IF YOU SMILE when you say the word "western," I guarantee you will smile when you watch either "When the Daltons Rode" or "Dallas," which are being presented Wednesday and Friday nights as part of the Films on the Hill western series at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. The first, from 1940, was directed by George Marshall, and while the nominal star is Randolph Scott, who plays a young lawyer, the real star is Broderick Crawford as Bob Dalton. The movie boasts extraordinary stunt work from the days way before computer-generated imagery. The Friday film, "Dallas," is a revenge melodrama, in which Gary Cooper -- lanky, steely, leathery, string-beany and mean as prairie poodle stew (and folks, that's mean!) -- has come to the legendary Texas town a-gunnin' for the lowdown critters who killed his family back in Georgia. They would be Steve Cochran and Raymond Massey. This one hails from 1950, before the West went all Freudian. Both movies screen at 7 and will be preceded by a highly amusing cartoon and trailer.

-- Stephen Hunter

At the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. "When the Daltons Rode," Wednesday at 7 p.m. "Dallas," Friday at 7 p.m. $5. Call 202-547-6839 or visit


AS I DISCOVERED on a recent Sunday afternoon, special exhibitions at the National Gallery can get a wee bit crowded on summer weekends. Even some spaces in the permanent collection have been known to lack for elbow room. There's certain refuge, however, in the gallery's more offbeat displays. Curator Philip Conisbee's "Small French Paintings," on view in the East Building, was almost empty that same Sunday. Which is nuts. Those French paintings may be small, but that only means their powers are more concentrated. There's more pleasure per square inch in a little still life with oysters by Manet, or in one of Vuillard's gaslit domestic scenes, than in almost any looming altarpiece.

-- Blake Gopnik

At the National Gallery of Art, on the Mall between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue NW. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Free. Call 202-737-4215 or visit


THE NEVER-ENDING PUNK nostalgia boom has been good to Stiff Little Fingers, an Irish band that never made much of an impression in this country during the group's late-'70s heyday. SLF borrowed chords, venom and politics from the Clash, and the inevitable comparisons didn't help. But on a series of singles -- like "Alternative Ulster" and my personal favorite, "Gotta Getaway" -- these lads mixed it up, loud and fast and raw. What they didn't do is change, which is deadly for a band, creatively speaking. But it saved the Fingers from wavering from their punk-only mission. Bad news if you like artistic growth with your noise. Good news if you missed these guys on any of their previous jaunts through town.

-- David Segal

At the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. $15. Call 202-667-7960 or visit