Tag Archives: Maureen O’Hara

War Arrow

Nicholas Chennault ~ October 8, 2014

War Arrow—Jeff Chandler, Maureen O’Hara, John McIntire, Noah Beery, Jr., Henry Brandon, Dennis Weaver, Jay Silverheels, James Bannon, Suzan Ball (1953; Dir: George Sherman)

WarArrowPoster WarArrowGerm

Major Howell Brady (Jeff Chandler) is a war hero from the Civil War, now trying to recruit Seminoles in Texas to fight Kiowas led by Satanta (Jay Silverheels) and a mysterious white man.  When he arrives at his new post, Fort Clark, he finds that his new superior, Col. Jackson Meade (John McIntire), is dubious about his enterprise.  And he also finds a romantic interest in recent widow Elaine Corwin (Maureen O’Hara).  Meade seems to be interested in her, too.

Brady succeeds in recruiting the reluctant Seminoles led by Maygro (Henry Brandon, the German actor who played Scar in The Searchers and Comanche chief Quanah Parker in Two Rode Together), but there are undercurrents.  Meade is not supportive of the effort, even when it turns out to be quite successful.  And Maygro’s daughter Avis (Suzan Ball) has adopted white values and is interested in Brady.  The mysterious white man helping the Kiowas turns out to be the not-so-dead Corwin (James Bannon).  The conflict between Brady and Meade over strategy and use of the Seminoles leads to Brady being tossed in the brig.


Major Howell Brady (Jeff Chandler) is interested in fiery young widow Elaine Corwin (Maureen O’Hara); adversaries Satanta (Jay Silverheels) and Brady (Chandler), not so hostile behind the scenes.

He nevertheless manages to save the post from destruction, and Corwin and Satanta are killed.  Meade is wounded and, of course, comes to a new appreciation of Brady—as does the now-widowed Corwin.  Avis turns her attentions to Seminole warrior Pico (Dennis Weaver).

The Corwin character is not very fleshed out, and the end, with Meade’s immediate conversion, doesn’t seem entirely believable.  The final battle at the post is not well done.  But this is fairly watchable anyway.  Shot in color by William Daniels (The Far Country, Night Passage), at only 78 minutes.


Major Brady makes plans with allies Maygro (Henry Brandon) and Pico (Dennis Weaver).

For another movie of Jeff Chandler commanding cavalry out west and fighting Kiowas, see Two Flags West.  In that one, he plays the unreasonable commander rather than the fighting hero.  But it’s a good movie.  Chandler and Silverheels had played Cochise and Geronimo, respectively, in Broken Arrow, another good western, which had made Chandler’s reputation.  Dennis Weaver shows up again as an Indian, this time a Navajo, the same year (1953) in Column South, an Audie Murphy movie.

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Nicholas Chennault ~ July 26, 2014

McLintock!—John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Yvonne De Carlo, Stephanie Powers, Jack Kruschen, Patrick Wayne, Jerry Van Dyke, Chill Wills, Strother Martin, Bruce Cabot, Hank Worden, Michael Pate, Leo Gordon (1963; Dir: Andrew McLaglen)


Variations on a theme of The Taming of the Shrew.

Many find this John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara western comedy enjoyable; others claim it has no plot and is just a string of situations that worked in previous Wayne movies (Rio Grande, North to Alaska) put together without a real story keeping them together.  With all the familiar actors in familiar roles, it does feel like we’ve seen much of it before.  The exclamation point in the title is not a good sign, either.

George Washington McLintock (known to most of his neighbors, friendly or not, as GW or just McLintock) is a local land and cattle baron in an unspecified territory out west near the turn of the 20th century.  That makes it either Arizona, New Mexico or Oklahoma, which were the only territories left then, and there are references to the Mesa Verde and Comanches.  GW’s wife Katherine (Maureen O’Hara) hasn’t been living with him for some time (years, in fact), and he is given to drunken roistering.  When he comes home to his ranch from that, he tosses his large hat at the house’s third-story weathervane and it generally lights there.  Whichever of the Mexican boys gets to it the next morning can have it.  By the end of the movie, he’s made 310 tosses in a row without a miss.

Things are happening in the town of McLintock.  Homesteaders are arriving to settle the Mesa Verde, the local Comanches on the reservation are restless, the Comanche chiefs are coming home from exile, GW’s daughter Becky (Stephanie Powers) is coming home from school in the east, and various anti-McLintock forces (developers, the territorial governor, bureaucrats) are making things more difficult. Early in the movie GW hires young Devlin Warren (Patrick Wayne), son of a recently-deceased homesteader, as a hand on the ranch and his mother Louise (Yvonne De Carlo) as the ranch cook.


Stills of the estranged couple (John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara) and the young lovers (Stefanie Powers and Patrick Wayne).

During the remainder of the movie, taking place around the town’s traditional July Fourth festivities, GW argues on behalf of the Comanches before a commission headed by the territorial governor; participates in a rollicking fight at a local mudhole involving homesteaders, ranchers and an unfortunate Indian agent (Strother Martin); watches his daughter flirt with the clearly unfit son (Jerry Van Dyke) of someone he has long despised while it become obvious that Becky and Devlin should be together; and tries unsuccessfully to get back together with his estranged wife Kate.


“Somebody oughta belt you in the mouth.”

GW McLintock:  [Yelling at homesteader played by Leo Gordon.]  “You’ve caused a lot of trouble this morning.  Might have got somebody killed.  Somebody oughta belt you in the mouth, but I won’t… I won’t.  [Reconsiders]  The hell I won’t!”  [Knocks the man down a muddy hill, precipitating a free-for-all.]

By the end, Louise Warren resigns to marry the local sheriff, Becky and Devlin are engaged and, in a taming-of-the-shrew fashion, GW and Kate are reconciled.  Even the Comanches may get a fairer shake from the government, although that is not established.  There are way too many characters and too many situations, leading to a lot of loose ends.  If you enjoyed all the action and supposed good humor without inspecting it too closely, you had a good time.

Becky McLintock:  “You are my father, and if you do love me, you will shoot him [indicating Devlin].”
GW McLintock:  “I’m your father, and I sure love you.”  [Grabs a pistol from his cabinet and shoots Devlin point-blank in the chest.]
Becky McLintock:  “You shot him!  You really shot him! If he…..
GW McLintock:  [Interrupting Becky]  “If he dies, he’ll be the first man killed with a blank cartridge. [Brandishing the pistol]  We use this to start the races on the Fourth [of July].”


Mud fight, with Edgar Buchanan, Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne.

Director Andrew McLaglen was the son of Irish actor Victor McLaglen, long a friend of John Wayne’s mentor John Ford and of Wayne himself.   Andrew had gotten into the industry through directing television, especially episodes of Have Gun Will Travel.  With his comparative youth and inexperience, he was cheaper than Wayne’s first choice, Henry Hathaway, who had directed North to Alaska three years earlier.  There are evidences of his television background in the rollicking music, played very obviously to signal that the fight or whatever else is happening is not serious.  It’s a little heavy-handed.  The screenplay was written by James Edward Grant, another Wayne favorite, who also wrote and directed Angel and the Badman and had written The Alamo, Wayne’s big-budget production from three years earlier.

Of the large and rambunctious cast, Yvonne De Carlo and Jack Kruschen are particularly good as the new cook Louise Warren and Jake Birnbaum, the local Jewish merchant who is a long-time friend of GW.  Stefanie Powers and Patrick Wayne are fine as the young lovers, but Jerry Van Dyke plays Junior much too broadly for him to be considered a seriously competing suitor.  Chill Wills as GW’s majordomo Drago is less irritating here than he is in The Alamo, for example.


If you enjoyed North to Alaska, you’ll probably want to watch this as well.  But you may have a hard time remembering the plot afterward.  More likely you’ll remember it as a series of vignettes, like the mud fight or the two spanking-with-a-coal-shovel episodes.  It’s like an extended television sitcom.  That spanking probably won’t play well with modern feminists, either.  This was the fourth of five films in which Wayne and O’Hara starred together, and the estranged married partners shtick was wearing a little thin without real issues.

In color, 127 minutes.  The lively theme song “Love in the Country” is sung by the folk trio The Limeliters.


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The Deadly Companions

Nicholas Chennault ~ February 24, 2014

The Deadly Companions—Brian Keith, Maureen O’Hara, Chill Wills, Steve Cochran, Strother Martin (1961; Dir:  Sam Peckinpah)


A low-budget revenge western, this is Sam Peckinpah’s first movie after an apprenticeship as a writer and director of television westerns.  Mostly it’s slow moving, with a minimal guitar score for music. 

Yellowleg (Brian Keith) was a Union soldier in Missouri during the Civil War.  A rebel sergeant tried to scalp him, and he’s been hunting for the rebel for the five years since the war ended.  He also has a rifle ball near his collar bone which impairs the functioning of his right (shooting) arm.  In the movie’s opening scene, he saves Turkey (Chill Wills) from being hung as a card cheat, and persuades Turkey and his gunslinger companion Billy Keplinger (Steve Cochran) to join him in robbing the new bank in Gila City, Arizona Territory. 

Once in Gila City, they find another gang in the process of robbing the bank.  In the ensuing shootout, Yellowleg’s impaired arm causes him to accidentally shoot and kill the son of saloon girl Kit Tildon (Maureen O’Hara).  She feels rejected by the respectable elements of Gila City and is determined to bury her son next to his father in the ghost town of Siringo in Apache country.  As penance Yellowleg determines to help her and dragoons Turkey and Billy into joining him.  Kit understandably despises them all. 


When Billy attacks Kit, Yellowleg drives him away, and Turk slips away, too.  Yellowleg is forced to steal a horse from the Apaches, and one of them starts hunting him, killing his horse.  Eventually Kit kills the Indian with a shotgun, and Kit and Yellowleg finish carrying the boy’s coffin to Siringo.  There Turk and Billy get the drop on them, now having robbed the bank in Gila City themselves.  Kit tries to talk Yellowleg out of taking his revenge on Turk, who is the rebel he’s been hunting.  Eventually, Turk and Billy shoot each other, and Yellowleg almost scalps Turk.  But he quits in disgust, just as the Gila posse shows up to take possession of the increasingly deranged Turk.  (Billy’s dead.)  Yellowleg and Kit complete the burial and ride off together. 


Brian Keith was cast as the lead in this because of his success with Maureen O’Hara in The Parent Trap.  He had also starred in Peckinpah’s short-lived western television series The Westerner, and he used his influence to bring in Peckinpah as director.  Maureen O’Hara and her brother Charles Fitzsimons had a role in producing the film, and that’s O’Hara singing the film’s theme song over the opening and closing credits.  Peckinpah did not get on well with Fitzsimons, beginning his well-earned reputation for avoiding and clashing with producers.  Peckinpah at first thought that Fitzsimons was hiring him to do work on the script and arrived at their first meeting with pages of edits, only to be told that changes were not wanted.  The first-time director also tried to minimize some of the more obvious flaws of the script, such as the problem of carting a dead body for five days across a hot desert.  He said: “At least I kept off [the dead body] enough that we weren’t too conscious off it.  To do it realistically would, I suppose, have been a lot of fun.  You’d have buzzards flying all over them and wearing masks and so on.”

Similarly, Peckinpah was not allowed to participate in the film’s final edit.  The editing’s a little disjointed in places, and there are some strange camera angles.  Sometimes the action is hard to see in the dark, and the music seems cheap.  The plot takes a back seat to the development of the relationship between Yellowleg and Kit.  Strother Martin is the preacher in Gila City.  The violence here is more muted than would be the case in future Peckinpah westerns.  The movie is kind of slow and gloomy in tone.  Cinematography is by William Clothier.  In color. 

This is notable at all only because it was directed by Peckinpah.  Peckinpah’s second film, Ride the High Country, would be clearly superior in just about every respect—one of his two masterpieces, in fact.

Because producer Fitzsimons forgot to put a copyright notice on the film, it slipped into the public domain.  That’s the reason that, until recently, it was available only on a variety of awful DVDs.  As of May 2013, a new edition released by VCI Entertainment and produced by the archivist Cary Roan had the best picture quality and sound for this film yet seen on home video.  The picture is much better, but the sound still has a lot of hiss on the track.

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Rio Grande

Nicholas Chennault ~ September 25, 2013

Rio Grande—John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson, Claude Jarman, Jr., Harry Carey, Jr., Chill Wills, J. Carroll Naish (1950; Dir:  John Ford) 

This is the last and the least critically-regarded of the John Ford cavalry trilogy.  The story goes that Ford didn’t intend to make this film and only did so when the RKO studio head Herbert K. Yates told him they’d let him make The Quiet Man on location in Ireland if he made another cavalry picture with John Wayne first.  It had only half the budget of Fort Apache, the first in the trilogy, and according to Harry Carey, Jr., Ford and the rest of the crew treated the shooting as something of a vacation, although Ford was always responsible enough to get the film done if he wasn’t drinking too heavily.


It’s also the first of five movies (with The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock!, and Big Jake) pairing Wayne and Maureen O’Hara as romantic partners, an enduring screen couple.  The story for this film seems more hastily put together than those for its two predecessors in the series.  There is some confusion surrounding the individual movies in the trilogy, since names recur and the same actors show up in each film without any explicit connection.  Even Wayne here has the same name as his character in Fort Apache, Kirby York, although it’s spelled York in Fort Apache and Yorke here.  As in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Ben Johnson is a trooper named Tyree, although apparently not the same one.  Victor McLaglen is Sergeant Quincannon again, and he may or may not be the same one.  Harry Carey, Jr., is again a young soldier, although this time he’s an enlisted man from Texas named Daniel Boone.  In any event, he’s never the one that gets the girl if there is one to get.  It all leads to a sense of elements and names from the previous two movies by the same director being thrown into a hastily-crafted story here, with more overt sentimentality and the Sons of the Pioneers.

riogrande1 Still of the Yorke family.

The Wayne-O’Hara relationship forms the dramatic core of the story, to the extent that the story hangs together at all.  They’re the long-separated (15 years after the Civil War battles in the Shenandoah, making it 1879) and frequently hostile parents of young Jefferson Yorke (Claude Jarman, Jr., from The Yearling), a West Point dropout who has recently signed on as a new private and been posted to Yorke’s command out west in Texas.  Kathleen Yorke (O’Hara) is not without influence herself, as the daughter of a powerful southern family from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  That family has never forgiven Yorke for burning their home Bridesdale (among others) during Phil Sheridan’s Shenandoah campaign, when Yorke was a Union officer in the late unpleasantness between the states.  Will Col. Yorke be able to rebuild his family, repair his relationship with his estranged wife and get to know the son long absent from his life while he’s been out on the frontier?  And what will young Trooper Yorke decide about his military future now that his mother is presenting him an opportunity to get out and pressing him to take it?  The answers to those questions are fairly predictable, but it plays out well

Meanwhile, the soldiers’ principal military problem is the raiding Apaches, who who strike in the U.S. and then retreat into Mexico across the Rio Grande where Yorke and his men can’t follow them.  A crisis comes when the Apaches capture a group of women and children from the military post and take them across the river.  With the complicity of the visiting Phil Sheridan (J. Carroll Naish), Yorke risks his career to cross the river and rescue the captives, leading to a final battle in an Indian-held town with the prisoners being held in a church.

riograndeCharge Taking the church.

There is excellent chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara, leading to their pairing in four subsequent films.  (The most sucessful of these pairings was probably The Quiet Man, a non-western.)  A significant element of this chemistry is the sparks that fly from their disagreements, which may be why they frequently seem to play married but estranged partners.  It works better here than it does in, for example, McLintock!  O’Hara at 30 seems young to be the mother of a (more or less) adult soldier.  The supporting cast is good, although it contains many of John Ford’s usual suspects in their usual roles:  McLaglen as the grizzled, alcoholic Irish sergeant who provides occasional comic relief that doesn’t work all that well for current audiences; Ben Johnson as the former Confederate trooper; and Harry Carey, Jr., as a green trooper or young officer.  Chill Wills is good as the regimental surgeon.  Even if the story doesn’t hang together as well as the previous two in the trilogy, the movie is nevertheless quite watchable.

riograndeWayne2 Col. Yorke busts down the door.

Most of Ford’s films have a streak of populist sentimentality, and this has more than most.  Some of that sentimental tone comes from the music, including traditional tunes and ballads provided by the Sons of the Pioneers (with one song even written by Dale Evans).  The source material is also a common thread with the others in the cavalry trilogy, since they’re all based on short stories by James Warner Bellah.  It was filmed in black and white, although a colorized version exists.  Bert Glennon, who did Ford’s Stagecoach more than a decade earlier, was in charge of the cinematography, and you can see some of the technical and artistic advances in the decade between the two films.  This one was filmed in the desert locations around Moab, Utah, not Ford’s usual Monument Valley in the Four Corners area to the south.




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