Outlaw Queen

Andrea King starring in "Outlaw Queen," (Globe Releasing Corp., 1957), pictured with James Harakas as Uncle Jim.

Andrea King starring in “Outlaw Queen” (Globe Releasing Corp., 1957), pictured with James Harakas as Uncle Jim.

In 1957, Andrea King stepped before the cameras to play Christina, the gun-toting “Outlaw Queen” herself. The part was good, but Andrea still had concerns about her co-star’s acting talents. It was at the urging of her longtime friend Betty Grable, wife of famed trumpeter and big band leader Harry James — who was set to star in the film — that she accepted. According to Andrea, Harry had always harbored a secret desire to do a Western, and when this project was brought to his attention, he pounced on it. His devoted wife, Hollywood film star Betty Grable, suggested that Andrea would be perfect to play opposite him as the rebellious Outlaw Queen. A few weeks later, the deal was made.

Harry James and Andrea King in "Outlaw Queen."

Harry James and Andrea King in “Outlaw Queen.”

Andrea was reluctant to sign on at first, because Harry had never acted in a film before, although he was a household name as a musician.

“The money they offered wasn’t bad,” Andrea recalls with a laugh, “and I adored Harry and Betty, so I agreed to do it.” Unfortunately, Andrea also admits that her worst fears about the film were realized. “Harry just wasn’t up to playing the part. He was charming and great fun to work with, but I’m afraid that was it.”

The film came and went quickly but still remains a curiosity and a hard-to-find cult favorite today, particularly with musicians, music and film historians, and fans of the Big Band Era. It’s their only chance to catch a glimpse of the world-famous trumpeter exercising his acting chops and enjoying a lifelong dream.

Original 1-sheet poster for "Outlaw Queen" (1957), complete with campy tag lines.

Original 1-sheet poster for “Outlaw Queen” (1957), complete with campy tag lines.

(from the original press book)

Christina (Andrea King), a trick shot artist with her Uncle Jim (James Harakas), a strolling troubadour, and his side-kick Andy Trinas (Andrew Ladas), a mandolin player, arrive in a dusty little frontier town of the early West. They have been touring the country with their act, seeking their fortune.

Chris, the only daughter of a Greek immigrant family, which includes seven brothers, is fired with ambition to accumulate a fortune in her own right, due to the fact that she is tired of male domination and the old tradition that a woman’s place is at the fireside. She believes that in America, particularly the West, she will have the opportunity to prove herself.

Soon after their arrival in town, they meet up with Conway (Stanford Jolley), who owns the largest saloon and gambling hall in the vicinity. After viewing their act, Conway agrees to give them a job in his show. Not long afterward, Chris cleans out Conway in a poker game. This is done with the aid of Uncle Jim calling out the cards in Greek as he sings one of his old songs. With her winnings, Chris opens up her own gambling palace and succeeds in beating Conway’s competition. Infuriated, Conway sends a couple of his men over to shoot up the place, and Chris kills one of them in a gun battle. She is sickened over the incident, but this does not stop her, as to her, this is only the beginning, and she sends her uncle out to scout land and cattle. On one of these trips, Jim meets up with Rick Mason (Harry James), a trail boss for a large cattle ranch. He is driving five thousand head of cattle to Dodge City, and when he hears Jim’s story, he is intrigued with the idea of a woman desiring to buy this vast herd of cattle, and so he agrees to ride into town to talk with Chris. The two hit it off from the first, and Rick not only sells her the cattle but agrees to work the ranch for her.

Not long after this, a handsome young mining engineer, John Andrews (Robert Clarke), comes into town and stops by Chris’ saloon. It is obvious that he has in some way played an important part in the girl’s past. Conway approaches him with a proposition to look over an area of property he owns, as he is convinced that silver is to be found. Andrews does this, but finds nothing. By now, Conway is almost psychopathic in his hatred for Chris and will stop at nothing to break her. During Andrews’ search for silver, a dynamite blast had set off a stampede among Chris’ cattle, and remembering this, Conway decides to set off another blast in order to not only stampede the cattle but to get Andrews and Mason into a gun battle. He succeeds in his plan, and as a result of the duel, Chris is accidentally shot. Rick Mason, feeling he has no place in Christina’s life after what happened, leaves her.