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Destry Rides Again

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Destry Rides Again was a huge critical and box-office success in 1939, a year that had many critical and box-office successes and that is often considered to have produced more great films than any other year of the 20th century. Max Brand, the author of the source novel, is little remembered today, but in his era he was a prolific and popular writer who created such memorable screen successes as the Doctor Kildare series. Sadly, Brand was killed at the height of his career, while serving as a war correspondent in Italy during World War II. Brand's story was considerably changed for the screen, and as a result there are occasional inconsistencies of characterization for Destry, who sometimes seems a bit too inclined to fight for a pacifist. Yet, in Tom Destry, James Stewart creates one of the screen's most likable characters, and the film's success revived the career of Marlene Dietrich, who had been dumped from her studio contract by Paramount because of her temperamental behavior and perceived weak box-office appeal. The problem, though, proved to be not that audiences had tired of Dietrich but that they had tired of her in the melodramatic films that Paramount put her in. Free of Paramount, Dietrich found a broader range of work and once again became a bankable star. Richard Gilliam, All Movie Guide