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Western films, from silent to today

The Substitute Wife (1994)

The Substitute Wife (1994) posterLea Thompson plays Amy Hightower, a young frontier woman who knows she’s dying of cancer and knows her husband will never be able to run their homestead on his own. Not with four young children to care for.

So she starts scouring the countryside for a new wife to take her place. But this is the West, where women are in short supply . Her husband Martin (Peter Weller), not overly enthused about the whole idea anyway, rejects the one spinster Amy manages to find.

So Amy broadens her search. Her next wife-hunting expedition yields Pearl (Farrah Fawcett), an aging whore eager to escape the cribs regardless of where it takes her. Not that she has any experience raising children, or working on a homestead, though she does know a thing or two about how to make a man happy. She once fetched handsome prices at one of the fanciest bordellos in New Orleans.

She moves to the homestead so she’s ready to take over when Amy passes on. She even begins sharing Martin’s bed. Then Amy appears to recover from her illness, creating more complications than any of the three bargained for.

Rating 4 out of 6Review:

Far-fetched for sure. Yep, I bet lots of dying frontier wives went searching for someone to take their place and wound up bringing home a prostitute who looked like Farrah Fawcett. And with women in such short supply, couldn’t a beauty like Farrah find a better living arrangement?

Yet this winds up being a charming little film that clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Lots of scenes guaranteed to make you smile, including the first meeting between Amy and Pearl, Amy’s revelation to Martin about Pearl’s past and Martin’s explanation about his “tingles” and why he won’t marry the spinster.

One of the more humorous scenes comes when Amy and Pearl are discussing how they will split up “companionship time” with Martin. They suggest he spend six months with one of them, then six months with the other. By the time Martin is done contemplating how that would work out, he decides alternating on a weekly basis might be a better solution. The women smile knowingly.

Directed by:
Peter Werner

Cast:
Farrah Fawcett … Pearl
Lea Thompson … Amy Hightower
Peter Weller … Martin Hightower
Karis Paige Bryant … Jessica
Cory Lloyd … Nathan
Colton Conklin … Jack
Annie Suite … Mrs. Van Der Meer
Babs George … Mrs. Parker
Gena Sleete … Hattie Donahue
Gail Cronauer … Isabel Donahue
Jonathan Joss … Black Deer

Runtime: 92 min.

Memorable lines:

Amy Hightower to her husband: “You can’t separate my babies. I’ll come back and haunt you. I swear it.”

Amy Hightower: “Martin, I know what we gotta do. We gotta find you another wife.”
Martin: “I don’t want no other wife.”
Amy: “Not now. After I’m dead. You’re gonna need another wife. It’s the only way. Now put that (bag of seed) down and think: Who we gonna get?”
Martin: “Now listen here, Mrs. Hightower, if there ever comes a time when you are what you said, maybe I’ll put my mind to it. But if you’ll excuse me, I don’t intend on holding a discussion with my first wife on the selection of my second.”

Martin, on why he won’t marry the widow Donahue: “She don’t give me the tingles.”

Amy: “You haven’t even asked me what my husband’s like.”
Pearl: “Does he kill people in their sleep?”
Amy: “No.”
Pearl: “Then I reckon I can handle him.”

Martin: “Well what did you bring a whore for?”
Amy: “She’s all they had. I searched that town from one end to the other. She’s all they had.”

Amy, picking up buffalo droppings for heat: “Come winter, you’ll be real grateful for ‘em.”
Pearl: “I’m sure I’ll run right out and kiss the first buffalo’s ass I spy.”

Amy: “I guess God wasn’t ready for me yet. Or maybe hell was so overcrowded, they’re using Nebraska for the overflow.”

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