Monthly Archives: December 2014

Fighting Caravans

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 29, 2014

Fighting Caravans—Gary Cooper, Lili Damita, Ernest Torrence, Tully Marshall, Eugene Pallette (1931; Dir: Otto Brower, David Burton)

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During the first half of the 20th century, Ohio-born dentist Zane Grey was the best-selling author of wildly popular novels, most of them set in the American west.  Beginning with Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912, the public had an apparently unquenchable appetite for his stories.  His 1929 novel Fighting Caravans was hot off the presses when this western was made based on it.  In all, as of 2012 112 western movies had been based on his works.

In 1931, Gary Cooper was an up-and-coming star in Hollywood at the age of 30.  His breakthough had come in 1926’s silent movie The Winning of Barbara Worth, a sort of western about the reclamation of California’s Imperial Valley.  He had always done westerns, including early sound versions of The Virginian (1929, now thought to be lost) and The Spoilers (1930), among others.  In 1930 he had appeared as the romantic lead in the popular Morocco, along with Marlene Dietrich.  Cooper had made it.  He was the biggest name in Fighting Caravans.  In the early sound era of the 1930s, most westerns were B-movies, quickly and cheaply made with poor writing and routine direction.  They had no cinematic prestige.  Fighting Caravans was more ambitious, shot on location in Sonora, California, with a big star like Cooper.

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Bill Jackson (Ernest Torrence, left) and Jim Bridger (Tully Marshall, right) connive to get Clint (Gary Cooper) and Felice (Lili Damita) together and then to keep them apart.

In the Civil War era (1862), a wagon train is about to leave Independence, Missouri, bound for Sacramento in California.  Scout Clint Belmet, who tends to drink too much and raise hell in a recreational sort of way, is being held by the local marshal.  Belmet’s mentors, old scouts Bill Jackson (Ernest Torrence) and Jim Bridger (Tully Marshall) persuade Felice (Lili Damita), a young French woman with a wagon train that is about to leave, that she will be left behind if she has no man to help her, so she tells the marshal that she and Belmet were married the previous night.  Belmet is released, and he and his two older friends arrange to scout for Felice’s wagon train.

Although he is not interested in marriage, Belmet finds that he is interested in Felice.  The old scouts scheme to break them up, so Belmet will maintain his freedom and remain with them.   Ultimately, Felice and Belmet have a falling-out over his refusal to contemplate marriage and family life.  Meanwhile, the wagon train is hounded by Kiowas, which is unusual on the Oregon-California Trail; the Kiowas ranged farther south and were much more likely to be found in the areas of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, near the Santa Fe Trail.  Belmet leaves the wagon train because of Felice, but he, Jackson and Bridger rejoin it when they see an Indian attack coming, inspired by white renegades.

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Belmet (Gary Cooper) takes aim at hostile Kiowas; Felice (Lili Damita) and Belmet (Cooper) have a difference of opinion.

Bridger and Jackson are among those holding off the Indians at a river crossing while the last of the wagons get over.  They are killed, but Belmet scares off the Indians by exploding a wagonload of gunpowder.  Later, Felice loses control of her wagon heading down a steep incline, and Belmet saves her.  The train makes its way over snowy passes and finally to its destination, where we get the following sophisticated multilingual exchange:

Clint Belmet:  “I’m asking you a question and the answer can’t be maybe.  I’m asking you straight out—will you marry me?  Yes or no?”
Felice:  “Oui, Monsieur!”
Clint Belmet:  “Huh?”

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A couple of shots of Cooper behind the scenes.

The obvious comparison for this film is with The Big Trail, made the previous year with larger-than-usual ambitions.  Both are wagon train westerns from the early sound era, with virtually the same plot–getting from Missouri to northern California, with a young scout.  The Big Trail, in which director Raoul Walsh was experimenting with making a 70 mm. movie, bombed at the box office because theaters didn’t have the equipment to show it, but it was superior visually.  Fighting Caravans, with its more prominent star, did much better commercially.  The Big Trail was supposed to make John Wayne a star; it didn’t because few saw it, but he wasn’t bad.  Compare his straight-ahead acting with the hokiness of Gary Cooper in Fighting Caravans, although some of that is the result of the writing.  Tully Marshall plays the scout/wagonmaster’s mentor in both films, but he’s more significant in The Big Trail.  Film technology of the early sound era makes both movies seem somewhat dated, but the dialogue and social attitudes (heavy recreational drinking as one of life’s prime objectives, for example) of Fighting Caravans have aged more.  There’s a certain amount of overacting in both.  The lively Lili Damita (who became Errol Flynn’s first wife in 1935) is more interesting than Marguerite Churchill as the romantic object of John Wayne’s attentions in The Big Trail.  Taken as a whole, The Big Trail is longer, better and more significant in the history of western movies.  The principal reason for watching Fighting Caravans now is to see Gary Cooper, one of the greatest of western stars, in the early stage of his career.

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Lili Damita joins a string of French women in westerns:  Denise Darcel in Westward the Women (1951) and Vera Cruz (1954), Nicole Maurey in The Jayhawkers (1959), and Capucine in North to Alaska (supposedly from New Orleans), 1960.  She can hold up her head in that company.  Gravel-voiced Eugene Pallette, who would show up later in the decade as Friar Tuck to Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood and a Mexican soldier in The Mark of Zorro, is mild comic relief here.

The original title of the production was Blazing Arrows.  Three years later, a lower-budget remake was released as Wagon Wheels, using stock footage from Fighting Caravans and with Randolph Scott in the Clint Belmet role.  Filmed in black and white on location near Sonora, California, at 81 minutes.

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Wagon Train Westerns

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 26, 2014

Wagon Train Westerns

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Since the classic silent epic The Covered Wagon in 1923, some western stories have been based in the American movement westward that began in earnest on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s.  With the fading of the fur trade, some mountain men became scouts for wagon trains (Kit Carson, The Way West).  Groups like the Mormons (Brigham Young, Bad Bascomb, Wagon Master) had their own epics of western movement during the wagon train era.  Indeed, director James Cruze of The Covered Wagon, was the son of such Mormon emigrants.

At their peak in the 1940s, wagon train westerns were, like technological westerns, another way to express the nation’s progress toward its triumphant Manifest Destiny, although sometimes the wagon train was in reverse (Virginia City, The Outriders).  The biggest names among directors of westerns have done wagon train westerns (John Ford, Anthony Mann, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh et al.).  Although it featured less star power in its cast than most Ford westerns, Ford’s own favorite among his movies was said to be 1950’s Wagon Master.  Most of the biggest stars in westerns did a wagon train at one time or another:  see a very young John Wayne in The Big Trail (1930), a young and skinny Gary Cooper in Fighting Caravans (1931), James Stewart in Bend of the River (1952), and Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark in The Way West (1967), for example.

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As the glow of Manifest Destiny faded during the Vietnam era, there were consequences for the western as well as for movies generally.  Although there were efforts to recast westerns in revisionist ways during the 1970s, their popularity as a genre was fading.  One casualty was the cavalry western, which waned with the decreasing popularity of the military in society, especially among the young.  Another was the wagon train western, as Americans rethought Manifest Destiny generally and the treatment of the Indians specifically.

The list below includes the most prominent westerns that feature wagon trains, although some of them (such as Red River and Silverado) may have wagon train sequences and not be primarily wagon train westerns. (Red River, for example, is primarily a cattle drive western.)  The best movies among them are indicated with an asterisk (*).  Any proposals for additions to the list are welcome.

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Filming The Covered Wagon in Utah,1923.

*The Covered Wagon (1923; Dir: James Cruze).  In the year of The Covered Wagon‘s release, only fifty westerns were made.  The next year, there were three times as many.

*The Big Trail—John Wayne (1930; Dir: Raoul Walsh).  An epic experiment in 70 mm. that was supposed to be young John Wayne’s breakthrough as a star.  He had to wait for Stagecoach, almost ten years later.

Fighting Caravans—Gary Cooper (1931).  Cooper stars as a wagon train scout in a Zane Grey story, leading a wagon train from Independence, Missouri, to Sacramento.  They seem strangely to be hounded by Kiowas most of the way across, although Kiowas were generally far to the south of their trail west.

Wagon Wheels–Randolph Scott (1934).  A low-budget remake of Fighting Caravans with Randolph Scott in the Gary Cooper role, using extensive stock footage from the earlier film.

The Oregon Trail–John Wayne (1936)

3 Faces West—John Wayne (1940)

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*Virginia City—Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Humphrey Bogart (1940; Dir: Michael Curtiz).  Primarily a story of Union vs. Confederate partisans out west, with Flynn as the primary Union spy and Randolph Scott as the Confederate leader.

Kit Carson (1940).  John Hall as the legendary and highly fictionalized mountain man and pathfinder, leading a wagon train to California during the 1840s.

Brigham Young—Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell (1940; Dir: Henry Hathaway).  The young lovers from The Mark of Zorro are back as young Mormon lovers led by Dean Jagger in the title role.

Bad Bascomb—Wallace Beery (1946).  Outlaw Zeke Bascomb (Wallace Beery) hides out as a guide to a wagon train of Mormons, only to be brought to the good side by young child Margaret O’Brien and her grandmother Marjorie Main.

*Red River—John Wayne (1948; Dir: Howard Hawks).  John Wayne heads to Texas on a wagon train in 1851.  When he leaves the train and heads south, he loses his love to Comanches and never entirely recovers from that.

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A Swedish Kit Carson, and a German Wagon Master.

*Wagon Master—Ward Bond, Joanne Dru (1950; Dir: John Ford).  Mormons led by Ward Bond get Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. to guide them through obstacles such as rough trails, raiding Indians, seductive medicine show women and an outlaw clan.

The Outriders—Joel McCrea (1950).  As the Civil War draws to an end, Confederate scout Joel McCrea helps a wagon train laden with secret gold make its way back up the Santa Fe Trail.

*Westward the Women—Robert Taylor (1951; Dir: William Wellman).  Robert Taylor is the wagon master taking a train full of women to California to find new lives and new husbands in this surprisingly good western.

Passage West–John Payne (1951; Dir:  Lewis R. Foster).  In 1863, six convicts led by John Payne escape from a Salt Lake prison and take over a wagon train headed to California across the desert.

*Bend of the River—James Stewart (1952; Dir: Anthony Mann). Former Missouri border ruffian James Stewart leads a wagon train to their Oregon destination against considerable odds.

Jubilee Trail–Vera Ralston, Joan Leslie, Forrest Tucker (1954; Dir:  Joseph Kane).  A trader and his New York bride encounter his former lover and illegitimate child on the trail westward to California.

Arrow in the Dust–Sterling Hayden (1954; Dir:  Lesley Selander).  Fake cavalry officer Sterling Hayden fights off Indians while trying to get a wagon train to Fort Laramie.

The Indian Fighter—Kirk Douglas (1955; Dir: Andre DeToth) Scout Kirk Douglas romances Indian maiden Elsa Martinelli and has his loyalties questioned.

The Last Wagon—Richard Widmark (1956; Dir: Delmer Daves).  Most of the wagon train has been wiped out by Indians, but luckily the few young survivors have Richard Widmark to get them through inhospitable terrain.

Westward Ho, the Wagons–Fess Parker (1956; Dir:  William Beaudine)

The Tall Stranger–Joel McCrea (1957; Dir:  Thomas Carr).  Returning from the Civil War to his brother’s valley in Colorado, Joel McCrea encounters a wagon train led by a land-grabber and rustler.  But on the good side, it has Virginia Mayo.

The Oregon Trail–Fred MacMurray (1959; Dir:  Gene Fowler, Jr.).  In 1846 reporter Fred MacMurray heads west with a wagon train, encountering Indians both hostile and friendly (Gloria Talbot).

Thunder in the Sun–Susan Hayward, Jeff Chandler (1959; Dir:  Russell Rouse).  A group of French Basque immigrants make their way across the country to California in 1850, with the guidance of old scout Jeff Chandler..

How the West Was Won (1962; Dir: Henry Hathaway et al.).  A large-scale epic with a little of everything, including wagon trains.

The Way West—Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Richard Widmark (1967; Dir: Andrew McLaglen).  A glossy Hollywood version of the A.B. Guthrie novel about the first wagon train headed west to Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 1843, featuring a mountain man character from his earlier novel The Big Sky.

Buck and the Preacher–Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte (1972; Dir:  Sidney Poitier).  A former slave and buffalo soldier, Sidney Poitier now guides wagon trains of blacks headed west.  But they have to fight off night riders and those who would head them back to the south.

*Silverado (1985; Dir: Lawrence Kasdan).  Most elements of traditional westerns, including a wagon train of emigrants, show up in this entertaining modern western.

Wagons East (1994).  Western comedy starring John Candy and Richard Lewis, with a wagon train heading back to civilization.

The Donner Party (2009).  A cinematic version of the story of the doomed emigrant party now remembered principally for cannibalism when it was snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas.

Meek’s Cutoff (2011).  A wagon train is misled in Oregon by a feckless mountain man-scout but rescued by strong-minded women (especially Michelle Williams) in this fact-based feminist drama.

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Wagon Trains Featuring Women

Westward the Women (1951)
Meek’s Cutoff (2011)

Civil War Wagon Trains

Fighting Caravans (1931)
Virginia City (1940)
The Outriders (1950)

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Jesse James (1939)

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 24, 2014

Jesse James—Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly, Henry Hull, Jane Darwell, Brian Donlevy, Donald Meek, John Carradine, Slim Summerville (1939; Dir: Henry King)

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If you had never seen a Jesse James movie, this might not be a bad place to start—not because it’s strongly factual (it isn’t), but because it’s almost pure romanticized legend.  It’s a top-flight big-budget production with a strong cast, a big-name writer and a well-known director, in color at a time when almost all films were in black and white.

Jesse James: “I hate the railroads… and when I hate, I’ve gotta do something about it.”

As the film opens, the St. Louis Midland Railroad, in the person of Barshee (Brian Donlevy at his slimiest), is bullying and bamboozling poor, honest Missouri farmers into selling their land for much less than it’s worth. That doesn’t work on the James family of Liberty; their mother, Mrs. Samuels (Jane Darwell) feels poorly but is strong-minded. When Jesse (Tyrone Power) shoots Barshee in the hand while he’s trying to use a scythe on Frank (Henry Fonda), Barshee gets a warrant for his arrest. While trying to serve it, he throws a bomb into the room where Mrs. Samuels lies, killing her and starting the James brothers on their outlaw trail for good.  Jesse confronts Barshee in a bar, killing him and one of his strong-arm minions.

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Good ol’ Missouri farm boy Jesse (Tyrone Power) becomes notorious outlaw chieftain Jesse James.

Jesse has to leave his long-time girlfriend Zee Cobb (Nancy Kelly), niece of the local newspaper editor, Major Rufus Cobb (Henry Hull).  Liberty Marshal Will Wright is sympathetic to them, like many of their fellow Missouri citizens, but is also romantically interested in Zee.  After Jesse and Frank have started a successful career robbing trains, Zee and Will talk Jesse into taking the railroad’s offer of leniency if he turns himself in.  However, the sleazy railroad president has no intention of keeping his word and plans to see Jesse hung.  (The offer of a deal to return to respectability that turns bad is also a feature of the stories of Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy.)

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Jesse (Tyrone Power) turns himself in to sympathetic Marshal Will Wright (Randolph Scott).

Through the craftiness of Frank and the connivance of Will, Jesse is liberated.  Before resuming his outlaw career, he and Zee are married, but the outlaw life wears on her.  When her son is born, she returns to her uncle’s home in Liberty, and Jesse turns mean.

Zee Cobb James:  “Shooting and robbing—it’ll just get in your blood, Jesse. You’ll end up like a wolf!”

A detective spreads word that if a member of the James gang kills Jesse, he will receive $25,000 and amnesty.  Bob Ford (John Carradine) is tempted, and he warns the detective about the gang’s next job in Northfield, Minnesota.  The gang is shot up, Jesse is badly wounded and Frank and Jesse barely escape, desperately jumping their horses through a storefront window and, later in the pursuit, over a cliff into a river.  Frank disappears from the story at this point; Jesse escapes his hunters and arduously makes his way back to St. Joseph, where Zee finds him and nurses him back to health.  He resolves to take his family to California and go straight.

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Frank James (Henry Fonda) runs for his horse in Northfield when a bank robbery goes bad.

As he is about to catch a train west, he is visited by the Ford brothers, Bob and Charlie. They tell him Frank wants to do a last job, and he is tempted. But he refuses, and as the brothers are leaving, Bob shoots Jesse in the back.  As the film closes, Major Cobb gives a populist eulogy for the deceased outlaw, painting a very sympathetic portrait of him.

Many of the members of this cast do very well. Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, Brian Donlevy and Donald Meek are all very good.  Power was known more for costume dramas, but he made a few good westerns (The Mark of Zorro, Rawhide).  Henry Hull quickly becomes tiresome in his role as the hard-drinking editor, the first of a string of those in westerns. (See, for example, Wallace Ford in Wichita and Edmond O’Brien in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.)  This is a problem in the writing, as well as in Hull’s overplaying.  Nancy Gates as Jesse’s wife Zee often comes across as sanctimonious in her sometimes lengthy ruminations on outlawry and such; again, much of this is due to the writing.  She did not have a robust career, but she appeared in at least one other good western in the same year:  Frontier Marshal, also with Randolph Scott.  At this point of his career, Scott often played ethical characters with criminal conflicts (Western Union, Virginia City); here he is also conflicted because of his attraction to Zee and his sympathy for the brothers.  He’s the most ethical character in the film, although he doesn’t really have much to do.  Both Donald Meek and John Carradine would appear the same year in the superb Stagecoach.

Although it has occasional bursts of action, there are also several spots where it bogs down slightly with a lot of talk, when Jesse is briefly in jail, when Zee is philosophizing about the outlaw life, or when Major Cobb is dictating another of his cranky, repetitive and tedious editorials.  Notwithstanding the pacing problems and talkiness, the technicolor Tyrone Power is always great to look at, and Henry Fonda as Frank is excellent and persuasive.

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A brooding Tyrone Power as Jesse; and the real Jesse James about the time of his death at 34 in 1882.

This would be followed the next year by a sequel.  Since Jesse dies at the end of this movie, the sequel is about Frank:  The Return of Frank James, with Frank seeking revenge for Jesse’s killing.  Henry Fonda as Frank, Henry Hull as the tedious Major Rufus Cobb, Donald Meek as the slippery railroad president, John Carradine as Bob Ford and J. Edward Bromberg as Runyan the detective all reprise their roles.

The variations from actual history are too numerous all to be mentioned here.  The film makes no mention of the James brothers’ guerrilla history with Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson during the Civil War.  There are no Younger brothers in the gang; all the members but Jesse and Frank are nonentities.  Events like the railroad-sponsored bombing are misplaced and telescoped together in time.  Mrs. Samuels was not killed by the incendiary bomb, but she did lose an arm and it killed her youngest son.  It was not what started their outlaw careers but came after they were well-established in robbing trains and banks.  Bob Ford was quite young when he killed Jesse, and he was not a member of the gang on the Northfield raid.  No one gave any warning to authorities in Northfield; the citizenry was just well-armed and prepared not to let its bank be robbed.  Jesse was not wounded at Northfield, although other members of the gang were killed or badly shot up (e.g., the Youngers).  The movie shows Jesse being killed shortly after recovering from his Northfield wounds. In fact, the Northfield raid was in 1876 and Jesse was killed six years later, in 1882.  There is no evidence that Jesse was planning to move to California when he was killed.  Jesse was not the Robin Hood figure shown in this movie.  For a more accurate historical depiction of the James brothers and their depredations, see The Long Riders more than forty years later.

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The film has an unfortunate place in movie history because of a stunt.  As Frank and the badly wounded Jesse are making their escape from Northfield, they both appear to ride off a 70-foot cliff into a river below.  While it appears to be two riders and two horses, the second is simply a closer camera angle of the one stunt, so it looks different.  The horse in the stunt was killed, however, which caused such an outcry that it led to the formation of what became the American Humane Association’s Film and Television Unit.  Since 1940, the unit has monitored the treatment of animals in movies, and since 1989 the phrase “No animals were harmed during the making of this picture” (a registered trademark) has appeared in the credits of movies for which it is true.  The stunt is visually impressive, but knowing what the outcome was dampens the viewer’s enthusiasm.

In 1939, the use of color in film was in its infancy.  Few movies were in color, like the big productions Gone With the Wind and Dodge City.  This was.  Director Henry King had been making movies for 25 years at this point, including such notable silent films as Tol’able David and The Winning of Barbara Worth.  He was not involved with the sequel.  He made several more memorable westerns, including The Gunfighter and The Bravados, both with Gregory Peck, before finishing his long and eminent career more than twenty years later.  Writer Nunnally Johnson had a newspaper background, like many others of the best writers for movies (Ben Hecht, Charlie MacArthur).  He sometimes played a production role on movies, and he was prominent enough that his name sometimes even appeared with the movie’s title in the credits (“Nunnally Johnson’s Along Came Jones,” for example).  He did not write many westerns, although he did some uncredited work for King on The Gunfighter.  Shot on location in Missouri.  108 minutes long.

 

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Young Guns

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 22, 2014

Young Guns—Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Jack Palance, Terry O’Quinn, Patrick Wayne (1988; Dir: Christopher Cain)

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This was an attempt to combine the youth movies of the 1980s (e.g., The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) with the western genre and the story of Billy the Kid.  The result was surprisingly successful at the box office.  Many historical elements of The Kid’s story are here:  the murder of John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), the background of the Lincoln County War, the siege at the house of Alexander McSween (Terry O’Quinn), and the role of L.G. Murphy (Jack Palance) and the Santa Fe Ring in New Mexico Territory of the time.  But the details are not particularly accurate and the story is not complete, leading to the eventual sequel Young Guns II (1990).

In 1878 transplanted Englishman John Tunstall owns a ranch outside of Lincoln.  He collects ne’er-do-well young men, not for immoral purposes (despite an accusation by the obnoxious Murphy) but to give them jobs and civilize them, teaching them basic manners and to read and write.  His most recent acquisition is wild young William Bonney (Emilio Estevez).  As tensions rise between Tunstall and the Murphy-Dolan ring that runs Lincoln County, Murphy’s men, including the Lincoln County sheriff, blatantly murder Tunstall on the road to his ranch.  In reaction to the killing, his young men become “regulators”—a traditional word used by vigilantes in range wars to give themselves an air of real authority.  Led by Tunstall’s foreman Dick Brewer (Charlie Sheen), who tries to keep them respectable, they include:  Billy, who is wild, good with guns, bad with authority and erratic; Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), who is more educated than the others. writes bad poetry and is infatuated with Murphy’s young Chinese captive; José Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), half Navajo and half Mexican, good with knives; Charley Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko), whose skills are pugilistic and who would like to get married; Dirty Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney), the least interesting and articulate (and filthiest) member of the group; and J. McCloskey (Geoffrey Blake), who may be a spy for Murphy.

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Billy (Emilio Estevez) shows off his gun skills to an unimpressed Tunstall (Terence Stamp).

Billy [after shooting a Texan in a bar who was boasting that he would kill Billy the Kid]:  “How many does that make, Doc?  25?”

Doc Scurlock:  “Five.”

Billy [self-satisfied]:  “We’ll call it ten.”

After Billy kills Henry Hill and starts a gun battle that results in other deaths, the gang loses any vestige of respectability.  Billy kills McCloskey.  Bounty hunter Buckshot Roberts (Brian Keith) comes after them.  Dick is killed by Roberts, and several others are wounded in a wild shootout.  Historically Roberts was killed by Billy and his friends, but it’s not clear that happens here.  Billy becomes the de facto leader of the group and kills the corrupt Sheriff Brady, telling him, “Reap the whirlwind, Brady!  Reap it!”–a Biblical reference.  Pat Garrett (Patrick Wayne) warns the Kid about a plot to kill Tunstall’s partner and lawyer Alex McSween (Terry O’Quinn) in Lincoln.  Garrett says he’s the Kid’s friend (historically, he may have been), but it’s not clear whether he’s giving a real warning or setting up the Kid and his gang for an ambush.

They take the bait, though, and go to Lincoln to warn McSween.  They’re barely inside McSween house when it is surrounded by Murphy’s men, bounty hunter John Kinney and his men and eventually a cavalry unit.  The siege carries on into the next day (historically the siege lasted five days), and the besiegers set fire to the house.  The gang tries to break out, and they are all at least wounded.  Billy is shot a couple of times but kills several, including Murphy (not historical) and gets away.  Scurlock escapes with a young Chinese woman who had been held captive by Murphy.  Chavez y Chavez makes his getaway and heads west.  Stephens dies, as does the newly-married Bowdrie, but not before killing Kinney.  (Historically, Bowdre did not die at the siege.)  McSween tries to surrender but is cut down by a gatling gun.  The seige ended the Lincoln County War, but not the Kid’s career, which had another three colorful years to go.  Although there is narration telling what became of the three who lived, matters are now set up for a sequel with another director.

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The Regulators:  Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Brewer (Charlie Sheen), Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Billy (Emilio Estevez), Charley Bowdrie (Casey Siemaszko), Dirty Steve (Dermot Mulroney).

Alex McSween:  “I’m not leaving my house.”

Billy:  “Alex, if you stay they’re gonna kill you.  And then I’m gonna have to to go around and kill all the guys who killed you.  That’s a lot of killing.”

Billy and his friends (real historical characters) are depicted as juvenile delinquents with a grievance, and Billy as played by Emilio Estevez has a wild, psychotic edge to him (with a bowler hat).  As Dirty Steve puts it, “He ain’t all there, is he?”  Estevez’ Billy is more literate than the historical Billy probably was.  Doc Scurlock and Chavez y Chavez are the most notable of the gang.  Dermot Mulroney’s character is not very interesting, but he can do much better; see him in Bad Girls, for example.  Casey Siemaszko is good as Charley Bowdre.  Terence Stamp is excellent as Tunstall, and Palance plays bad-guy Murphy broadly.  The cameos with Brian Keith (as Buckshot Roberts) and Patrick Wayne (soon-to-be-sheriff Pat Garrett) are fun, but Wayne would be replaced by William Peterson in the sequel.

If you look quickly, you can catch an uncredited cameo by Tom Cruise, who was visiting the set and put on a mustache and costume.  He’s the first man shot by Charlie Bowdre during the siege at the McSween house.  This was probably the peak of the career of director Christopher Cain (born Bruce Doggett in South Dakota), who also directed The Next Karate Kid and the execrable western September Dawn (a version of the Mountain Meadows massacre).  Filmed in New Mexico, in color, at 107 minutes. Rated R for violence and lots of killing.

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Emilio Estevez is somewhat glitzier than the real historical Kid, as is usually the case in movies about Billy.  He joins a black-leather clad Robert Taylor and blue-eyed Paul Newman as cinematic Billys.  For historical Billy, you might start with Robert Utley’s Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life (1991) and High Noon in Lincoln: Violence on the Western Frontier (1990).  For readability, try Billy the Kid: The Endless Ride, by Michael Wallis (2007).  He was said to have killed 21 men, one for each year of his life, but the best count is around eight, more or less.

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Rios and Ranchos

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 17, 2014

Rios and Ranchos–Westerns with Rio or Rancho in the Title

River Westerns (“Rio” or “River” in the title)
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Red River (1948)
Silver River (Flynn, 1948)
Massacre River (1949)
Rio Grande (1950) The best known is this one by John Ford. But there are several other Rio Grandes, including one with Gene Autry.
Bend of the River (1952)
The Siege at Red River (1953)
Border River (1954)
River of No Return (1954)
Many Rivers to Cross (1955)
Canyon River (1956)
Man from Del Rio (1956)
The River’s Edge (1957)
Rio Bravo (1959)
Rio Conchos (1964)
Texas Across the River (1966)
Rio Lobo (1970)
Red River (MfTV, 1988)
The Man from Snowy River (1982)
Return to Snowy River (1988)
Rio Diablo (MfTV, 1993)

Last Stand at Saber River (MfTV, 1997)

Fighting Apaches from Over the River:

Rio Grande (1950)
Rio Conchos (1964)
Major Dundee (1965)

Characters Named Rio

Jane Russell (Billy the Kid’s romantic interest) in The Outlaw (1943)

Robert Taylor (Anthony Quinn’s foster brother) in Ride, Vaquero (1953)

Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

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Ranchos

Rose of the Rancho (1914, 1936)
Rancho Grande (Gene Autry, 1940)
Rancho Notorious (Dietrich, Ferrer, Kennedy, 1952)
Rancho Deluxe (Bridges, Waterston, 1975)

 

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The Big Game

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 15, 2014

Gambling Westerns—The Big Game

Many westerns include saloons, gambling and sometimes a card game for high stakes.  Among those where card games or tournaments are central to the plot are the following movies.

 

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Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson play in Maverick, 1994.

The Virginian, in various versions of the 1902 novel (most recently in 2000):  A card game includes the story’s most famous line, delivered by the Virginian to Trampas: “When you call me that, smile.”
The Iron Mistress (1952):  In this fanciful biopic, land speculator and knife fighter Jim Bowie (Alan Ladd) participates in a couple of big games.
Dawn at Socorro (1954):  A Doc Holliday-figure (Rory Calhoun) plays for the future of a dance-hall innocent.
The Mississippi Gambler (1953):  Before the Civil War, a riverboat gambler (Tyrone Power) defies the odds and crooked gamblers to play an honest game, amid romantic complications and duels.
The Gambler from Natchez (1954):  An army veteran (Dale Robertson) in the 1840s seeks answers about the death of his gambler father.
Scalplock (MfTV, 1966): A gambler (Dale Robertson) wins an unfinished railroad in a card game.
Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966): A compulsive gambler’s wife (Joanne Woodward) finishes the big card game.
Five Card Stud (1968): A card game leads to a lynching and a series of murders by parties unknown.
A Thousand Pieces of Gold (1991): The fate of a young Chinese woman in an Idaho mining camp is decided by a card game.
Maverick (1994):  In this reboot of the 1950s television series, Mel Gibson spends most of the movie trying to raise a stake for the big game, and then plays in it.
Triggerman (2009, direct to video):  A legendary gambling outlaw (Terence Hill) enters a wild tournament.

Aces and Eights:

According to western legend, Wild Bill Hickok was holding a hand of black aces and eights in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, when Jack McCall killed him from behind in 1876.  Since then, that hand has been known as the “Dead Man’s Hand,” a token or predictor of death.

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Aces and Eights (1936):  Col. Tim McCoy plays for high stakes to save a Mexican family.
The Plainsman (1936):  This highly fictionalized story of Bill Hickok (Gary Cooper) ends with his death in Deadwood.
Stagecoach (Luke Plummer, 1939):  When the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) arrives in Lordsburg seeking revenge for the killing of his family by the Plummer brothers, Luke Plummer is holding the Dead Man’s Hand.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962):  Loathsome outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) holds the deadly cards in this John Ford film.
Wild Bill (1995):  Wild Bill’s last days in Deadwood include the famous card game in this version from director Walter Hill.

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Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) draws the hand in Stagecoach, 1939.

Lady Gamblers

Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (1939)

Claire Trevor in The Desperadoes (1943)

Joanne Dru in Red River (1948)
Shelly Winters in Frenchie (1950)

Hedy Lamar in Copper Canyon (1950)
Marlene Dietrich in Rancho Notorious (1952)
Dorothy Malone in Law and Order (1953)
Rhonda Fleming in Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957)
Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo (1959)
Joanne Woodward in A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
Jodie Foster in Maverick (1994)

 

 

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Rocky Mountain

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 12, 2014

Rocky Mountain—Errol Flynn, Patrice Wymore, Scott Forbes, Guinn Williams, Chubby Johnson, Dickie Jones, Slim Pickens, Sheb Wooley (1950; Dir: William Keighley)

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This was the last of Errol Flynn’s eight westerns, and it is better than the previous one (Montana, his last film with Alexis Smith).  The Rocky Mountain of the title is not in Montana, or Utah or Colorado; it is on the borders of Nevada and California, and is also known as Ghost Mountain.

It is the waning days of the Civil War in March 1865.  A small group of men (eight, in total) led by Capt. Lafe Barstow (Errol Flynn) is sent out west by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in a desperate move, to make contact with outlaw Cole Smith. (The premise is similar to that of Hangman’s Knot, two years later.)  Smith promises to provide 500 men to make a Confederate force out west and divert Union military resources from the war Lee is fighting in the east.

Narration by Capt. Lafe Barstow, describing his motley force:  “Six rattle-headed kids and an old man:  Kip Waterson, the baby-faced heir to a plantation; Pierre Duchesne, from French Louisiana; Pat Dennison [Guinn Williams], an old man, really, but a hard, reckless fighter who never gave ground while he lived; Kay Rawlins [Sheb Wooley] from the Mississippi steamboats, a rough, unfriendly man as the Indians now found out; Jimmy Wheat [Dickie Jones], a little redneck cropper who could fight like a wildcat with hydrophobia, who carried a useless little dog for 2,000 miles; Jonas Weatherby, the Texan, a seasoned plainsman at 18; and Plank [Slim Pickens], another real plainsman, hard and bitter, with chain gang scars on his legs at 22.”

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Lt. Rickey (Scott Forbes) and his patrol are captured by Barstow (Errol Flynn), while his fiance Johanna (Patrice Wymore) looks on.

As Barstow and his men finally arrive at the meeting point in the desert mountains, they find themselves in danger not only from Union cavalry but surrounded by hostile Shoshonis.  They are on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, where they can see the Humboldt River and Battle Mountain.  They find a crashed stage that had been pursued by the Shoshonis and drive off the Indians.  There are two survivors:  the driver Gil Craigie (Chubby Jones) and a passenger, Johanna Carter (Patrice Wymore, in only her second movie), on her way to meet her cavalry fiancé at Fort Churchill.  This complicates matters for Barstow, since he can’t just let them go and draw the cavalry to him, and he can’t leave them to the mercies of the Shoshonis.  Trapped on Rocky Mountain, they run low on water and food.

[Spoilers follow.]  Matters are further complicated when Barstow and his men capture a small cavalry patrol led by Lt. Rickey (Scott Forbes), Johanna’s fiancé, who is searching for her.  The patrol’s Indian scouts turn out to be Man Dog, head Shoshoni chief, and his sons.  The Shoshonis make an escape attempt at night.  Man Dog gets away to lead the Shoshoni uprising, but his sons are killed.  Barstow’s men have connected with the untrustworthy Smith, only to find his horse shortly after his departure, indicating that the Indians got him.  That means his promised semi-army won’t be coming to the rescue   Rickey makes a break for it, but the Confederates figure the Shoshonis got him, too, although matters won’t be much better for them if he got through.  There is some chemistry between Barstow and Johanna, but neither acts on the attraction in the desperate situation.

Johanna Carter:  “I never thought it would end this way.”
Capt. Lafe Barstow:  “There never was any other way.  We just put it off a while.”

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Barstow (Errol Flynn) leads his men in a final charge.

Finally, Barstow leads his men on an attempt to break through the surrounding Indians and draw them away from the driver and Johanna.  It works in the sense that the Shoshonis follow Barstow as he intended, but Barstow’s small group is vastly outnumbered and trapped in a box canyon.  As the Confederates turn to face their pursuers in a desperate last stand (similar to Flynn’s situation as Custer in They Died With Their Boots On), they battle gamely but fall one by one to vastly superior numbers.  Barstow apparently gets Man Dog, but falls with two arrows in his back.  Rickey’s cavalry shows up only in time to rescue Johanna and Craigie and offer Barstow and his men a respectful burial, raising a Confederate battle flag on the stones of Rocky Mountain.

Flynn could play both sides in the Civil War; he was both a Union officer (Virginia CityThey Died With Their Boots On, Silver River) and a Confederate or former Confederate (Dodge City, Rocky Mountain).  Sometimes he was even both, as in Santa Fe Trail, where he plays West Point graduate and future Confederate cavalry commander Jeb Stuart.  Here, a prematurely aging Flynn (at 41) is noble but more subdued than he sometimes played; it makes him seem appropriately war-weary.  His chemistry with co-star Wymore is real.  Three months after shooting wrapped, she became Flynn’s third wife in Monte Carlo.  This is not one of Flynn’s best westerns (Dodge City, Virginia City, They Died With Their Boots On), but it’s worth watching.  It’s better than Santa Fe Trail, San Antonio and Montana, and slightly better than the melodramatic but underrrated Silver River.

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Patrice Wymore and Errol Flynn review the script on the set.

This was the first film for Slim Pickens and Sheb Wooley, both of whom had rodeo backgrounds.  Former child actor Dickie Jones, as the youngest of the Confederates, could ride well, too.  Chubby Johnson is particularly good as the stage driver, who is not overtly hostile to the Confederates. Flynn’s carousing friend Guinn Williams (Dodge City, Virginia City) has a small part as the oldest of the Confederates, and is more restrained than he sometimes played.  Scott Forbes is stiff as the Union cavalry officer fiancé, but he wouldn’t really have a chance against Flynn’s charisma.

This is based on a short story by Alan LeMay (author of the The Searchers), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Winston Miller.  The story goes that In 1949 Ronald Reagan complained to Warner Bros. about some of the films he was assigned to, and asked to do a western.  The studio agreed if he would bring them a good story.  Reagan brought them “Ghost Mountain” by LeMay.  Despite their promise to him, Warner Bros. cast Errol Flynn in the lead.  Shot in black and white by cinematographer Ted McCord (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Hanging Tree) around Gallup, New Mexico.  The night scenes are quite dark.  Music is by Max Steiner.  Comparatively short, at 83 minutes.

 

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A Lawless Street

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 10, 2014

A Lawless Street—Randolph Scott, Angela Lansbury, Warner Anderson, Wallace Ford, John Emery, James Bell, Michael Pate, Jeanette Nolan (1955; Dir: Joseph H. Lewis)

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The lawless streets in question are in the town of Medicine Bend.  Calem Ware (Randolph Scott) has been brought in as marshal by large rancher Asaph Dean (James Bell), founder of the town of Medicine Bend.  (See Randolph Scott in another Medicine Bend the next year, in Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend.)  Ware is good with a gun and demonstrates that he doesn’t mind using it, but he seems a bit haunted by something.  When Dingo Brion tries to kill him as he’s getting a shave, he finds five $20-dollar gold pieces in Dingo’s pocket, meaning that somebody’s paying to get Ware killed.

There is little hiding that one of the prime candidates as this paymaster is saloon owner Cody Clark (John Emery), who thinks he’d do better business in a more open town. His silent partner is businessman Hamer Thorne (Warner Anderson), who similarly hopes to prosper when a mining boom hits. The sleazy Thorne has been carrying on an affair with Dean’s wife Cora (Jean Parker), but plans to throw her over for Tally Dickinson (Angela Lansbury), a stage performer he’s just brought into town.

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Marshal Calem Ware (Randolph Scott) and Doc Wyatt (Wallace Ford) head toward trouble.

However, Tally is still married to Calem Ware, although they haven’t been together in eight years.  When he was the marshal in Apache Wells, she couldn’t take worrying about the violence of his profession.  When they meet again, it seems they still have feelings for each other, but neither changes the attitudes that drove them apart.  Thorne and Cody bring in a gunfighter with a special enmity for Ware, Harley Bascomb (the saturnine Michael Pate).  Intrigued by the high price they’re offering, Bascomb demands a third of their operation.

Unaware that Ware has injured his gun hand in a fight, Bascomb calls him out and creases his skull when Ware can’t handle his gun as well as usual.  As Ware falls, his friend Doc Amos Wyatt (Wallace Ford) pronounces him dead and removes the body to where he can recuperate in private while everybody thinks he’s dead.  Meanwhile, the town blows wide open, and Thorne and Cody challenge Dean.  Seeing what’s happening, both Tally and Dean’s wife desert Thorne.  When Ware recuperates enough, he has it out with Bascomb again, this time winning by a stratagem.  As Thorne and Cody prepare to leave town, Thorne kills Cody thinking he’s Ware, and Ware captures Thorne.  Turning both Thorne and his marshal’s badge over to the newly-invigorated forces of good in the town, Ware heads off to his ranch with Tally, leaving his career as a marshal in Medicine Bend and giving his gun to Doc Wyatt.

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The second time, Ware (Randolph Scott), bad hand and all, gets gunman Harley Bascomb (Michael Pate).

This is a fairly complicated plot for a movie of only 78 minutes, with lots of coming and going.  Scott seems a little too sunny of disposition for a man who kills several people in the course of the film and has several large-scale personal problems.  Angela Lansbury is a step up from the usual female lead in a Scott movie, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of actual chemistry between them.  Still, this is a better-than-average Scott western from the early 1950s, made just about the time he was starting his association with Budd Boetticher.

Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet, who wrote eight Scott westerns in all.  In color.

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The Horse Whisperer

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 8, 2014

The Horse Whisperer—Robert Redford, Kristin Scott Thomas, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Cooper, Sam Neill, Diane Wiest, Ty Hillman (1998; Dir: Robert Redford)

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In broad outline, this is a slow-moving easterner-goes-west, collision-of-values story set in modern Montana.  It is also a sort of romance based on a best-selling novel by Englishman Nicholas Evans.

The story is set up in New York.  Two well-to-do thirteen-year-old girls go riding, and there is an accident on an icy road with a truck.  One girl and horse are killed; Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson), the survivor, loses her lower right leg and her horse Pilgrim is badly hurt.  Both horse and rider are gravely injured in spirit as well as body, and Grace becomes more alienated from her high-powered parents Robert MacLean (Sam Neill), a lawyer, and English-born Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas), a magazine editor.  Distance seems to be developing between the parents as well.

As Annie researches healing for the horse (as a way of healing her own relationship with Grace), she runs across references to “horse whisperer” Tom Booker of Montana, who has miraculous results with injured animals.  Booker declines to come to New York for consultation, and on an impulse Annie decides to haul Pilgrim and Grace west to Montana, somewhat against Grace’s wishes.

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Tom Booker (Robert Redford) gets to know Pilgrim (Hightower).

Annie:  “I’ve heard you help people with horse problems.”
Tom Booker:  “Truth is, I help horses with people problems.”

The bulk of the story develops as Annie, Grace and Pilgrim spend time at the Booker ranch, which Tom (Robert Redford) runs with his brother Frank (Chris Cooper) and Frank’s family.  Tom is divorced, having once married a cello player he met while studying engineering in Chicago but who found there was “too much space” in Montana.  Results come slowly, both with Pilgrim and with Grace.  As they are exposed to ranch life and Booker family relationships, both Annie and Grace also start to come out of their shells.  Frank’s wife Diane (Diane Wiest) is a practical, earthy type, who helps hold the emotional life of the extended family together.  Annie loses her editor’s job in New York, and finds herself being drawn to the taciturn Booker in his own world.  She also finds different rhythms in ranch life than she has been used to in New York.

Annie:  “I haven’t ridden Western before.”
Tom Booker:  “Yeah, but he doesn’t know that.  Just sit on the horse.”

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Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Tom Booker (Robert Redford) go riding.

As Annie and Tom draw closer, time passes, and eventually Robert comes from New York to see what’s going on and if he can reclaim his family.  Pilgrim is doing better, but it’s very slow going.  Finally, Grace does ride Pilgrim as a kind of healing milestone for both of them.  She flies back to New York with her father, while Annie wrestles with when, and whether, to go back.  Of course, Booker being the kind of man he is, she has to go back.

One could say that there are pacing problems with this movie.  After all, the unrushed set-up takes 45 minutes to tell what could have been done in fifteen or fewer, and the entire film is almost three hours long (170 minutes).  But that’s part of the point of the whole enterprise:  healing and finding yourself take time, patience and honesty, which are all in short supply in the modern world.  In the end, you have to approach this willing to go with its flow, but it works well on that basis.  Time, as well as the land itself, seems to be different in western Montana.

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Robert MacLean (Sam Neill, center) comes west to see about getting his family back.

The depiction of ranch family life through Frank’s family and partnership with his brother Tom are very successful.  The casting is excellent.  Chris Cooper is perfect as Frank Booker, and Diane Wiest, who seems a very New Yorky sort of actor from her other roles, is also very good as Frank’s wife.  Young Ty Hillman as Frank’s son Joe is very good, too, although he hasn’t been seen much since this film.  Sam Neill does well in the thankless role of the underappreciated good husband, and Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Grace is mostly persuasive and helped propel her toward her current success in movies.  This was Kate Bosworth’s first movie; she plays Grace’s friend who doesn’t survive the accident.  Jeanette Nolan (often a mother-figure, as in Hangman’s Knot, 7th Cavalry, Saddle Tramp, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) plays the mother of the Booker brothers; it was her final film appearance.

Redford as Booker is the spiritual center of the movie, and this casting is perfect.  He bought the movie rights to the book before it was published, so he cast himself.  Despite the fact that he was then 62 and Scott Thomas was 24 years younger, Redford looks great and the relationship is believable.  Scott Thomas does well, although she doesn’t seem as unique in this role as the weathered Redford does in his.  It’s hard to see this without wanting more of Redford in westerns, but he shows up mostly in them when he was much younger:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jeremiah Johnson are the most notable, of course, and then there’s The Electric Horseman with Jane Fonda, another modern western.  Most similar in spirit to this is another beautiful Redford-directed film set in western Montana of the 1920s and 1930s:  A River Runs Through It, with Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt (1992).

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Redford directing Scott Thomas.

Overall, this is primarily a romance, but it has a very western spirit and look about it.  The romanticized landscape is very Redfordian.  Part of the leisurely pacing is given to spectacular cinematography by Robert Richardson (a number of well-integrated aerial shots), with a good, but spare, screenplay by Eric Roth and Richard LaGravenese.  Shot on location in western Montana, near Livingston and Big Timber.

The credits list as an “equine technical adviser” Buck Brannaman.  An actual horse whisperer in real life, Brannaman is also the subject of a 2011 documentary entitled simply Buck.

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Badman’s Country

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 5, 2014

Badman’s Country—George Montgomery, Buster Crabbe, Karin Booth, Neville Brand, Malcolm Atterbury, Gregory Walcott (1958; Dir: Fred F. Sears)

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Ten years before Paul Newman and Robert Redford made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid two of the west’s most charming outlaws, there was this reaction to the popularity of television westerns, throwing almost all the lawman and outlaw names they could think of into one not-terribly-coherent western hash.  Butch Cassidy (Neville Brand) is a well-organized but thoroughly bad Butch Cassidy; his Wild Bunch gang includes the Sundance Kid and Kid Curry, but also Black Jack Ketchum and is here operating near Abilene, Kansas.  The principal good guy is Pat Garrett (George Montgomery, wearing his gun quite low and a his characteristic hat with a low crown and broad brim), with backup from Wyatt Earp (Buster Crabbe), Bat Masterson (Gregory Walcott) and a strange, aging Buffalo Bill Cody (Malcolm Atterbury).  Loma Pardee (Karin Booth), the local doctor’s daughter, is Garrett’s romantic interest.

Apparently five members of the Wild Bunch are looking for Garrett, who’s trying to get out of the lawman business.  He kills two of them and puts the other three in jail and wires for help from Earp and Masterson.  In the end, just a few of the good guys overcome and capture about 40 outlaws, including Butch.

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Sheriff Pat Garrett (George Montgomery) rides.

Geographically and timewise, this is one of the most mixed up westerns ever made; the only way it could have been worse is to throw in Davy Crockett (from The Alamo) and Hawkeye (from Last of the Mohicans).  In reality by the time Cassidy had gathered his now-famous Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, Garrett was long retired, Buffalo Bill was touring in his Wild West show, Earp was refereeing prize fights and prospecting for gold in Alaska, and Masterson was a sportswriter for a newspaper in New York City. The low, burning hay bales used at the end to block off the street wouldn’t have stopped any horseback rider who wanted to get over them.  In black and white, at only 68 minutes.

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Butch Cassidy (Neville Brand) surrenders.

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