Review: George Marshall’s “The Forest Rangers,” Starring Fred MacMurray

Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard in
Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard in "The Forest Rangers"

Part mystery, part romance, and even part musical, Paramount’s The Forest Rangers has no idea what kind of movie it actually wants to be. Fred MacMurray stars as a forest ranger investigating an arsonist, though the mystery is little more than filler to pad out the runtime and make way for romance. Susan Hayward plays a local mill owner in love with MacMurray, but he sees her as “just one of the boys”—and so when the glamorous city girl Paulette Goddard comes to town, MacMurray courts and weds her within a day. Hayward begins to torment Goddard with the adjustment to life in the country, in the hopes that MacMurray will come to his senses and get a divorce. Neither really seem right for him though, and MacMurray does little to justify their mutual obsession over him. The film is also one of the most half-assed musicals ever, with a total of two songs including the debut of the hit “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle.” Despite a seemingly large budget for the Technicolor production, director George Marshall and cinematographers Charles Lang and William V. Skall have an aversion to wide shots that make most of the outdoor sets look cramped and cheap (the firefighting scenes are more convincing—perhaps the bulk of the budget was spent there?). It all ends on a particularly cruel note directed toward the losing love interest, one out of sync with the already muddled tone. A smaller studio like Paramount would rarely splurge on Technicolor, and for whatever reason executives chose The Forest Rangers as one of the three color productions in 1942. It never justifies the color photography, nor the talented stars, or any of the other extensive resources devoted to it.

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For More on The Forest Rangers

Read the review in The New York Times

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