Movie Review: The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1968 western/comedy starring Don Knotts and Barbara Rhoades.

Synopsis: Newly-captured bank robber Penelope "Bad Penny" Cushing is offered a full pardon for her crimes in exchange for helping the government track down gun smugglers. When her partner is killed and she learns the wagon train won't allow single women, she seduces an inept dentist from Philadelphia and secretly tricks people into believing he is a deadly gunfighter even though he lacks shooting skills.

Who's In It?


I first saw this movie when I was a kid and have lost track of the number of times I've seen it since that first time. However, whenever I come across this film, as I did this past weekend when it was on TV, I end up making time to watch it. And, I have yet to be disappointed by it.

There are a select number of classic films that Hollywood will never be able to remake (though I'm sure it will eventually try) and this is a movie that falls into that category. This is because the role of Dr. Jesse Heywood was perfect for Don Knotts and I just don't see any other actor being able to pull it off as well as he did.

The thing I really like about Heywood (and the way Knotts performed the role) is he really is a likable guy. Part of the reason for this is he never really pretends to be something he isn't. Mostly because of his wife's (Rhoades) stealth-like assistance, he truly believes he is a gunfighter and is quick to tell everyone the truth (and disgrace himself in the process) when he learns it isn't true. 

The fact he knows his limitations also makes his efforts, later in the film, much more heroic since he does ultimately have to face the bad guys despite knowing he's not adequately equipped to fight them. That kind of hero is much more fun to watch because you never know how the hero is going to pull it off.

Another thing I found I loved about this movie was the chemistry between Knotts and Rhoades. This movie, along with everything else, is ultimately a love story. Even though he doesn't know that much about her, Heywood loves his wife and is willing to do anything for her. And, while she doesn't return his feelings at first, the way she gradually warms up to him is entertaining to watch, especially since they are such an odd couple. It's honestly not something I really care all that much about in movies like this one. But, in this case, it really worked.

Final Opinion

This is a classic western/comedy that is entertaining to watch every time I see it. If you have never seen this movie, you're missing something.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 04/24/2016, StevenHelmer
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