Release Date: August 31, 1945 | Production Date: November 1943 - January 1944 | Color: Technicolor Running Time: 113 minutes | Studio: Paramount Pictures
as "Texas Guinan"
Arturo de Cordova
as "Romero 'Bill' Kilgannon"
as "Cherokee Jim"
as "Joe Cadden"
as "Michael Guinan"
as "Bessie Guinan"
as "Tim Callahan"
Original Screen Play by Claude Binyon and Frank Butler
Robert Emmett Dolan
Joseph J. Lilley
Dances Staged by
Director of Photography
Ray Rennahan, A.S.C.
Technicolor Color Director
Hans Dreier and William Flannery
Farciot Edouart, A.S.C.
Gene Merritt and Walter Oberst
PUBLICITY IMAGES AND STILLS
POSTERS AND ADVERTISEMENTS
At the New York parade in memory of the death of legendary performer Texas Guinan (Betty Hutton), Texas's father Mike (Barry Fitzgerald), and former husband Tim Callahan (Bill Goodwin), recall when Texas first ran away from her family in 1909 to join a Wild West Show:
On 12 Sep 1909, while Mike is preoccupied with buying Texas potato futures in the hope of cornering the market, his tomboy daughter Texas attends Cherokee Jim's Wild West Show with her mother and siblings. Texas sneaks away and, pretending that she is a male ranch hand, enters a bucking bronco contest. When she realizes the saddle was loosened, Texas demands a second try and wins the contest. She is then offered a job in the show by Romero Kilgannon (Arturo de Cordova), whom she calls "Bill," who recently won proprietorship of the rodeo in a card game. After the potato crops are ruined due to an early frost, Mike stands to lose the family home, so Texas joins the rodeo and sends her income home.
Texas soon becomes the highlight of the Wild West Show, and after she surprises and delights an audience by saving an infant from sure death under a wagon, Bill headlines Texas and doubles her salary. When journalist Tim Callahan discovers that Texas' rescue was phony, as the "infant" was actually an adult midget, he convinces Bill to hire him as the show's press agent by threatening to leak their secret to the public. Although Tim falls in love with Texas, she is in love with Bill, who, unknown to her, is bound to an institutionalized wife. Texas leaves the show when she learns that Bill is married and marries Tim, who instigates her Broadway career. Although Texas starts out as a chorus girl, she is soon made a featured performer with the Ballinger stage show. Tim is frustrated with his own stagnating career, and leaves Texas when he realizes her heart still belongs to Bill.
Some time later, Texas' family moves in with her, and Cherokee Jim (Charles Ruggles) visits Texas in New York and tells her the truth about Bill's wife. Texas breaks her contract with Ballinger in order to join Bill in Hollywood, where he is making Western motion pictures. Texas invests in Bill's studio, and plans to wait for him until he is free. After Bill's wife dies, his romance with Texas meets with another obstacle, as her father's phony stock is being investigated by a district attorney. In order to protect Texas from fraud charges, Bill buys her and Mike's shares in the company, and she assumes that his affection for her is purely mercenary. Heartbroken, Texas returns to New York, unaware that Bill has narrowly escaped arrest on her behalf.
By chance, Bill meets his old friend Joe Cadden (Albert Dekker), a liquor racketeer, who hires him to be his front man. As Ballinger has blacklisted Texas for breaking her contract, she is unable to find work, but Tim inspires her to bring Nick the Greek's failing nightclub back to life by throwing a farewell party for gossip columnist Louella Parsons and charging patrons. At first, the patrons resist paying for their pleasure, but are so delighted by Texas' performance that the evening becomes a hit, and the newspapers dub Texas the "Incendiary Blonde." Later, Cadden and his thugs beat up Nick until he agrees to sell the nightclub, and Texas switches her contract to Cadden after he buckles to her demand of an exorbitant salary and renames the club "Texas Guinan's." However, Texas refuses to have anything to do with Bill.
One night, Cadden rousts rival gangsters, Gus and Charley Vettori, from the club, and they vow retribution. One day during rehearsals, the Vettori brothers make good on their promise and try to kill Texas at the nightclub, but Bill saves her life. Mike finally tells Texas how Bill saved them from arrest, and she and Bill reunite. Cadden is murdered by the Vettori brothers, but Bill and Texas refuse to allow them to take over the nightclub. Not long after, Texas learns that a heart condition will take her life in a couple of years, thereby confirming her lifelong belief that she would die young. Unaware of Texas' condition, Bill plans their wedding on New Year's Eve, but the Vettori brothers hold the Guinans hostage and he is forced to kill the gangsters in self-defense. Although Bill is wounded during the gunfight, he recovers and is arrested for murder. Bill refuses to marry Texas until he is released from prison. Realizing that she will die before marrying, Texas reflects on her full life.
Academy Award: Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Robert Emmett Dolan) (Nomination)
The working titles of this film were "The Smoothest Gal in Town" and "The Life of Texas Guinan".
After Betty was announced in the role of Texas, fans sent her many souveniers of the late queen of nightclub hostesses. The one most cherished by Betty was a small padlock from a New York army sergeant, John Halford, who served in North Africa. The lock was made from melted down bullets shot at the Battle of the Alamo. The real-life Texas had given it to Halford's father, a New York cop, as a good luck piece.
Alan Ladd was first cast as "Kilgannon," but was inducted into the Army. Paramount then sought Warner Bros. actor Humphrey Bogart for the lead but he wasn't available, and following that, Brian Donlevy was cast. Donlevy was placed on suspension for refusing the role, however, which pushed production back. Charles Quigley was also tested for the lead and at one time, Barry Sullivan had been announced as a replacement. Eventually Arturo de Cordova was cast, which lead to a protest from some Southern critics and audiences, because William Kilgannon was actually Irish, not Mexican-Irish, as portrayed in the film.
Production on "Incendiary Blonde" began in November 1943 and wrapped by late January 1944, although the film wouldn't be released until summer 1945.
The film opens with the following written foreword: "This picture was inspired by the life of one of the immortals of show business, Texas Guinan, queen of the night clubs. She hit Broadway like a skyrocket, dazzled it briefly with a million-dollar personality, and then died, as she had often foretold, at the height of her career."
According to a New York Times article, Guinan's family contributed the family archive of news clippings to Paramount for background research.
Betty cracked three ribs while filming "Incendiary Blonde" during a scene where she gets tossed about by acrobats.
Publicity materials in copyright records indicate that Betty's mother, Mabel Adams, was given a bit part in the picture.
Betty took stunt riding lessons to perfect her horsemanship for the film.
For the rodeo scenes depicting the early career of Texas Guinan in "Incendiary Blonde", Betty was outfitted in off-shade white by the wardrobe department to fulfill the demands of the color camera, which did not like pure white. After testing the off-tone-white-garbed Betty in a scene with some Brahma steers, it was found necessary to change back to white. Nobody could think of a way to get that off-shade white onto the Brahmas, who are plain white, and made Betty's correct-for-color duds look odd beside them.
"Incendiary Blonde" was filmed during wintertime, and Betty would often wear a suit of woolen "longies" underneath her floor-length sequin gowns.
Betty had wanted to do "Incendiary Blonde" because it enabled her to tackle drama for the first time on screen. Of her first heavy dramatic scene, columnist Jimmie Fidler wrote: "When the cameras started turning, you could have heard a pin drop on the set, as every one froze in his tracks to give her the best possible break. She played the scene magnificently, putting over heartbreak in a manner as repressed as Bette Davis at her best. I looked at a nearby electrician and saw that his eyes were moist, and I wasn't too sure about my own. 'Okay...perfect!' said director George Marshall. With that Miss Hutton let out a whoop that shook the stage, and jumped two feet into the air. 'Show it to DeSylva!' she shouted. 'He said I couldn't do it!'"
On the last day of shooting "Incendiary Blonde" on location in Tucson, Arizona, Betty lost a diamond ring down a bathtub drain and didn't even know it until the manager of the Santa Rita hotel called her long distance after her return to Hollywood. A guest had complained about girgling in the drain and a plumber discovered the ring.
"Incendiary Blonde" was such a hit that it actually set an attendance record at the Paramount Theater in New York.