Tag Archives: Train Robbing

The Train Robbers

Nicholas Chennault ~ May 31, 2017

The Train Robbers—John Wayne, Ann-Margrett, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, Christopher George, Bobby Vinton (1973; Dir.:  Burt Young)

John Wayne was remarkable for being in good, even great, westerns throughout his career, even the late stages.  For example, the best westerns from the late phase of Wayne’s career (after True Grit) are The Cowboys and The Shootist, his last movie, with Big Jake having some attractions of its own.  Unfortunately, The Train Robbers, along with Rio Lobo, is one of the two worst from Wayne’s late phase.

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Under the opening credits, a scene unfolds that is reminiscent of the opening of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, with Jesse (Ben Johnson) and Ben (Bobby Vinton) waiting for Lane (John Wayne, with no first name) to arrive on a train in dusty and apparently abandoned Liberty, Texas.  Joining them are Grady (Rod Taylor) with two newly-recruited henchmen.  It emerges through their talk that Lane, Jesse and Grady met as survivors of a Union action at Vickburg during the Civil War, which seems now at least twenty years in the past.  Lane has called them all together for an expedition into Mexico.  As the train arrives, so does Lane, accompanied by a female—Mrs. Lowe (Ann-Margrett, also with no first name).

Lane gradually gives them some backstory on the project.  Mrs. Lowe is the widow of Matt Lowe, leader of a gang that had stolen a gold shipment worth half a million dollars five years previously.  Lowe and two others had taken the gold into Mexico and hidden it there; only Lowe returned.  Now Lowe has been killed in a whorehouse, and six of the seven remaining members of his gang served as pallbearers at his funeral.  The implication is that they are in pursuit of Mrs. Lowe, as the band heads south of the border, leading an unusually recalcitrant mule packed with dynamite for no obvious reason.  It develops that Lowe had hidden the gold in the boiler of the locomotive of a wrecked train four days into Mexico.

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Lane (John Wayne) renews his acquaintance with Grady (Rod Taylor).

Lane’s group sees signs that they are followed by at least twenty men, as well as by a mysterious stranger in a suit, played by Ricardo Montalban.  In due course, they find the wrecked train, with the gold stashed in the boiler as described.  But the twenty riders find them about the same time.  There are attacks back and forth, but, as Lane observes, the twenty apparently can’t shoot worth a damn.  There is apparently sexual tension between Lane and Mrs. Lowe, but he reluctantly concludes the age difference is too great.  “I’ve got a saddle that’s older than you are, Mrs. Lowe.”  As Lane’s group makes a break back for Texas, they keep an eye out for the remains of the twenty, declining to make a stand in the Mexican village because of potential damage to civilians.

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Lane (John Wayne) and Mrs. Lowe (Ann-Margrett) at the site of the gold stash in Mexico.

[Spoilers follow.]  They arrive back in Liberty at night to find the bartender shot and themselves under fire, meaning that their adversaries got there first.  Lane uses the dynamite to blow up the few remaining structures in Liberty and apparently dispatches the remains of the faceless twenty.  The next morning as Lane puts Mrs. Lowe and the gold on the train, apparently to return it to the railroad for a $50,000 reward, Lane and his men chivalrously give her their shares of the $50,000.  As the train pulls out, Montalban on the rear platform reveals that he is a Pinkerton man hired by Wells Fargo, that Matt Lowe was never married and that Mrs. Lowe worked at the whorehouse where he was shot.  Lane and his men charge after her on horseback, saying they’re going “To rob a train!”

There are a lot of pieces that seem familiar from earlier Wayne movies, but they don’t come together all that well.  The names of Lane and Mrs. Lowe seem to come from the principal characters in Hondo.  Wayne had met Christopher George on the set of El Dorado, and found parts for him here and in Chisum.  This was one of two late Wayne movies (with The Undefeated) in which Ben John plays his aging sidekick and mouthpiece, a device that becomes a bit tedious here.  One looks in vain for Bruce Cabot, who usually had a role in Batjac productions with John Wayne.  Australian actor Rod Taylor had been a big star in the 1960s (The Time Machine, Hitchcock’s The Birds), but his career was fading now and he has only a small part and third billing here.  His only other western was Chuka.  Wayne also appears to have been fond of Bobby Vinton (see him also in a small role in Big Jake), who was long past his teen-idol stage by 1973.  Ann-Margrett was not a great actress here, although Wayne apparently felt she tended to steal scenes.  At a time when revisionist westerns were in fashion, this is not at all revisionist.

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Ann-Margrett in uncharacteristic headgear.

Writer-director Burt Young was a Wayne favorite dating back to the 1950s; his best writing was for the Budd Boetticher-Randolph Scott westerns of the late 1950s (Seven Men From Now, Ride Lonesome et al.).  As a director his high point was the comedy Support Your Local Sheriff.  Although he continued to make westerns into the late 1980s (many of them featuring trains), no others are very distinguished.

The excellent cinematography is by William Clothier, making his last film.  The film is not long, at only 92 minutes, shot in color mostly on location in Mexico (Sonora and Durango).  Music is by Dominic Frontiere.

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Night Passage

Nicholas Chennault ~ January 16, 2016

Night Passage—James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Jay C. Flippen, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon De Wilde, Hugh Beaumont, Robert Wilke, Paul Fix, Olive Carey, Jack Elam, Chuck Roberson (1957; Dir: James Neilson)

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This is the movie that broke up the Anthony Mann-James Stewart partnership.  Beginning in 1950 director Mann and leading man Stewart had revitalized both westerns generally and Stewart’s career specifically with five westerns:  Winchester ’73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country and The Man from Laramie.  (They had also made three non-westerns together.)  Mann and Stewart had planned to work together on this one, although neither thought the script was strong enough.  Mann also thought Stewart and Audie Murphy were too different to be believable as brothers, he didn’t think much of Murphy’s acting skills generally, and he was not fond of the continual emphasis on Stewart’s accordion.  Stewart liked the idea of being able to show off his accordion skills (although all his accordion-playing in the film was later dubbed in by a more expert musician).  So Mann left the production to go make The Tin Star, Stewart stayed, and the two never worked together again.

At the start of the film, Grant McLaine (James Stewart) is scraping by playing his accordion for change.  He had once been a troubleshooter for the railroad but had been fired when he let an outlaw escape.  Now Kimball (Jay C. Flippen), the railroad’s boss and the older husband of McLaine’s former flame Verna (Elaine Stewart), reluctantly hires McLaine back for one job:  to get a $10,000 payroll through to the end of the line, despite Whitey Harbin’s gang.  Verna makes it clear she wouldn’t mind resuming their relationship, and McLaine encounters Charlie (Dianne Foster), whom he had known as the long-time girlfriend of the Utica Kid.  And he rescues Joey, a kid (Brandon De Wilde) being tormented by Concho (Robert J. Wilke).

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Grant McLaine (James Stewart) demonstrates his prowess with the accordion to Joey (Brandon De Wilde).

True to recent form, Whitey Harbin (Dan Duryea) and his gang, including the Utica Kid (Audie Murphy), rob the train.  Frustrated at not finding the payroll, they take Kimball’s wife Verna for ransom.  McLaine and his accordion show up at the abandoned mining camp where Harbin’s gang holes up, and it develops that McLaine and the Utica Kid are brothers.  The Utica Kid (real name:  Lee McLaine) was the outlaw Grant McLaine let go five years previously, ruining his career with the railroad.  Charlie arrives, too, and McLaine shoots it out with Concho, precipitating a fight with the whole gang.

In the course of the extended gun battle, McLaine sends Verna and the payroll in an ore cart to safety.  As he and Charlie trade shots with the gang, the Utica Kid reluctantly joins them.  (In general he finds McLaine’s attempts to reform him tiresome.)  But we know what traditionally happens to men with conflicted loyalties (see Randolph Scott in Western Union and Robert Preston in Union Pacific, to cite just two examples from railroading/technological westerns).  Utica takes a slug from Whitey, but McLaine gets Whitey.  In the end, McLaine heads off with Charlie, although they both would seem to need a longer mourning period for the Utica Kid before getting on with any relationship.

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Finally on the same side, the Utica Kid (Audie Murphy) and McLaine (James Stewart) shoot it out with Whitey Harbin and his gang.

So was Anthony Mann right?  The script is muddled and less than clear, the cast is talented but overlarge, Stewart (six feet three inches tall, 48 years old) and Murphy (five feet five inches tall, 31 years old) don’t seem much like brothers, and the accordion quickly becomes tiresome.  On the other hand, Murphy does fairly well in his role.  There is interesting interplay between Whitey (thoroughly bad) and the Utica Kid (some bad and some not so bad), who are obviously going to have it out at some point.  The movie was not well-received by critics or at the box office, Stewart seemed to blame Mann, and the two never spoke again.  Stewart didn’t agree to another western for four years, until he did Two Rode Together with director John Ford (not one of Ford’s best).

Dan Duryea, doing a humorless variation on his Waco Johnny Dean role from Winchester ’73, seems louder, more irritating and generally less successful here.  The two female roles are undistinguished, both in the writing and as executed on screen; Charlie, particularly, needed more.  There is a lot of talent involved here, but it doesn’t come together well.  It’s not really terrible, but not very good, either.  It probably would have benefited from an extensive script re-write, ditching the accordion and keeping Mann.

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Mann said later, “The story was so incoherent that I said the audience wouldn’t understand any of it.  But Jimmy was very set on that film.  He had to play the accordion and do a bunch of stunts that actors adore.  He didn’t care about the script whatever and I abandoned the production.  The picture was a total failure and Jimmy has always held it against me.”  Obviously, a clash of egos was involved, as often happens in movie-making.  Night Passage was perhaps not so total a failure as that, but Mann’s instincts were mostly right this time.

Shot in color near Silverton, Colorado, at 90 minutes; it was the first film made using the Technirama process.  The compact running time doesn’t really allow for enough development of the numerous characters, which may be one reason the women don’t seem all that interesting.  The cinematography by William H. Daniels is excellent.  The screenplay is by veteran screen writer Borden Chase (Red River, Winchester ’73, Bend of the River, The Far Country, Vera Cruz), and music is by Dimitri Tiomkin (too many westerns and other films to list, including several with John Wayne).  Director James Neilson was working mostly in television at the time and had a less-than-distinguished record in movies over his career.

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Santa Fe

Nicholas Chennault ~ June 8, 2015

Santa Fe—Randolph Scott, Janis Carter, John Archer, Roy Roberts (1951; Dir: Irving Pichel)

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In the wake of the Civil War, southerners Brit Canfield (Randolph Scott) and his three brothers have lost their plantation in Virginia and head west.  In northern Missouri, they encounter hostile Yankee soldiers and are forced to kill one.  In their escape (Scott leaves behind his beautiful horse Stardust, who disappears from the movie), they hop on a passing train and end up in Kansas.  Brit goes to work for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, but his embittered brothers fall in with Cole Sanders (Roy Roberts), operator of a mobile saloon with a lot of other unlawful activities.

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The Canfield brothers in northern Missouri. Randolph Scott (second from left) is still riding Stardust.

Brit quickly becomes the chief assistant and troubleshooter for Dave Baxter (Warner Anderson), a former Yankee officer who remembers Britt as a capable commander for the opposition during the late war.  Baxter’s clerk, payroll manager and telegraph operator Judith Chandler (Janis Carter) is initially hostile, having lost her husband in the Civil War action for which Baxter remembers him.  Sanders (and Canfield’s brothers) fire up Indian hostility to the railroad, until Britt lets the chief drive the iron horse.  Canfield is continually at war with Sanders, with his brothers caught in the middle.

With the railroad rushing to the Colorado state line to make a bonus, Sanders causes a drunkern surveyor to move the state line designation so that the bonus is imperiled until Brit and Baxter drive the construction through the night for the final 48 hours.  The Denver and Rio Grande threatens to take Raton Pass in eastern Colorado (effectively blocking the Atchison, Topeka) until Brit makes a marathon ride to buy the toll road in the pass from Uncle Dick Wooton first.

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Brit Canfield (Randolph Scott) meets the hostile Judith (Janis Carter). Note Scott’s trademark jacket.

A mysterious gang robs the train carrying the payroll, and Britt recognizes a couple of his brothers.  One of them is wounded and dies of his wounds.  Bat Masterson from Dodge City arrests the youngest brother until Britt creates a reasonable doubt for him, with the help of Judith Chandler.  Baxter sets up a decoy train, but Sanders overhears Britt telling his brothers it’s a trap, and they rob the Wells Fargo safe instead.  While pursuing the robbers, Britt encounters Bat Masterson and Baxter and persuades them to let him join their posse.

At a remote station they trap Sanders and his gang; when the remaining two Canfield brothers balk at killing during the escape, Sanders and his men shoot them.  Sanders and his remaining henchman leap aboard a passing train with Britt in pursuit, and since he’s Randolph Scott, we know how that will turn out.  Baxter finds that Judith has hidden a wanted poster for the Canfields and no longer trusts Brit; although the railroad makes it to Santa Fe (despite the name of the railroad, the original line didn’t go to Santa Fe), but by that time Brit is working for a railroad in Nevada.  When Judith finds out where he is, she goes to join him.  Fade to black.

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Brit Canfield (Randolph Scott) hunts for train robbers in the rocks.

This is one of several movies with Randolph Scott as a railroad troubleshooter (see Canadian Pacific and Carson City, for example) in building a western railway.  The film has a lot of plot and good action, with Scott continually torn between getting the railroad through and trying unsuccessfully to get his brothers to go straight.  There are some loose ends in all of this; it’s not clear why Sanders would profit from sabotaging the railroad, for example.  You’d think he would do best with his mobile saloon if the railroad prospered.  This isn’t one of the better supporting casts for a Randolph Scott western; Janis Carter is a fairly colorless female lead, as was common in those films.  The film starts with misattributing a well-known phrase from Lincoln’s second inaugural address to the Gettysburg Address; and includes windy Manifest-Destiny pronouncements and speeches by C.K. Holliday (Paul Stanton playing the owner of the railroad) on more than one occasion.

On the whole, however, this is worth watching, with lots of good action–one of the better Randolph Scott westerns from the early 1950s.  It would make a good double feature with Carson City.  Shot in color in Arizona by Charles (Buddy) Lawton, Jr., at 87 minutes.  This was one of the last films from director Irving Pichel.  The producer was Harry Joe Brown, who frequently worked on Scott projects, most notably those directed by Budd Boetticher in the late 1950s.

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Whispering Smith

Nicholas Chennault ~ March 9, 2015

Whispering Smith—Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Brenda Marshall, William Demarest, Donald Crisp (1948; Dir: Leslie Fenton)

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A frequently-told western railroading story with Alan Ladd in the title role of the railroad detective.  It was at least the sixth filmed story featuring the character Whispering Smith.  It’s melodramatic, with Ladd looking not entirely comfortable in his first western role and his first color film as a major star.  He was more convincing by the time he did Shane four years later.

Whispering Luke Smith is a railroad troubleshooter, and his old friend Murray Sinclair (Robert Preston) has started a ranch of his own and married Marian (Brenda Marshall), whom they both loved.  This is one of Preston’s patented old-friend-goes-bad roles, in which he seemed to specialize in the 1940s (see Union Pacific, North West Mounted Police and Blood on the Moon, for example).  Donald Crisp, instead of playing the personification of occasionally misguided rectitude as he usually did in westerns (The Man From Laramie, Saddle the Wind, Ramrod), is here not terribly persuasive as Barney Rebstock, a bandit chief and rustler.

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Alan Ladd as Whispering Smith; and production still of Brenda Marshall and Alan Ladd.  Having Ladd sit down disguises his short stature, always a visual problem when he wasn’t sitting on a horse.

In addition to running his ranch, Murray still works for the railroad, leading crews that clean up when a train is wrecked.  But he is edging more into wrecking trains for his own profit, after feeling disregarded by the bureaucracy of the company.  His relationship with Marian is becoming more strained as well, and he becomes more obsessed with the idea she might leave him for Smith.  This ends as it usually did for Preston in such roles.  Smith spends the movie balancing the duties of his job against his friendship with Murray, as well as his continuing regard and affection for Marian, while Murray gets deeper into anti-railroad crime.  Smith grapples with multiple bad guys, including the train-robbing Barton boys, Rebstock and his gunslinger Whitey, and it’s not clear until the end how his long-time friendship with Murray will turn out.

Brenda Marshall, then married to William Holden, made only one more film before retiring from the movie business.  Ladd and Preston were good friends, and this was the last of five movies in which they appeared together (This Gun For Hire, Variety Girl, Wild Harvest, etc.).  Ladd later became more comfortable and persuasive in westerns.  Not only did he go on to make the iconic Shane, for example, but he made a string of westerns in the 1950s, such as Branded, Drum Beat, Saskatchewan, Red Mountain and The Badlanders.  In color, at 88 minutes.

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Frank H. Spearman wrote the 1906 novel first using this character; at least one edition was illustrated by N.C. Wyeth.  The first Whispering Smith film was made in 1916, with the character said to be based at least in part on Joe LeFors, an actual western lawman (and sometime Union Pacific detective) based in Denver and Cheyenne who had chased Butch Cassidy and caught Tom Horn at the turn of the century.  Whispering Smith was played by silent star George O’Brien when he drifted into the lower-prestige genre of westerns during the 1930s.  After this 1948 film, the character was used once more in Whispering Smith Hits London (1952), after which he was retired from the movies, apparently for good.  He showed up on television for twenty episodes beginning in 1961, played by Audie Murphy.

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Whispering Smith (J.P. McGowan) in a scene from the 1916 movie of that name.

 

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Frank and Jesse

Nicholas Chennault ~ February 16, 2015

Frank and Jesse—Rob Lowe, Bill Paxton, Randy Travis, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Maria Patillo, Sean Patrick Flanery, William Atherton (1995; Dir: Robert Boris)

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This was not in fact originally made for television, although something about it has that feel.  The best actor in this film is Bill Paxton, who plays Frank James, although Rob Lowe as Jesse James is better than you’d expect.  There are lots of historical inaccuracies, but it’s not terrible; there are many worse Jesse James movies out there.  This sticks to some of the facts about the James brothers, using the dates for some of their better-known depredations.  But it juggles around others and feels free to invent things whenever it wants.

The outlines of the James brothers’ story are familiar by now.  Frank and Jesse are veterans of the Missouri border wars in the Civil War, having ridden as guerrillas with both William Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson.  (Frank refers to both of them having participated in Quantrill’s infamous raid on Lawrence, Kansas.  Frank was probably there, but Jesse wasn’t.)  They are less than comfortable in a post-war Missouri where carpetbaggers and avaricious Yankee railroads play prominent roles, oppressing honest citizens.  Pinkertons hired by the railroad attack their mother’s home (the famous attack is out of sequence in their career, and the results weren’t exactly as depicted); the brothers pay the mortgage for a widow who helps them.

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The James brothers (Rob Lowe as Jesse, Bill Paxton as Frank) on the run.

They are driven deeper into a life of crime, assembling a gang with the Younger brothers, Bob and Cole (Randy Travis), Clell Miller, Archie Clements (who was actually killed during the war) and the Ford brothers (much earlier than the Fords were actually involved with the Jameses).  They rob the Gallatin bank in 1869 (it actually took place in 1866), killing the Yankee manager who insults their Confederate service.  Frank is depicted as against killing and being the brains behind the gang’s public relations activities.  Jesse is colder and quicker to kill.  We are glad when Frank loses the distracting tricorn hat.  The gang robs trains, on one of which they encounter Allan Pinkerton (William Atherton, whom we are quick to recognize as slimy after his roles in the Die Hard movies), which never happened.  Jesse and Allan Pinkerton never met, as far as we know.

The famous Northfield raid of 1876 is not very accurate.  When the gang arrives in September, there is snow on the ground.  The gang shoots down a number of townspeople; in fact, two people were killed, aside from gang members.  It shows Charlie Ford having previously warned the Pinkertons of the raid, which didn’t happen.  Both Cole and Bob Younger, as well as their brother Jim, who is not shown in the movie, were shot up.  But Cole didn’t kill a dying Bob, as shown here.  All three Youngers were taken prisoner, and Bob died in prison some years later.  Nothing much is shown of the six years between the Northfield raid and Jesse’s killing in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1882.  Both Jesse and Frank get married, to Zee (Maria Pitillo) and Annie (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), and attempt to have family lives while on the run.

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Allan Pinkerton (William Atherton) has the James gang in his sights.

In the end, the Ford brothers approach Jesse with the intention of killing him, motivated by both threats and promised rewards from Pinkerton.  This shows Charlie doing the shooting, when it was Bob who killed Jesse.  It depicts Jesse as knowing what was coming, cooperating with it, returning the gun and even deliberately turning his back for the shot, thinking it would get the authorities off Frank’s back.

This is not in the same league with The Long Riders (1980) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), but it doesn’t have that kind of ambition.  It’s better than American Outlaws, for example.  It’s worth watching for its version of the interplay between Frank and Jesse.  A little familiarity with Jesse and Frank’s careers and chronology is helpful, but don’t take them all that seriously.  Just enjoy this for what it is, including the fact that Rob Lowe isn’t as bad as you expect.  He makes a decent Jesse James, better than many on film.  Enjoy William Atherton’s malevolent self-righteousness as Allan Pinkerton.  Bill Paxton and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson had parts in 1993’s Tombstone, as Morgan Earp and Mattie Blaylock, respectively.  Normally, the presence of a country music star in a western is not a good sign, but Randy Travis is better as Cole Younger than some others have been, with a distinctive voice that seems to fit.  Sean Patrick Flanery shows up as a Chicago Tribune reporter, a sort of sympathetic counterpoint to Pinkerton.

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In color, rated R, written and directed by Robert Boris at 105 minutes.  Apparently its numerous departures from the facts were made consciously.  At the end of the movie, it makes this disclaimer:  “This motion picture is based upon actual events.  However, some of the characters and incidents portrayed and many of the names used herein are fictitious; any similarity of such character, incident, or name, to the name, characters or history of any person, whether living or dead, is entirely coincidental and unintentional.”  The title is sometimes written as Frank & Jesse.

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Wyoming

Nicholas Chennault ~ February 2, 2015

Wyoming—Wallace Beery, Leo Carillo, Marjorie Main, Ann Rutherford, Joseph Calleia, Paul Kelly, Bobs Watson, Henry Travers, Chill Wills (1940; Dir: Richard Thorpe)

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This is a Wallace Beery vehicle, with Beery doing his patented old-cuss-goes-straight-through-love-of-a-child shtick, which had worked so well in The Champ with Jackie Cooper almost a decade earlier.  This time it’s set in the west, in Wyoming, to be exact.  George Custer is still alive, so it’s 1876 or so.  And Custer is still a hero, as he would be in the biopic They Died With Their Boots On (where he was played by Errol Flynn), released about the same time.  This is also the first cinematic pairing of Beery and Marjorie Main as a quasi-romantic cantankerous older couple, which they would repeat in Bad Bascomb, among several other films.  It is also a range war story, with Sitting Bull’s Sioux thrown in for good measure.

Reb Harkness (Wallace Beery) and his partner Pete Marillo (Leo Carillo) are former Confederates who have had to flee Missouri, where they are wanted.  Moving west, they rob trains but make the mistake of robbing one carrying Col. George Custer (Paul Kelly) and the officers of the 7th Cavalry, who give pursuit.  Pete takes Reb’s horse and all the money, and Reb falls in with returning Confederate Dave Kincaid, heading for his ranch in Wyoming.  (One has no idea what Kincaid has been doing in eleven years since the end of the Civil War, but he’s still wearing parts of his uniform.)

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John Buckley (Joseph Calleia) and Reb Harkness (Wallace Beery) become adversaries in the local range war.

Reb in turn takes Dave’s horse and equipment as they get close to the ranch.  Dave happens upon horsemen making off with his cattle and is shot down.  Hearing the shots, Reb turns back and finds Dave’s body.  He takes it to the ranch, where he meets Dave’s daughter Lucy (the young Ann Rutherford) and young son Jimmy (Bobs Watson).  He also meets, and is taken with, Mehitabel (Marjorie Main), the local blacksmith’s sister.  The town and the Sweetwater Valley are increasingly controlled by John Buckley (Joseph Calleia), who feels free to make off with any cattle in the vicinity and wants to acquire all the land.  Reb hopes to even things by robbing a stage with several of Buckley’s men, returning after selling the Kincaid cattle.  In a shootout, Reb kills them all; he gives the money to Lucy.  When Mehitabel shoes his horse, Reb is even more infatuated with her.

The ineffective sheriff (Henry Travers) is under the control of Buckley; he jails Reb when Reb is captured by Custer and his men.  Reb manages to escape without being shot down as Buckley planned, hiding out at the Kincaid Ranch.  Meanwhile, Buckley manages to get Custer ordered to Laramie while he finishes stealing all the valley’s cattle.  Reb leads the ranchers in taking them back, and Buckley retaliates by offering Sitting Bull’s Sioux guns for taking care of Reb and his allies.  As they are besieged on the Kincaid Ranch, Custer and the cavalry ride to the rescue.  They take Buckley into custody, and look the other way with Reb.  So Reb appears to get away with his previous life of crime, unlike most movies of the time.  Custer says he’s off to the Little Bighorn to deal with Sitting Bull, and we know how that ends.

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Marjorie Main and Wallace Beery begin a cinematic association that continues for several more movies.

Beery was a decent actor, as demonstrated by his ability to depict good relationships with children despite the fact he couldn’t stand them and treated child actors badly.  Eighteen-year-old Ann Rutherford, who had been a child actor, was doing ingenue roles in Andy Hardy movies and playing Scarlett O’Hara’s sister in Gone With the Wind.  She did not get along well with Beery, either, but he was a much bigger star.  This kind of story played better in the 1940s than it does now, and the aging Beery (then 55) played variations on it for the rest of his career.  Malta-born Joseph Calleia was a good actor who often played villains in movies; he has better material in Four Faces West and Branded, however, where he played more ambiguous characters.  The blacksmith Lafe is played by an uncredited Chill Wills.  An alternative early title was Bad Man of Wyoming, simplified to just Wyoming.

Director Richard Thorpe had made 50 silent westerns and worked on into the 1960s.  MGM put more money into the production of this film than it did into most westerns, and it was shot on location in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  In plot and location, this has eerie similarities to Shane more than a decade later. And it also has similarities to Beery’s own Bad Bascomb (1946) with Margaret O’Brien and Marjorie Main, also shot in Jackson Hole.  To modern audiences it seems kind of old-fashioned, and not just because of the cinematic technology of 1940.  In black and white, at 88 minutes.

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The earliest western shot in Jackson Hole is said to have been the silent movie The Cowboy and the Lady (1922), with ingenue Mary Miles Minter.  Part of Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail (1931) had been shot there, with wagons being lowered down cliffs into the valley.  Beery was so taken with the place he built a cabin on the shores of Jackson Lake and even participated in a protest with local ranchers in 1943.

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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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Bad Girls

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 7, 2014

Bad Girls—Madeleine Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Drew Barrymore, Andie MacDowell, Dermot Mulroney, James Russo, James LeGros, Robert Loggia, Nick Chinlund (1994; Dir: Jonathan Kaplan)

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This is a modern feminist fantasy set in the southwest in 1891, with a few anachronistic touches.  Despite what one might expect from that description, it is (a) directed by a male and (b) fairly successful as a western.

The four women of the title are “bad” because they meet while working as prostitutes in a saloon in Echo City, Colorado.  When a socially-prominent customer referred to as “the Colonel” becomes abusive to Anita Crown (Mary Stuart Masterson), Cody Zamora (Madeleine Stowe, who may have been the most beautiful woman in the movies in the early 1990s) gives him a warning, and, when he pulls a gun and starts shooting, she coolly shoots him.  She is about to be lynched for the shooting, when her three compatriots, Anita, Lilly Laronette (Drew Barrymore) and Eileen Spenser (Andie MacDowell), rescue her and they all ride out of town.  The Colonel’s widow hires Pinkertons to go after them.

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The girls: Mary Stuart Masterson, Drew Barrymore, Andie MacDowell and Madeleine Stowe.

Anita, who is a young widow, still has her husband’s homestead claim in Oregon, where she proposes to start a sawmill.  Cody has more than $12,000 in savings to help start the venture.  They head for Agua Dulce, a town not far from the Rio Grande in south Texas, where Cody’s money is in a local bank.  While trying to withdraw her money, Cody encounters a bank robbery being conducted by Kid Jarrett (James Russo) and his gang, with whom she has history.  The Kid makes off with her money, too, which she takes as an invitation to visit.  Eileen, who is not good with horses, is captured.  While in jail, she strikes up a conversation with modest rancher William Tucker (James LeGros), who eventually allows her to escape.

Cody heads south of the border to the Jarrett gang’s retreat.  The Kid’s father Frank (Robert Loggia), once head of the gang, had taken Cody in when she was fourteen.  Although he says he’ll give her back her money, the Kid beats her badly for leaving them years ago.  She is found barely able to ride by Joshua McCoy (Dermot Mulroney), who smuggles her back into Agua Dulce and gets her injuries tended.  He has been hunting the Jarrett gang because Frank Jarrett killed his father, stole their claim and caused his mother to fall into prostitution and an early death.

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James Russo as outlaw chieftain Kid Jarrett.

Cody knows that Kid Jarrett plans to hit a train to get gold and a gatling gun.  She, the three other girls and McCoy and Tucker, using dynamite, instead interrupt the robbery and take the gun and Frank Jarrett, while the Kid makes off with Lily.  Although they plan to trade Frank for Lily, Frank taunts McCoy into killing him, and Cody forces McCoy to leave.  He goes back to the Jarretts’ retreat and kills several of them, helping Lilly escape.

When Cody, Anita, Lilly and Eileen bring the gatling gun to trade for Cody’s money, the Kid agrees but kills McCoy, precipitating a general gunfight.  The girls are surprisingly good with guns.  Finally it comes down to the Kid against Cody, and she wins.  They bury McCoy, Eileen stays with William, and Cody, Anita and Lilly head off for the Klondike.  They ride off into the sunset as the now-bumbling Pinkertons question a rancher in the foreground.

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Eileen (Andie MacDowell), Lilly (Drew Barrymore) and Cody (Madeleine Stowe) shoot it out with Jarrett’s gang.

With a large cast like this, and only 99 minutes, some elements of character and plot are bound to be underdeveloped.  Lilly, in particular, although there is the implication of a lesbian relationship with Eileen, seems not fleshed out enough.  Andie MacDowell never is very convincing with guns.  The real women of the west, obviously, were not this glamorous.  The four female leads are good in their roles generally, and, surprisingly enough, so are three of the male characters:  Dermot Mulroney as McCoy, James LeGros as the low-key William Tucker, and James Russo as Kid Jarrett, who nevertheless seems a bit over the top in his loathsomeness.  (Apparently being a bad guy in westerns was a good fit.  See him also as a talkative white slaver in Broken Trail, and as a corrupt marshal in Open Range.)  The excellent music is by Jerry Goldsmith and occasionally elegant cinematography by Ralf Bode.  The “extended cut” of the movie available on DVD is not much longer than the theatrical release version (100-104 minutes), but is said to include an additional nude shot or two.  Both versions are rated R.

Tamra Davis started as director of this film, with a script written by Yolande Turner and Becky Johnston.  A few weeks into filming, the production company became unhappy with the direction the film was taking.  They shut down production, replaced Davis with Jonathan Kaplan, had the script completely rewritten and sent the four main actresses off to “cowboy camp” to learn how to shoot, rope and ride.  Drew Barrymore, in particular, was unhappy with the sacking of Davis.  The new writing is nothing remarkable.  The set used for Kid Jarrett’s hideout was built for Alamo: The Price of Freedom (1988).  Kid Jarrett’s room is the Alamo set interior, designed by Roger Ragland.  The town is on location in Alamo Village, Bracketville, Texas, designed by Alfred Ybarra for John Wayne’s production of The Alamo (1960).

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Three of the stars (Masterson, Barrymore and MacDowell) with director Kaplan.

So what’s anachronistic here?  The women often wear pants and attire of other sorts that weren’t worn in the 1890s, at least by women in public.  The use of “Cody” as a first name is fairly recent, and even then is almost always male.  The Klondike references are about seven years too early in 1891.  The women’s social attitudes are obviously more 1990s than 1890s.  For earlier westerns focusing on women, see William Wellman’s Westward the Women (1951) and George Marshall’s Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957), both of which feature Hope Emerson.  For Madeleine Stowe in another western, see her in Last of the Mohicans (1992).  For another variation on the female buddy western, see Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz in Bandidas (2003).

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Carson City

Nicholas Chennault ~ October 20, 2014

Carson City—Randolph Scott, Raymond Massey, Lucille Norman, Richard Webb, Larry Keating (1952; Dir: Andre de Toth)

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Despite the name, this is not a mining western but a railroading western.  (Carson City and Virginia City were in the heart of the fabled Comstock Lode silver-mining country.)  It is not the very best work in the genre by one-eyed Hungarian director Andre de Toth (see Ramrod and Day of the Outlaw) or by star Randolph Scott during the early 1950s (see maybe Hangman’s Knot), but it is an above-average western with a reputable star and director.

Silent Jeff Kincaid (a not-so-silent Randolph Scott) has developed a reputation as a railroad construction engineer able to deal with tough terrain.  San Francisco banker William Sharon (Larry Keating) wants to build a railroad line in the mountains between between Virginia City and Carson City on the Nevada side of the Sierra Nevada range.  Kincaid knows the territory well because he grew up there.  His half brother Alan is still there, although Kincaid hasn’t been back in a dozen years or more.

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The brothers (Richard Webb, Randolph Scott) meet, along with the newspaper publisher’s daughter (Lucille Norman).

As Kincaid rides back into town, he is greeted by Susan Mitchell (Lucille Norman), daughter of the local newspaper publisher.   She was only thirteen when Jeff left town, but she had a crush on him.  Working with the Mitchells is brother Alan Kincaid (Richard Webb), who has a relationship of sorts with Susan.  Banker Sharon wants the new line to avoid bandits who’ve been robbing stages, but newspaperman Mitchell and most of the rest of the town like it the way it is and don’t want the riotous changes railroaders will bring.

The bandits are led by mine owner Big Jack Davis (Raymond Massey), whose mine is played out, and by his henchman Squires (James Millican).  They try to sabotage the new line at every turn, smashing up a wagon load of equipment and killing the driver, then engineering a landslide that kills three others and traps Kincaid and several others in a blocked tunnel.  They are rescued by a joint town-railroad effort that punches through the tunnel from the other side.  Davis kills Susan’s father when he thinks he knows too much.  Some suspect Kincaid of having had a hand in Mitchell’s murder to silence opposition, and Susan isn’t sure.  Alan becomes hostile because he thinks Susan is becoming too fond of Jeff.

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Kincaid (Randolph Scott) rescues Susan (Lucille Norman) from a railroad-building blast.

On the line’s opening run, there is a big celebration, but Davis plans to rob the train as it returns from Virginia City to Carson City.  Jeff gets wind of these plans and rides with miners to the site of the robbery.  As Davis and Squires are getting away with the gold bullion, Davis shoots Squires in the back and heads into the rocks.  In an extended shootout, Alan is killed but Jeff gets Davis.  In the end, it looks like Jeff gets Susan and is about to be talked into taking on the building of another tricky line of railroad.

Most of Randolph Scott’s westerns in the early 1950s were made for Columbia and Warner Bros.  They tended to be made with comparatively low budgets, and this showed up principally in the writing, the hiring of the director and the supporting players.  Here the director is better than in most, but the weaknesses are in the supporting cast.  Raymond Massey could usually do a pretty juicy villain pretending to respectability (see Dallas, for example), and he does it well here.  But Richard Webb, playing blond brother Alan, is not very memorable, nor is Warners starlet Lucille Norman—another in a string of forgettable romantic interests in Scott westerns.  The assumption seems to be that if Jeff Kincaid left Carson City twelve years ago, maybe he’s about 35 years old; but Randolph Scott, although he is aging very well, is closer to 55.  That’s about 30 years older than Lucille Norman.  During the shootout in the rocks, the figure in black leaping around the rocks with great agility is clearly not a Randolph Scott in his mid-fifties.  One co-star worth looking for:  Scott’s beautiful dark palomino Stardust.

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With those grumbles, this film moves right along, and if you’re a Randolph Scott fan, it’s worth watching.  This is the second of six Randolph Scott westerns directed by Andre de Toth.  After two or three more years and four more westerns, De Toth would tire of the restrictions of low budgets and other frustrations that came with Scott westerns, and would decide to make no more of them.  But this is a pretty good one.  According to Robert Knott, author of The Films of Randolph Scott, it is “the absolute best Warner Bros. Scott western of the period.”  (Hangman’s Knot was a Columbia production.)  In color, at 86 minutes.

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Westerns and Technology, Part 2

Nicholas Chennault ~ October 17, 2014

Westerns, Technology and Manifest Destiny, Part 2

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A.J. Russell’s famous photograph of the driving of the golden spike on completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah, in 1869.

This is the second of two posts on technology as depicted in westerns.  The previous post described in general terms how westerns have treated the push westward of both population and such technologies as railroads and telegraphs during the 19th century.  Now we get more specific, with lists of movies in which such technologies and business form a significant element.

As always the lists below have likely left out some examples.  If you can think of others that belong, leave a comment.

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1871 print by Currier & Ives, featuring “Prairie Fires of the Great West.”  And what would a prairie fire be without a train?

Technological Expansion Westerns, Mostly Featuring Railroads

The Iron Horse (1924; Dir: Ford)
The Telegraph Trail–Wayne (1933)
Wells Fargo—McCrea, Dee (1937)
Union Pacific—McCrea, Stanwyck, Preston (1941; Dir:  DeMille)
Western Union—Scott, Young, Jagger (telegraph, 1941; Dir:  Lang)
Whispering Smith—Ladd, Preston (1948)
Canadian Pacific—Scott, Wyatt (1949)
A Ticket to Tomahawk—Dailey, Baxter, Calhoun (1950)
Carson City—Scott, Massey (1952; Dir: De Toth)
Denver and Rio Grande—Hayden, O’Brien, Jagger (1952)
Kansas Pacific—Hayden (1953; Dir: Nazarro)
Pony Express—Heston (1953)
Overland Pacific—Mahoney, Castle (1954; Dir: Sears)
Rails Into Laramie—Payne (1954)
Santa Fe—Scott (1951)
How the West Was Won—Stewart, Peppard et al. (1962)
Scalplock—Robertson (1966)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968; Dir: Leone)

TechWestCassidyPosse

The special posse led by lawman Joe LeFors that set out after Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch after their train robbery at Tipton, Wyoming, on August 29, 1900.  It didn’t catch them.

Train Robbing Westerns

The Great Train Robbery (1903, Dir. Porter)
The Great K & A Train Robbery (1926, Dir: Seiler)
Most historically-based movies about Jesse James
Dodge City (1939)
The Return of Frank James (1940)
Whispering Smith (1948)
Colorado Territory (1948)
Rage at Dawn (1955)
Night Passage (1957)
Cat Ballou (1965)
Shenandoah (1965)
The Professionals (1966)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Five Man Army (1970)
Rio Lobo (1970)
One More Train to Rob (1971)
Red Sun (1971)
The Train Robbers (1973)
The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973)
Posse (1975)
The Frisco Kid (1979)
The Long Riders (1980)
The Grey Fox (1982)
American Outlaws (2001)
The Lone Ranger (2013)

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One of the three train crashes in The Lone Ranger, 2013.

Train Crashes

Dodge City (1939)
Union Pacific (1941, two crashes)
Duel in the Sun (1946)
Whispering Smith (1948)
Denver and Rio Grande (1952)
The Spoilers (1955)
How the West Was Won (1962)
Custer of the West (1967)
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969)
100 Rifles (1969)
Rio Lobo (1970)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)
Joe Kidd (1972)
Breakheart Pass (1975)
The Wild Wild West (1999)
The Legend of Zorro (2005)
The Lone Ranger (2013, three crashes)

Catching Trains

High Noon (1952)
Dawn at Socorro (1954)
3:10 to Yuma (original, 1957, and remake, 2007)
Last Train from Gun Hill (1959)

Train Chases

The General (1926)
Rails into Laramie (1954)
The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)
The Lone Ranger (2013)

Private Trains

Cat Ballou (1965)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Posse (1975)
The Lone Ranger (2013)

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Hackman and Coburn are forced to use modern technology in Bite the Bullet.

Motorcycles in the Changing West

Big Jake (1971)
Bite the Bullet (1975)

Automobiles in the Changing West

The Moonlighter (1953)
Ride the High Country (1962)
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969)
Big Jake (1971)
The Shootist (1976)

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John Wayne and an unusual steed in 1970, when he was filming Big Jake, a western set in 1909.

Steampunk Elements in Westerns

The Wild Wild West (1999)
Jonah Hex (2010)
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

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A steampunk Kenneth Branagh in The Wild, Wild West, 1999.

 

 

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