movies.

The plot of the book is about a guy who gets sent to prison and gets out and starts taking vengeance on the twelve men of the jury who convicted him, even though the evidence was strong against him. It’s all so dumb I can’t even explain it all, but after a young boy risks his life to save him, Destry drops his mission of vengeance.

“…he felt a sudden scorn for the baser parts that were in him, the idler, the scoffer at others, the disdainful mocker at the labors of life. He wished to be simple, real, quiet, able to command the affection of his peers. …for the first time he could realize the meaning of the word “peer”. Equal. For all men are equal. Not equal in strength of hand, in talent, in craft, in speed of foot or in leap of mind, but equal in mystery, in the identity of the race that breathes through all men, out of the soil, and out of the heavens.”

Wait, what? The race? Yup. Not the xpecies. Turns out Faust, aka Brand, is incredibly racist. At one point he states that money and votes are wasted on African-Americans, only he uses a much coarser word.

All in all I’d say, with respect to Destry Rides Again, the movie is great – How can you miss with Marlene Dietrich? – but the book is a stupid piece of dreck.