4 for Texas (1963) – Directed by Robert Aldritch – Starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Anita Ekberg, Ursula Andress, Charles Bronson, Victor Bruono, Edric Connor, Nick Dennis, and the Three Stooges.
4 FOR TEXAS is a dreary comedy that suffers, most of all, from both not giving us what we want (Frank and Dean together) and also taking interminably long to get to those moments.
The scene that perfectly exemplifies the pacing issues in this film comes a little more than halfway through the picture when we watch Harvey Burden (Victor Buono) make himself a grinder for what seems like three minutes. We watch him spread mayo on his bread. Then we watch him put meat on his bread. Then we watch him put another kind of meat on his bread. Then we watch him put tomatoes on his bread. Then we watch him put cheese on his bread. Then we watch him press the two halves together. Then we watch him cut the bread. Then …
Then finally Matson (Charles Bronson) shows up, takes half the sandwich, makes a few threats, and leaves. That’s a whole lotta build-up for not a lot of payoff.
Then we watch Victor after Matson leaves. He might take a bite of his sub at this point, but I realized that before this scene was over I’d have time to go make dinner, so I did.
Actually, I probably just made a snack, but the point remains.
I don’t mind that Frank Sinatra is completely unconvincing as a cowboy because he’s really more of a gangster than a cowboy. Zach Thomas “runs” the city of Galveston, always working some angle. Joe Jarrett (Dean Martin) is the new operative in town. They meet on a stagecoach as each outdoes the other in trying to first keep Matson from stealing $100,000 in cash, and then keep it from their new rival. It’s such … a … long … scene that it robs the film of whatever joy it was supposed to bring me.
4 FOR TEXAS definitely suffers from it’s pacing, but even the scenes that are here aren’t really funny or even pleasantly enjoyable. Thomas has a relationship with Elya Carlson (Anita Ekberg) and, of course, she wants to get married and, of course, Thomas is like, “Whoah, chicky baby! Slow down!” Jarret has a relationship with Maxine Richter (Ursula Andress), who owns a steamboat in need of repair. Because Maxine is played by Andress, you know she’s gorgeous, but Maxine is a horrible character, simply looking to trade her beauty and boat for a man who can come in and play “Master” to her.
Yeah. Jarret offers her a 50/50 split (he puts up the cash to fix the boat), but Maxine doesn’t want that – she wants Jarret to own the majority of their take because she’s European, which means (according to the film) that she’d rather be told what to do than have to think for herself.
Dreadful. But not as dreadful as the rest of the film. Sinatra’s acting style here is done in such a way that whatever he’s actually saying, what comes across is, “Hey, I’m ACTING here!” and Martin’s style is either “I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this” or “affable drunkness.” Which, being Dean, yeah, not totally surprising.
Unfortunately, the only really great scene in the film takes place at Orlando’s Restaurant, which is the only scene where Dean, Frank, and Bronson interact. At the beginning and end they shoot at each other, but here there’s a sense of personal animosity and confrontation between the three men that gives the scene some grip. Anita Ekberg is at her finest, knowing that Jarret is sitting right behind Thomas as Zack talks about him, but that’s the only scene in the whole film that feels like it has a purpose.
4 FOR TEXAS should be a breezy, fun way to spend 90 minutes, but they’ve puffed it out to nearly 120 minutes just by making boring scenes longer. The Three Stooges show up as deliver men to do a bit an it’s probably the funniest part of the movie. The rest of this film, however, is just too drawn out to be anything more than a mild diversion.