Tag Archives: Glenn Ford

Go West, Young Lady

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 5, 2015

Go West, Young Lady—Penny Singleton, Glenn Ford, Ann Miller, Charles Ruggles, Onslow Stevens, Jed Prouty, Allen Jenkins (1941; Dir: Frank R. Strayer)

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For current fans of westerns, the obvious star of this western musical comedy would be the young Canadian actor Glenn Ford.  But at the time this was made in 1941, he was not the biggest star; first billing went to Penny Singleton, then known for having appeared as Blondie in a series of slight films based on the Dagwood and Blondie comic strips.  (She and Arthur Lake would make 28 of them between 1938 and 1950, including one with Glenn Ford in 1940; many were directed by Frank Strayer.)  Here, she is Belinda “Bill” Pendergast, the young lady of the title.

The once-tomboyish Bill is headed west to join her uncle Joe Pendergast (Charles Ruggles) in the lawless town of Headstone, now terrorized by the outlaw gang of Killer Pete.  In the stage with her is Tex Miller (Glenn Ford), a federal marshal being sent as temporary sheriff to clean things up in Headstone.  When the stage is attacked by Indians, Tex is surprised to find Bill outshooting him in the stage’s defense (like Mae West in the previous year’s My Little Chickadee).  Uncle Joe owns the Crystal Palace saloon, where the principal entertainment (and most of the movie’s musical numbers, along with some anachronistic but well-executed tap dancing) are provided by Lola (Ann Miller).  He is shocked to find that Bill Pendergast is a young woman.  Unfortunately, Lola and Bill do not get along well.

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Young Belinda “Bill” Pendergast (Penny Singleton) is surprisingly adept with a gun.

Uncle Joe owes more and more of his saloon to his financial backer, Hannegan (Onslow Stevens), but both of them seem to be losing money to Killer Pete.  [Spoilers follow.]  Unknown to almost everyone, however, Hannegan is in fact Killer Pete.  Tex does his best to bring a little law and order.  As Tex keeps fighting with bad guys who are bigger than he, in a running gag Bill tries to help him but always ends up bashing Tex.  He warns her off (to no effect) in one fight.  “Don’t hit him!  It’ll be me!”  It always is.

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Bill (Penny Singleton) and Lola (Ann Miller) don’t get along.  Eventually physical hostilities erupt.

Elements of this are reminiscent of Destry Rides Again, from two years earlier, with the corrupt town, the diffident-seeming (but actually forceful in his way) young lawman, and the exuberant fight between two women (Marlene Dietrich and Una Merkel in Destry, Singleton and Miller here).  Other than those references, the writing here is desultory and the comedy predictable, with pies in faces, law and order prevailing against Killer Pete, and the young lovers getting together after multiple misunderstandings.  Like Belle of the Yukon, this is edging more into musical comedy than western.  Along with all the other musical numbers (several written by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin), one is provided by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.

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After numerous altercations, misdirected punches and the occasional pie in the face, finally the young lovers (Penny Singleton and Glenn Ford) get together.

Shot in black and white at the Iverson ranch in Chatsworth, California, at only 70 minutes.  Not available on DVD in the U.S.  Not to be confused with Go West, Young Girl, a 1975 made-for-television movie with Karen Valentine.  Or with the better-known Go West, Young Man, 1936, with Mae West, Warren William and Randolph Scott.

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Shooting Stars, Part 2

Nicholas Chennault ~ April 16, 2015

Shooting Stars:  A Ranking of the 29 Greatest Western Actors Since 1939
Part 2—Filling Out the Top Ten

For the top five, see our post Shooting Stars, Part 1.

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6.  Joel McCrea  [Barbary Coast, Wells Fargo, Union Pacific, Buffalo Bill, The Virginian (1946), Four Faces West, Ramrod, The Oklahoman, Colorado Territory, The Outriders, Frenchie, Stars in My Crown, Cattle Drive, Saddle Tramp, The San Francisco Story, The Lone Hand, Black Horse Canyon, Border River, Wichita, The Tall Stranger, Gunsight Ridge, The First Texan, Stranger on Horseback, Trooper Hook, Cattle Empire, Fort Massacre, The Gunfight at Dodge City, Ride the High Country, etc.]

For current audiences, McCrea can be the most underestimated actor on this list.  In the early stages of his career during the 1930s he made all kinds of movies.  By 1939, when he made Foreign Correspondent with Alfred Hitchcock and Union Pacific with Cecil B. DeMille, he was a significantly bigger star than John Wayne, and he was about to appear in brilliant comedies with such directors as Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels, Palm Beach Story) and George Stevens (The More the Merrier).  He had always made some westerns, but by the late 1940s, like Randolph Scott he began to concentrate almost entirely on the genre.  His quiet demeanor projected a basic decency, even when he was playing an outlaw (Four Faces West, Colorado Territory).  Neither he nor Scott worked with the very greatest directors of westerns of their time until very late in their careers, but McCrea did have a productive relationship with director Jacques Tourneur (Stars in My Crown, Stranger on Horseback, Wichita).  He appeared in the first of Andre de Toth’s two best westerns (the underrated Ramrod) as well.

McCrea had his own ranch, and he always described himself in his tax returns as a rancher.  He and Scott were among the very best riders in westerns, and he always looked like he knew what he was doing on a horse.  (Watch him in Colorado Territory and Gunsight Ridge, for example.)  His very best western was also Randolph Scott’s best, and the last significant western for both of them:  Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country.  McCrea’s unbending Steve Judd is remembered for his resonant line in that film:  “All I want is to enter my house justified.”  He does, always playing it straight on.

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7.  Randolph Scott  [Heritage of the Destert (1932), Last of the Mohicans (1936), The Texans (1938), Frontier Marshal, Western Union, Jesse James, Virginia City, When the Daltons Rode, The Desperadoes, The Spoilers (1942), Belle Starr, Belle of the Yukon, Gunfighters, Abilene Town, Badman’s Territory, Trail Street, Albuquerque, Coroner Creek, Return of the Bad Men, The Doolins of Oklahoma, Fighting Man of the Plains, Santa Fe, The Walking Hills, Sugarfoot, The Cariboo Trail, The Stranger Wore a Gun, The Man Behind the Gun, Thunder Over the Plains, The Bounty Hunter, Hangman’s Knot, Ten Wanted Men, Man in the Saddle, The Nevadan, Colt .45, Fort Worth, Carson City, Riding Shotgun, Tall Man Riding, Rage at Dawn, 7th Cavalry, Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, Seven Men from Now, The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Westbound, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, Comanche Station, Ride the High Country, et al.]

At mid-century (1950), Randolph Scott was the top male movie star at U.S. box offices—not because he appeared in big blockbusters, but because his lower-budget and sometimes formulaic westerns played well in rural America.  Like Joel McCrea, he had always done some westerns (Last of the Mohicans [1936], Frontier Marshal, Jesse James) but in the 1930s he played a wide range of roles.  In larger-scale westerns (Western Union, Virginia City), he tended to play an unusually principled semi-bad guy who didn’t get the girl because he died before the end of the movie.

By the late 1940s, he had decided to concentrate almost exclusively on westerns, much like Joel McCrea.  Also like McCrea, he seldom worked with top-flight directors during this stage, although he worked frequently with Andre de Toth (The Bounty Hunter, Thunder Over the Plains, Carson City) and Lesley Selander (Tall Man Riding).  There were always some very good westerns (Hangman’s Knot, Ten Wanted Men, The Bounty Hunter) among the more formulaic work.  He would not be nearly this high on the list except for an amazing burst of great work near the end of his career with two great directors—Budd Boetticher (Seven Men From Now, The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Ride Lonesome, Comanche Station) and Sam Peckinpah (Ride the High Country, Scott’s last film).

With his courtly North Carolina accent, his riding ability, his weathered good looks as he aged and his ability to project stern rectitude, Scott just needed the right team to work with and was lucky enough to find it in the last seven years or so of his career.  In the 1950s and Ride the High Country, look for him wearing his trademark worn leather jacket, often riding his beautiful dark palomino horse Stardust, who always went uncredited.  In the sheer number of westerns he made, he’s remarkable, and most of them, even the formulaic ones, are pretty watchable.

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8.  Kevin Costner  [Silverado, Dances With Wolves, Open Range, Wyatt Earp]

Kevin Costner is the youngest actor on this list, and he hasn’t made that many westerns.  But of his four westerns, three of them are on the list of 55 Great Westerns and the fourth (Wyatt Earp) is a notable addition to the impressive list of westerns telling the Wyatt Earp story.  Like Robert Duvall, he has both been lucky and has chosen well when selecting his movie roles in westerns.  Like Clint Eastwood, he has been unusually successful in directing himself in westerns (Dances With Wolves, Open Range).

Costner has always connected well with the western sensibility.  His first large-scale film role was as the scapegrace younger brother Jake in Silverado, adept with two guns, physically restless and gymnastic but impulsive.  He next showed up as both director and principal actor in Dances With Wolves, with its extraordinarily long running time.  This was the first western in more than 60 years to win the Best Picture Oscar.  He went on to work with Lawrence Kasdan again in the interesting but not-entirely-successful Wyatt Earp, and finally to direct himself and Robert Duvall in Open Range.  In fact there are those who would say that many of his films are westerns regardless of their supposed settings: the futuristic Waterworld and The Postman, for example, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, with his abominably American accent in the title role.  On the down side of his career now, he may not make more westerns, but he has been extraordinarily successful in those he did make.

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9.  Henry Fonda  [Drums Along the Mohawk, Jesse James, The Return of Frank James, The Ox-Bow Incident, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, The Tin Star, Warlock, A Big Hand for the Little Lady, How the West Was Won, The Rounders, Firecreek, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Cheyenne Social Club, There Was a Crooked Man, My Name is Nobody, Welcome to Hard Times]

With his All-American looks, demeanor and speaking voice, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Henry Fonda was a superb actor.  Yes, he did seem to be playing a version of himself as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath and in The Ox-Bow Incident, but those are carefully-edited versions.  After service in World War II, he played it more laissez-faire as Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine (possibly the best Wyatt Earp on film) and much more tightly wound as the martinet Col. Owen Thursday in Fort Apache.  His version of outlaw Frank James, played in two films (Jesse James, The Return of Frank James), may also be definitive.

In the first half of his career, he worked with some great directors: Fritz Lang (The Return of Frank James), John Ford (Drums Along the Mohawk, Young Mr. Lincoln, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache), William Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident), and Anthony Mann (The Tin Star).  After the excellent Warlock (1959), his career in westerns went into a long, slow fade, although he was usually worth watching.  The most notable of his westerns in the post-Warlock period is probably Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, in which he plays (effectively) against type as a remorseless, blue-eyed killer.  After that, he took what he was offered, including the occasional spaghetti western, but the era of great westerns was fading along with his career.  Fonda’s career arc, normal for his time, demonstrates by comparison why John Wayne was so unusual in his ability to produce the occasional great western even at the end of his life.

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10.  Glenn Ford  [Go West, Young Lady, The Desperadoes, Texas, The Man from Colorado, Lust for Gold, The Redhead and the Cowboy, The Man from the Alamo, The Violent Men, 3:10 to Yuma, The Fastest Gun Alive, Jubal, Cowboy, The Sheepman, Cimarron (1960), The Rounders, The Last Challenge, Heaven with a Gun, A Time for Killing, Day of the Evil Gun, Santee]

Canadian-born actor Glenn Ford was a very durable and versatile leading man, beginning in the early 1940s.  Among his earliest westerns were Texas (1941), where he was paired with William Holden, and The Desperadoes (1943), with Randolph Scott, before he left for service in World War II.  Upon his return, he made his mark with several movies in the new film noir genre (see especially Gilda [1946], for one classic example).  But he also moved back into westerns (The Man from Colorado, Lust for Gold), showing that he was not afraid to play against his generally wholesome image.  Indeed, in one of his very best westerns (the original 3:10 to Yuma) he plays outlaw chieftain Ben Wade, making the unlikable more attractive, and being attracted to the code of good guy Van Heflin more than he expected.

Some of his best work during this middle period of his career was done with the excellent director Delmer Daves (3:10 to Yuma, Jubal, Cowboy), who obviously liked working with him.  He fought Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson and Brian Keith (The Violent Men), and spent a whole movie trying not to fight Broderick Crawford (The Fastest Gun Alive).  As film noir faded in popularity, he was sometimes cast in romantic comedies (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father) and military comedies (The Teahouse of the August Moon, Don’t Go Near the Water, Imitation General), and he brought some of that restrained comedic talent to the westerns The Sheepman and Advance to the Rear as well.  If given a choice, through the 1950s and 1960s, he always wore the same beat-up hat, which was looking pretty disgusting by the early 1960s.  The remake of the western epic Cimarron (1960) with director Anthony Mann and Ford in the lead didn’t really work well, but that wasn’t Ford’s fault.

His later career followed an arc similar to Henry Fonda’s, where the quality of the westerns he was offered declined.  As he played out his string (The Last Challenge, Heaven With a Gun, Santee), he often effectively played a kind of father-figure.  But the scripts weren’t as good, and the popularity of westerns as a genre was fading generally.

To continue the list, see Shooting Stars, Part 3.

 

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The Violent Men

Nicholas Chennault ~ February 23, 2015

The Violent Men—Glenn Ford, Babara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith, Dianne Foster, May Wynn, Richard Jaeckel, Basil Ruysdael, James Westerfield (1955; Dir: Rudolph Maté)

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This belongs to the “cattle queen western” subgenre, along with Johnny Guitar, Rancho Notorious, Forty Guns and various others from the 1950s, in which a dominant character is played by an established and prominent Hollywood actress of a certain age.  The violent men of the title are played by Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson and Brian Keith, but it turns out to be Barbara Stanwyck who dominates the course of the plot.

Capt. John Parrish (Glenn Ford) is a wounded veteran of the Union cavalry in the recent Civil War. He had come west three years previously to recover from a wound that went through his lung.  He receives a clean bill of health at the start of the movie and intends to marry Carolyn Vail (May Wynn), sell his ranch and movie back east.  The only potential buyer is Lew Wilkison (Edward G. Robinson), the crippled owner of the huge Anchor Ranch, by far the largest in the valley.

Lew Wilkison:  “Here at Anchor we don’t pay much attention to that hogwash about the meek inheriting the earth.”

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Meeting the Wilkisons: Cole (Brian Keith), Lew (Edward G. Robinson), and Martha (Barbara Stanwyck), with John Parrish (Glenn Ford).

Wilkison has long been trying to expand his Anchor Ranch to encompass the entire valley.  Twelve years previously during a burst of violence in the valley he was crippled, and he now walks only with crutches and even then with difficulty.  Parrish notices the Anchor men, especially gunman Wade Matlock (Richard Jaeckel), renewing their efforts to chase off other landowners; Matlock shoots the local sheriff in the back, and he is replaced by the unctuous Magruder (James Westerfield), who is more completely in Anchor’s pocket.  Lew Wilkison and his brother Cole (Brian Keith) offer Parrish only $15,000 for his ranch.  Wilkison’s alienated daughter Judith (Dianne Foster) is outraged at her father’s behavior, but his wife Martha (Barbara Stanwyck) appears to be pulling the strings and to have developed a relationship with Cole.

John Parrish:  “Don’t force me to fight, because you won’t like my way of fighting.”

Matlock and several Anchor riders try to push Parrish by killing one of his hands, but Parrish, who has been a determined pacifist to this point, takes the hand’s gun, confronts Matlock, and kills him.  No one attends Wade Matlock’s funeral, and one of Parrish’s riders wonders if there will be reprisals from Matlock’s friends.  John Parrish: “Matlock wasn’t the kind to have any friends after he was dead.”

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Gunman Wade Madlock (Richard Jaeckel) meets Parrish (Glenn Ford).

[Spoilers follow.]  Parrish brushes off his military skills from the war and prepares for battle.  Carolyn is appalled and ends their engagement when Parrish refuses to go east immediately.  Using his own ranch as bait, he sets up an ambush in a canyon when Anchor riders burn it down and take the shortest way home.  In retaliation,  Parrish and his men stampede Anchor’s horses and cattle, and use the distraction to burn most of the Anchor buildings.  Martha escapes the burning mansion, tossing away Lew’s crutches and leaving him to die in the flames.  Cole and Magruder lead a small army of riders attacking all the smaller ranchers and farmers, until Parrish finds that Judith has rescued her father.  In a confrontation at the Anchor ranch, Lew orders the riders away.  Parrish and Cole have a classic showdown, and Martha is killed by Cole’s Mexican paramour.  At the end, Lew wants to hire Parrish to run the Anchor ranch, and Judith and Parrish appear to be striking up a relationship.

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This is a good melodramatic range war western for its time, but pedestrian direction takes it out of the really excellent category.  Neither the Stanwyck nor the Dianne Foster character has much nuance.  Glenn Ford is good in his tenth western; he’s wearing the same hat he’ll be wearing for the next 15 years, and it’s not yet as disgusting and shapeless as it would become.  Edward G. Robinson was an excellent actor, and his presence, along with Stanwyck’s, reminds us of Double Indemnity (1944), giving this more of a western-noir flavor.  Robinson didn’t make many westerns, in part because, like James Cagney, he seems to have a modern, urban presence.  But he works well here, hard but able to shift tone convincingly.  Brian Keith, in dark hair and a thin mustache, makes a fine bad guy early in his career.  And Richard Jaeckel is good as a gunman without conscience.  An uncredited Richard Farnsworth is one of the Anchor riders.

During its second half, the action is interesting enough but not well developed, as the two sides progress through strike and counter-strike.  In particular, the shootout between Ford and Keith at the end is not well-edited (compare it with Budd Boetticher’s handling of Randolph Scott and Lee Marvin in Seven Men From Now [1956] in a moment of similar dramatic intensity, for example), nor is Stanwyck’s death.  The end seems very quick, not fleshed-out, and a bit out of character for Parrish.

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For another crippled cattle baron in a range melodrama, see Lionel Barrymore in Duel in the Sun (1947).  For Barbara Stanwyck as another cattle queen, see her in Forty Guns (1957, with Barry Sullivan); she doesn’t win there, either.  She’s better in Trooper Hook (1957, with Joel McCrea) and The Moonlighter (1953, with Fred MacMurray).  For Glenn Ford in another range melodrama, see him in Jubal (1956), which is better than this.  For James Westerfield displaying the same unctuousness in a range war, see Man With a Gun (1955, with Robert Mitchum).  For another Union Civil War veteran trying unsuccessfully to revert to pre-war pacifism because of the horrors of the war, see Rock Hudson in Gun Fury (1953).

There is some well-written dialogue here, by Harry Kleiner.  The music is by Max Steiner.  Shot in Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, in California, and in Old Tucson, Arizona.  In color, at 96 minutes.

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The Last Challenge

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 28, 2014

The Last Challenge—Glenn Ford, Chad Everett, Angie Dickinson, Jack
Elam, Royal Dano (1967; Dir: Richard Thorpe)

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This is a late Glenn Ford variation on the old gunfighter-young gunfighter theme.  Ford is Marshal Dan Blaine, who has a nice life a small western town.  He is the live-in romantic interest of Lisa Denton (Angie Dickinson), local saloon proprietress and madam.  He is a former convict and has a justly earned reputation as being very good with a gun.

Lot McGuire (Chad Everett) is a young man good with a gun himself, and is seeking out Blaine to test their comparative skills.  He encounters Blaine fishing outside of town, and Blaine takes a liking to him, trying unsuccessfully to dissuade him from his plan.  Outside of town Blaine also rescues lowlife Ernie Scarnes (Jack Elam), whom he knew in prison.

Marshal Dan Blaine to Ernie Scarnes:  “Of all the people I know who ain’t worth saving, you’re the first one to come to my mind.”

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Marshal Blaine (Glenn Ford) likes young challenger Lot McGuire (Chad Everett).

Scarnes plans to blackmail Lisa with knowledge of Blaine’s past, but she already knows it.  She hires Scarnes to drygulch McGuire; he kills McGuire’s horse, but McGuire gets him.  Blaine finds out and ends up having to kill McGuire anyway.  As he rides out of town and out of Lisa’s life, he tosses his own gunbelt into McGuire’s grave.  This time the old gunfighter has won, but it gives him no satisfaction.

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Marshal Blaine (Glenn Ford) has it out with Lisa (Angie Dickinson).

Excellent character actor Royal Dano plays Pretty Horse, a local Indian leader of indeterminate tribe.  This was director Richard Thorpe’s last movie.  Not really bad, but a bit unsatisfying.  This was Glenn Ford’s twentieth western.  He’d been making them for 25 years (see The Desperadoes for one of his earliest efforts), and wore the same hat that he had adopted in the 1950s and wore to the end of his career if given his choice.  Chad Everett was an up-and-coming young star, cast as a young gun in this and Return of the Gunfighter with Robert Taylor, before he moved into television for good.  Compare the gun in the grave touch with Ford’s similar ending to The Fastest Gun Alive ten years earlier (1956), or with the end of High Noon, for that matter, in which Gary Cooper throws his badge in the dust.  In color, at 105 minutes.

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Cimarron (1960)

Nicholas Chennault ~ September 1, 2014

Cimarron—Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter, Harry Morgan, Arthur O’Connell, Mercedes McCambridge, Robert Keith, Russ Tamblyn, David Opatoshu, Edgar Buchanan (1960; Dir: Anthony Mann)

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As a word, “Cimarron” is very evocative of the west.  Cimarron County, Oklahoma, is at the very tip of Oklahoma’s panhandle, neighboring New Mexico, southern Colorado, southwestern Kansas and the Texas panhandle.  It was named for the Cimarron River, which flows through the area and was crossed by the Cimarron Cutoff on the legendary Santa Fe Trail.  It was a remote area, late to be settled and brought under regular law—the area where Comanches killed mountain man Jedediah Smith in 1831 and not far from where the gunman Clay Allison had a ranch in the 1880s.  It is farther west than the area dealt with in this movie.

Edna Ferber’s large-scale 1929 best-seller was made into a 1931 movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the first and, for 60 years, the only western to win that accolade.  Add to this previously successful mix Anthony Mann, one of the best directors of westerns from the 1950s, and a good cast for a modern update, and you should have a winner.  But it didn’t turn out quite that way.

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Sooners in 1889. Yancey Cravat is among them.

The improbably-named Yancey Cravat (Glenn Ford) gets married at the start of the film in 1889. A lawyer at the time of his marriage, he has a bit of a backstory, some pieces of which emerge bit by bit. He has been a gunman and a cowboy, for example; he seems well acquainted with outlaws and prostitutes who refer to him as “Cim,” short for Cimarron. He insists that his new wife Sabra (Austrian actress Maria Schell) join him in the Oklahoma land rush. As they come to the starting line, they meet a string of Cravat acquaintances, notably Sam Pegler (Robert Keith); an itinerant newspaper editor and publisher; and his printer Jesse (Harry Morgan); the large but poor Wyatt family from Missouri (Arthur O’Connell and Mercedes McCambridge); a few outlaws, including the Cherokee Kid (Russ Tamblyn); a wagon of soiled doves, especially Dixie Lee (Anne Baxter); and Jewish tinker Sol Levy (David Opatoshu).

In the race Yancey loses the piece of property he wanted to Dixie, who seems to be trying to get it to spite him.  When he finds the Pegler wagon overturned and Sam dead in the wreck, he decides to try being a newspaperman instead of a rancher.  As the town of Osage develops, Yancey reveals that he has strong sympathies with underdogs (Indians and other minorities, the Cherokee Kid) and a tendency to take on responsibility in stressful situations.  When an innocent Indian is lynched, Yancey takes in the widow and daughter after taking out the ringleader Bob Yountis.  He has a son, whom he insists on naming Cimarron.  When the Cherokee Kid and his gang come to rob the local bank and take refuge in the local school, it’s Yancey who rescues the kids, if not the Kid.  He urges Tom Wyatt to drill for oil on his property, which Wyatt eventually discovers.

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Yancey (Glenn Ford) is too late to stop a lynching.

Yancey is also a man who is always looking beyond his current horizon.  When Sabra refuses to join him in the rush to the Cherokee Strip farther to the west in 1893, Yancey nevertheless goes and disappears for five years.  He doesn’t write, but Sabra hears hints that he is in Alaska and then has joined the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War.  At the conclusion of the war, he shows up in Osage again and is taken back by his family.  The newspaper prospers modestly, and in 1904 Yancey is offered the post of territorial governor, which he turns down because he’d be indebted to the oil interests led by Tom Wyatt.  (Presumably he would have been the last territorial governor; Oklahoma became a state in 1907.)

When he turns down the governorship, Sabra blows up at him and Yancey disappears again, for good this time.  When their son marries an Indian, Sabra drives the young couple away.  They go to Oregon and she never sees them.  Obviously, she doesn’t share Yancey’s sensitivity to minorities.  In the ten years after Yancey’s departure, the newspaper prospers with financial help from Sol Levy, who would like to marry Sabra.  In 1914, Sabra hears that Yancey has joined the British army during World War I.  The movie ends the next year when Sabra gets word from the British army that Yancey has been killed in France.

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Yancey (Glenn Ford) tells Sabra (Maria Schell) he’s turning down the governor’s post.

In the earlier film version, Yancey survives the war, only to die in the 1920s in an oilfield accident.  Sabra becomes a Congresswoman.  But this film is already two and a half hours long and forgoes that extended ending.  In the first version, Yancey comes and goes inexplicably.  This version focuses more on the personalities and relationship of Yancey and Sabra, and finally it’s an unsuccessful relationship.  In the 25 years covered by the movie, Yancey and Sabra are together maybe ten of those years, and little of the second five-year period is shown.  Sabra spends most of her time being unhappy with Yancey even when they are together.  We don’t really get Yancey, either.  It makes for kind of a glum film, especially in the long second half, when Yancey has disappeared much of the time.  And Glenn Ford often has distractingly bad hair.  Maria Schell is a decent actress, but she’s not as good as Sabra as Irene Dunne had been in 1931.  She seems excessively weepy, especially in the second half as the film moves into more melodramatic territory and just camps there.  All in all, it’s just not all that compelling.  And it did not do well at the box office upon its release.

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Anthony Mann directing, with Maria Schell and Glenn Ford; still of Glenn Ford going after the Cherokee Kid’s gang.

Maria Schell had appeared in one other western, Delbert Daves’ The Hanging Tree.  After this her career moved back into mostly European movies.  Anne Baxter is very good although underused here.  The land rush sequence is good, featuring several crashes and other mishaps.

This was Director Anthony Mann’s last western, and not among his better ones.  Mann was moving from westerns into the final stage of his career, when he focused more on epics like El Cid.  This had been a troubled production, with Mann being fired toward the end.  Reportedly producer Edmund Grainger filled in the editing of the last part without Mann’s participation or consent, which may account for why that part seems dull.  This version was written by Arnold Shulman and shot in color by the excellent cinematographer Robert Surtees.  There is good musice by Franz Waxman, so the film looks and sounds good.  Long, at 147 minutes.

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The Man From Colorado

Nicholas Chennault ~ August 8, 2014

The Man from Colorado—Glenn Ford, William Holden, Ellen Drew, Edgar Buchanan, James Millican, Ray Collins (1948; Dir: Henry Levin)

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In 1865, a unit of Union volunteer cavalry led by Col. Owen Devereaux (Glenn Ford), a former lawyer, has 100 Confederates trapped at the mouth of a canyon in Colorado.  The southerners try to surrender with a white flag; the only man on the Union side who can see it with binoculars is Devereaux, and he gives the order to his artillery to fire anyway, killing all of them.  Later that day, the cavalry gets the news of Lee’s surrender, meaning the war is over and that day’s killing was unnecessary twice over.  Devereaux confides to his diary that he likes killing and wonders about his own sanity.

The men of the newly-demobilized unit are received back home in Glory Hill as heroes, except for Sgt. Jericho Howard (James Millican), who’s under arrest for celebrating too much.  He escapes and becomes an outlaw.  Devereaux is asked by Big Ed Carter (Ray Collins), a big mine owner, to become the local federal judge; he asks his best friend, Capt. Del Stewart, to be the federal marshal.  Stewart, who is starting to see signs that Devereaux might not be completely balanced, accepts with the proviso that Devereaux must put down his own gun and stick to interpreting the law.  Meanwhile, Devereaux and Stewart are rivals for the affections of Caroline Emmet (Ellen Drew); she decides she’ll marry Devereaux.

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Stewart (William Holden) is sworn in as marshal by Devereaux (Glenn Ford).

Devereaux’s first big case concerns his own veterans.  Miners before volunteering, they have returned to their claims to find that Big Ed Carter and the Great Star Mining Co. say they own them now.  In court, it appears to be a matter of miner’s law (in effect before the war) against federal law, now that Colorado is a federal territory, which says that if a claim hasn’t been worked for three years then it is no longer good.  Over Stewart’s objections, Devereaux decides for Great Star and against his veterans, and most of them have no choice but to work for Carter and Great Star for $60 a month.

Meanwhile, outlaw Jericho Howard steals from Carter.  Stewart assembles a posse to give chase, and Devereaux joins it.  When Howard’s sidekick (one of Devereaux’s veterans) is captured, Devereaux gives him a trial on the spot and hangs him while Stewart is chasing Howard.  More men join Howard, and he robs Carter’s safe of $30,000, killing a mine employee in the process.

Dubious evidence implicates Jericho’s younger brother Johnny Howard and five others.  Stewart pursues Jericho and persuades him to come in to save his brother, but they arrive to find that Devereaux has summarily hanged Johnny and plans to hang the five others.  Even Caroline is horrified.  Carter reacts by firing all the Union veterans for fear they’ll help Jericho.  Stewart resigns as marshal.  Even Big Ed Carter worries about the near-civil war Devereaux’s decisions and behavior have created.

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Caroline (Ellen Drew) helps Stewart (William Holden) escape from Devereaux’s clutches.

As Devereaux proceeds with the hanging, Jericho Howard’s outlaws arrive and rescue the five, led by Del Stewart.  Devereaux lures Stewart into a trap by getting news to him that Caroline needs help.  But Caroline gets Devereaux’s diary and convinces Doc Merriam (Edgar Buchanan) that Devereaux is unbalanced and they need to get word to the governor in Denver.  Caroline and Doc are helping Stewart escape from jail, when Devereaux arrives, wounding Stewart and blockading the mining camp where the three flee.

The camp all sympathizes with Jericho, Stewart and the veterans.  Devereaux sets fire to the camp and as it burns he sees and goes after Stewart.  As he does, Jericho Howard grapples with him, and a burning building collapses onto Devereaux and Jericho, rendering Devereaux’s removal as judge moot.  He has been removed in a more final sense.

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The increasingly psychotic Devereaux in the flaming mining camp.

Glenn Ford, with longish hair and silver brushed into his sideburns, is convincing as the more-and-more unhinged Devereaux.  Stewart is more straightforward, except for his continuing affection for another man’s wife.  Ellen Drew is the weak point in the cast, kind of a low-rent Maureen O’Hara.  Her character’s motivation is not well-developed; initially she looks like she’s just going for the flashier character with higher social status.  A more modern look would probably present Devereaux’s psychosis more as a form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), rather than irrational megalomania and an uncontrollable fondness for killing.  James Miilican is particularly good as the new outlaw Jericho Howard.

The title is a bit ambiguous, since both the protagonists are from Colorado, but presumably the title refers to Devereaux, who drives most of the action.  Shot at the Ray Corrigan ranch in Simi Valley in southern California. In color, at 100 minutes.

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Dick Powell visits with stars William Holden and Glenn Ford during filming of The Man From Colorado.

For another film involving a western commander unhinged by the Civil War, see Robert Preston as Col. Marston in Anthony Mann’s The Last Frontier (1955), with Victor Mature.  For another early Glenn Ford western, see him with Randolph Scott in The Desperadoes (1943).  He and Holden had previously starred in Texas, 1941.  Ford’s post-World War II career began taking off a couple of years earlier than this film with Gilda (1946) and other films noir, but his mix always seemed to include westerns, the best of which was probably the original 3:10 to Yuma (1957).  William Holden had been in movies for about ten years (see 1940’s Arizona, for example) and was a couple of years away from his big breakthroughs in Sunset Boulevard and Born Yesterday (both in 1950).  His Oscar as Best Actor came in Stalag 17 (1953).  But he continued to make westerns as well; he’s very good, for example, in Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), directed by John Sturges.  The casting of The Man From Colorado now looks very smart. These guys became big stars.

Historical note:  The only Confederates vs. Yankees battle out west during the Civil War took place at Glorieta Pass in northern New Mexico Territory in March 1862, early in the war.  The Sand Creek Massacre against Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyennes was perpetrated by Colorado volunteers under Col. John Chivington in Nov. 1864, about 40 miles from Fort Lyon in Colorado Territory.  So the action depicted at the start of the movie appears to be entirely fictional.

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Lust for Gold

Nicholas Chennault ~ July 23, 2014

Lust for Gold—Glenn Ford, Ida Lupino, Gig Young, William Prince, Edgar Buchanan, Paul Ford, Will Geer, Arthur Hunnicutt, Jay Silverheels (1949; Dir: S. Sylvan Simon)

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This mystery-noir western is a retelling of the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine on Superstition Mountain in Arizona.  It has a modern (ca. 1949) framing story with the supposed grandson of the Dutchman, and the historical portion of the film, which takes place in 1886 and 1887, features a sordid romantic triangle and several murders.  The movie starts with a certification from the governor of Arizona that the events of the film are true “according to the histories and legends of Arizona.”  This is about as truthful as most such movie declarations are.

In modern times, Barry Storm (William Prince), the grandson of German-born Jacob Walz, is hiking on Superstition Mountain when he hears a gunshot and finds the body of adventurer Floyd Buckley (Hayden Rorke), shot with a hunting rifle.  He reports this to the Sheriff Lynn Early (Paul Ford) in Florence, Arizona, and leads an expedition to retrieve the body.  Revealing himself to be the grandson of Walz (the Dutchman after whom the mine is named), deputies Ray Covin (Will Geer) and Walter (Jay Silverheels), an Apache, go back to the site with him and tell him the history of the mine and show him a couple of the landmarks associated with it.  Storm goes off to a retirement home in Phoenix, looking for more of the story.

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Walz (Glenn Ford) and Wiser (Edgar Buchanan) follow the last of the Peraltas to the lost mine.

Long known by Apaches, the fabulous mine was rediscovered by the three Mexican Peralta brothers around 1850.  Manuel Peralta and his miners are killed by Apaches led by Cochise, however.  More than thirty years later, Ramon Peralta returns to Superstition Mountain (about 40 miles from Phoenix) with an American partner (Arthur Hunnicutt), who can file on the claim.  They are followed by Wiser (Edgar Buchanan) and his friend Jacob Walz (Glenn Ford), who trail them to the mine.  Once there, they kill Ramon and his partner and Walz kills Wiser, leaving the three bodies in a ravine.

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Walz cashes in the first of his gold.

[Spoilers follow.]  Walz takes his initial load of gold back to Phoenix, where gold fever builds.  Among those affected is Julia Thomas (Ida Lupino), who tells her ineffective husband Pete (Gig Young) to disappear while she gets to know Walz.  She’s successful, and Walz is infatuated with her, while Pete becomes a local laughingstock.  Walz makes five trips to the mine, returning each time to Julia.  After the fifth trip he sees Julia and Pete together and realizes he’s being played.  He gives Julia a map back to the mine, and Pete and Julia arrive there before him.  Walz takes their mules and supplies and traps them at the mine without water.  Finally Pete runs out of bullets and Julia tries to go to Walz.  Pete stops her, and she stabs him in the back (literally, with a knife).  As Julia climbs toward Walz, there’s an earthquake and she’s crushed by rocks;  Walz is also killed and the entrance to the mine buried.

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Julia Thomas (Ida Lupino) is trapped at the mine.

Storm now thinks he can find the mine, and he heads back to the mountain.  However, there is still Buckley’s killer, who has apparently killed a total of four men over two years.  The killer also finds Storm, and they fight.  It is deputy Ray Covin, who is larger than Storm.  During their lengthy fight, it appears that Ray is winning until he is bitten by a rattlesnake and falls over a cliff.  It develops that Lynn Early had his suspicions about Ray but could not prove them until he could use Storm as bait.  Storm still hasn’t found the mine, though.

The structure of the movie is a bit complicated, with its multiple flashbacks, but it works if you’re paying attention.  This film has a large cast of good actors and a very noir feel, with few admirable characters.  British-born Ida Lupino is particularly effective as the faithless Julia Thomas, and Glenn Ford is appropriately moody as a Walz who is alternately sympathetic and murderous.  Ford’s German accent is slippery.  The weakest link in the cast is William Prince as Barry Storm; but he’s not terrible and spends most of his time narrating.  This was based on Thunder God’s Gold, a 1945 book by the real Barry Storm that renewed interest in the Lost Dutchman Mine, but there are many versions of the story.   The real Jacob Walz supposedly died of pneumonia in 1891 after flooding on his Arizona ranch.  Author Storm was not in fact a grandson of Walz, and sued the studio.

There are some painted backgrounds and obvious studio shots, and the earthquake sequence does not look particularly real.  But the movie is nevertheless quite watchable.  This was director S. Sylvan Simon’s last film; he died a short time later of a heart attack at 41.  Shot on location in Arizona, in black and white by Archie Stout; 90 minutes in length.

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The Fastest Gun Alive

Nicholas Chennault ~ April 21, 2014

The Fastest Gun Alive—Glenn Ford, Broderick Crawford, John Dehner, Jeanne Crain, Russ Tamblyn, John Dehner, Noah Beery, Jr., Leif Erickson (1956; Dir:  Russell Rouse)

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Heavy-set Broderick Crawford as a quick-draw bad guy named Vinnie?  A psychological western with lots of angst, kind of 1950s Freudian.  It is also a variation on the theme of how somebody quick with a gun draws others who want to test themselves against him (e.g., The Gunfighter).  

Storekeeper George Kelby/Temple (Glenn Ford) has father issues with his now-deceased lawman father, who was good with a gun until he was killed.  Bad guy Vinnie’s insecurities are fueled by having been abandoned by his wife.  Kelby/Temple is great with a gun and occasionally needs to show off his skills, but he has never shot a person and is afraid to do so.  Vinnie, having robbed the bank in a neighboring town with his gang (John Dehner, Noah Beery, Jr.), is making his escape when he hears about Kelby’s skill.  Fancying himself to be fast with a gun, Vinnie tries to force Kelby into a test showdown, or he’ll burn down the town.

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Kelby/Temple (Glenn Ford), wondering if he can do it.

There is much anguish as Kelby and other townsfolk take refuge in the church and debate whether he has to take up Vinnie’s challenge and save the town.  His wife (Jeanne Crain) doesn’t want him to do it.  One townsman (Leif Erickson) reluctantly volunteers to impersonate George to save the town.  Finally Kelby steps up, as we knew he eventually would have to.  But he doesn’t like it.  “Don’t say a word, Lou…because a word is about all it would take.”  George walks out into the dusty street ….

Cut to the posse pursuing Vinnie et al., finally arriving in town.  They find only graves in the churchyard, including one for Vinnie and one for George Temple.  He has been buried with his gun.  Only the living storekeeper George Kelby remains.

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Theoretically, all of the anguish is resolved at the end of the movie, but it seems like the need to demonstrate his skills will come back, even though his father’s gun is now buried and gone with Vinnie.  This has a good supporting cast, including Noah Beery, Jr. and John Dehner as the other two members of Vinnie’s gang.  There are a lot of 1950’s “gunman and the community” issues, with a lot of ambivalence among townsmen about how to deal with Vinnie, the role they want Kelby/Temple to play, and how they feel about him.  In black and white, at 89 minutes.

Glenn Ford was at the peak of his career in westerns, although he always played roles other than westerns, too (Teahouse of the August Moon, Don’t Go Near the Water).  This was about the time that he made 3:10 to Yuma, Jubal and Cowboy with director Delmer Daves and The Sheepman.  For a similar theme with Fred MacMurray, see At Gunpoint.

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Jubal

Nicholas Chennault ~ April 12, 2014

Jubal—Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Valerie French, Felicia Farr, Noah Beery, Jr., Rod Steiger, Charles Bronson, John Dierkes, Basil Ruysdael, Jack Elam (1956; Dir:  Delmer Daves)

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Jubal Troop (Glenn Ford) is a hard-luck cowboy whose horse dies while carrying him over Glacier Pass from Montana into Wyoming.  He is found unconscious by Shep Horgan, a big rancher in Jackson Hole, who offers him a job.  The situation is not without obvious complications:  one of the resident cowhands at Horgan’s ranch, Pinky Pinkum (Rod Steiger), resents any authority and the newcomer.  Even trickier is Mae (Valerie French), Horgan’s young wife from Calgary.  They’ve been married for 16 months, and she’s unhappy.  She’s previously had some kind of relationship with Pinky and now is coming on to Jubal, who’s having none of it.

Pinky:  “If you’re a cowhand, how come you stink of sheep dip?”

Jubal Troop:  “I hired out to a sheep ranch ’cause it was the only job I could get.”

Pinky:  “Most cowhands would die before they’d herd sheep.”

Jubal Troop:  “Show me one.”

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Glenn Ford as Jubal Troop, trying to figure things out.

Horgan soon appoints Jubal his foreman, and Jubal accepts with misgivings.  The prickly situation with Pinky becomes more difficult, and he has more interaction with Mae.  A group of ten “rawhider” wagons on their way to Idaho camps on Horgan’s land while some of their members recuperate from illness.  Pinky and several Bar 8 riders try to run them off, but Jubal overrules him and lets them stay, incurring the gratitude of their religious leader Shem Hoktor (Basil Ruysdael) and the admiration of his daughter Naomi (Felicia Farr).  Naomi is promised to Jake, another member of the group who is jealous, and Jubal hires Reb Haislipp (Charles Bronson), a good-natured cowboy who’s been riding along with the rawhiders.

Tensions on the Horgan ranch get higher with mountain lions raiding their stock and with Jubal developing a romantic interest in Naomi, which she reciprocates.  While the men are camped far from the ranch house on roundup, Mae lures Jubal back to the ranch and tries to get him into bed.  He doesn’t go for it and heads into town and starts drinking.  Reb goes looking for him when he doesn’t return promptly.  Pinky is filling Shep’s mind with imprecations of a relationship between Mae and Jubal.  When Shep gets back to the ranch, Mae lies and says it’s true.  Shep bursts into the saloon and starts shooting at Jubal, who’s not armed.  He doesn’t want to shoot back, but when Reb tosses him a gun he uses it in self-defense.  Wounded, Jubal makes it back to the rawhider wagons.  They take him in, with Shem Hoktor’s wagon heading east to hide him, and the rest heading west for Pocatello.

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Valerie French as the faithless Mae, coming on to Jubal (Glenn Ford).

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Pinky arrives at the ranch after the killing and intends to renew his former relationship with Mae, who doesn’t want him now.  He beats her badly and recruits a posse of his Bar 8 friends to hunt down Jubal.  It takes a couple of days, and by the time they find Hoktor’s wagon (with the help of jealousy-crazed Jake), Jubal is heading back for the ranch so Mae can tell the posse the truth when they get to him.

Mae is in bad shape when Jubal finds her, but she manages to tell the doctor the truth about her and Jubal and about who beat her before she dies.  As the posse fingers their rope while looking at Pinky, Jubal and Naomi ride off into the sunset, or maybe just to Idaho.

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This is one of director Delmer Daves’ bigger movies, shot in color on location in Jackson Hole (like The Big Sky and Shane) and with lots of low camera angles that emphasize the sky and the magnificent Tetons.  The movie is well-paced at 100 minutes.  Cinematography is by Charles Lawton, Jr., who worked on many westerns (including 3:10 to Yuma and Comanche Station).  The very good screenplay is by Robert S. Hughes and Daves.  The music by David Raksin (Laura, Big Hand for the Little Lady, Will Penny) is also excellent.

The cast is very good, especially Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine, whose performances are well-calibrated.  Ford made the original 3:10 to Yuma with Daves the next year, and he was excellent in that, too.  See Ernest Borgnine in bad-guy roles from the same period in Johnny Guitar and Bad Day at Black Rock, and as a semi-good guy in The Badlanders.  Charles Bronson has a good-guy role, rare for the pre-Magnificent Seven stage of his career, and Jack Elam is one of the Bar 8 riders.  Rod Steiger is effective in another of his nasty bully roles from the 1950s.  Steiger had played the title role in the 1953 telecast of Marty, and Borgnine had just won an Oscar for the same role in the movie version (1955).  This was Felicia Farr’s movie debut, and Daves clearly liked her; she shows up again in 3:10 to Yuma and The Last Wagon.

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This melodramatic range saga has overtones of Shakespeare (Othello), although in this case the wife is young and faithless, and of Biblical stories (Joseph and Potiphar’s wife; and Jake is referred to as a Judas).  It’s often referred to as an “adult” western because of the all the sexual tension.  It was adapted from a novel by Paul I. Wellman.  For another big melodramatic range story, see Tribute to a Bad Man from the same year, one of James Cagney’s few westerns (he was not a natural in them).  But this one is better.  For other westerns from this stage of Daves’ career, in addition to 3:10 to Yuma, see Cowboy with Glenn Ford and The Last Wagon with Richard Widmark.

As of May 2013, Jubal is available on a Criterion Collection DVD, which refers to it as “an overlooked Hollywood treasure from genre master Delmer Daves.”

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The Desperadoes

Nicholas Chennault ~ March 14, 2014

The Desperadoes—Randolph Scott, Glenn Ford, Claire Trevor, Evelyn Keyes, Edgar Buchanan, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams (1943; Dir:  Charles Vidor)

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In 1943, Randolph Scott was moving to the phase of his career where he would concentrate on making westerns, when he was paired with the young Canadian actor Glenn Ford in this western set in Utah in 1863.  Shot in color (Columbia’s first color feature, in fact), this was a big-budget western for its time.

In the town of Red Valley, Utah Territory, the sheriff is Steve Upton (Randolph Scott), who might be interested in Allison McLeod (Evelyn Keyes), proprietor of the local livery stable.  The local banker and several others are conspiring to have the bank robbed every time the army pays for horses, only to make off with the money themselves.  Uncle Willie (Edgar Buchanan), Allison’s father, is in on it and has sent for an outlaw to do the robbing.  Wanted outlaw-gunman Cheyenne Rogers (Glenn Ford) and his pal Nitro Rankin (Guin Williams) show up, but he’s late and the bank has already been robbed by somebody else.   

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Cheyenne (Glenn Ford) steals the sheriff’s horse, without the sheriff (Randolph Scott) seeing who he is.

Cheyenne’s horse goes lame as he enters the valley, and he comes upon the sheriff watering his horse while out looking for the robbers.  Without allowing the sheriff to turn around, Cheyenne takes his horse, leaves the lame one and heads for town.  When the Steve does finally see him, it turns out they are old friends from Wyoming, along with the Countess (Claire Trevor), who runs the town’s principal gambling establishment.  Taking the imaginative name Bill Smith, Cheyenne develops an interest in Allison himself and decides to go straight.

That’s not so easy in the corrupt environment of Red Valley.  Steve orders Cheyenne and Nitro out of town when local elements want to push them into a fight, and, unknown to Cheyenne, Nitro robs the bank for real on the way out.  The judge insists that Steve arrest Cheyenne and Nitro for the robbery and intends to hang them.  Steve thinks hanging is too severe a penalty for a robbery in which the money was returned and nobody was hurt.  Cheyenne had nothing to do with it, anyway.  So Steve lets them escape, only to be put in the jail himself for his efforts.  The bad guys wait for Cheyenne to return and rescue Steve; they’ll get him then and blame the previous bank robbery on him, too.

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The Countess (Claire Trevor) chats up the bad guys.

Stampeding a herd of horses as it nears town gives Cheyenne a cover to slip in and bust Steve out of jail.  There is a showdown with the most belligerent of the bad guys, Allison marries Cheyenne, who presumably will be able to carry out his intention of going straight, Uncle Willie goes to jail peaceably, and Steve is able to get rid of the corrupt banker, judge (Raymond Walburn) and other elements in town.

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Randolph Scott, Glenn Ford and Big Boy Williams fooling around with set visitor Fred Astaire during the making of The Desperadoes.

There’s a lot of action and good fights, with some comic undercurrents provided by Williams (who wears the most mismatched plaids in cinematic history) and a long-suffering bar owner (Irving Bacon) whose establishment keeps getting smashed up.  The horse stampede is very well done–Randolph Scott used one again the same way in The Doolins of Oklahoma a few years later.  Nitro’s use of nitroglycerin is anachronistic for 1863; it wasn’t available for two or three more decades.  Although Randolph Scott was the bigger name in movies at the time, the concentration here is more on Ford’s character than on Scott’s.  They don’t really look the same age.  Director Charles Vidor, the less prominent brother of director King Vidor, was married to Evelyn Keyes, who gives a good performance as Allison.  John Ford’s brother Francis Ford is one of the townsmen.  Uncle Willie is one of Edgar Buchanan’s juicier roles, too.  Young Budd Boetticher was an uncredited assistant to director Vidor; his own directing was still almost ten years in the future.  The film moves right along, at only 87 minutes.

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Vidor directed Glenn Ford again three years later after Ford’s return from the war in the classic film noir Gilda.  By then Ford was starting to look more his age.

Not to be confused with 1969’s The Desperados (without the second “e”), with Jack Palance, Vince Edwards and George Maharis.  Or with Ron Hansen’s excellent 1979 novel Desperadoes, about the Dalton gang.  Or with Desperado, the song made famous by Linda Ronstadt in 1973.  Take your desperadoes where you can find them.

 

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