Douglas Sirk out West with a ballad, the close of the wistful intermezzo (Has Anybody Seen My Gal, Meet Me at the Fair). "The tall, tall tale of Vermilion O'Toole" begins with the lady (Ann Sheridan) already in cuffs aboard a train in the middle of the desert, one quick escape later and she's hiding out in the brassy saloon. "Not in the market for marriage right now," yet she hears the plea of the towheaded triplets seeking a mother and follows them to the little burg dotted with storybook pine trees. Their widowed father (Sterling Hayden) gets wind of the scandalous situation ("a redhead... in your kitchen!"), he's a lumberjack and a part-time minister and gets along with the comely outlaw, to the horror of the local gossips. After a fashion the heroine begins to enjoy her domestic side, adding a bit of oomph to the fundraiser and confronting her rascally old consort (Phillip Reed) along with scolds and grizzlies. "Oh for the peace and quiet of a barroom brawl." Sirk meanwhile savors his own Erich Kästner side, with the outdoors warmth of Russell Metty's Technicolor hues a far cry from the glacéd plasticity of the later households. Every hatchet-faced biddy is at heart an eager trouper in this lovingly optimistic evocation, less concerned with the unfinished church than with the makeshift theater where a mossy melodrama is ebulliently staged. (A scuffle atop the mountains abuts on Anthony Mann ferocity, but the wrap-up restores lightness with candy-striped bathing suits replacing sanctimonious grays.) All I Desire the same year retells the story as a warm-up for the subsequent raids on the bourgeoisie. With Lee Patrick, Lee Aaker, Harvey Grant, and Dusty Henley.
--- Fernando F. Croce