Tag Archives: William Holden

The Revengers

Nicholas Chennault ~ July 13, 2015

The Revengers—William Holden, Susan Hayward, Ernest Borgnine, Woody Strode, Arthur Hunnicutt, Jorge Luke, Warren Vanders (1972; Dir: Daniel Mann)

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It is doubtful that “revengers” is even a real word, but you get the idea.  Somebody’s after vengeance in this Dirty-Dozen-style flick.  That would be John Benedict (a visibly aging William Holden at 54, after years of hard living).  He’s a Colorado rancher whose family is slaughtered by Comancheros and their Comanche allies during a horse-stealing raid.  He tracks them down to the borders of the U.S. and Mexico, and figures he needs help.  Spotting a Mexican prison that rents out convict labor, he hires six of their worst inmates.  Leaving the guards behind, he gets the six decent clothes and weapons, but has some difficulty getting their active allegiance (a staple of this kind of film).

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John Benedict (William Holden, upper left) and his newly-recruited gang, including Ernest Borgnine (tall hat) and Woody Strode (front right).

He leads them in an attack on the Comanchero stronghold, getting most of them, but the leader Tarp (Warren Vanders) escapes although wounded.  Depressed at this failure, Benedict drinks heavily and has a falling-out with one of the six, a Mexican gunslinger who fancies that he may be Benedict’s son.  The six scatter, and Benedict, grievously wounded, is tended by the local healer, an Irish nurse of a certain age named Elizabeth Reilly (Susan Hayward).  There is some attraction between them during the time it takes Benedict to heal, but he rides off in search of closure with Tarp. However, he is arrested and thrown in the Mexican prison from which he had helped the six escape.

Two of the six, Hoop (Ernest Borgnine) and Chamaco (Jorge Luke), the Mexican gunslinger, reassemble the six.  They spring Benedict from the Mexican prison and resume the search for Tarp, whom they find held by a small U.S. cavalry unit besieged by Comanches and Comancheros.  They want him back.  Benedict proposes to kill Tarp and send him back to the Comanches that way, but doesn’t proceed with that out of respect for the badly wounded lieutenant in charge.  Benedict and the six join the outnumbered cavalry and use dynamite and a little artillery to make a last stand.  The cavalry wins, but not without casualties.  The lieutenant and the Mexican gunslinger Chamaco are among them.  And Benedict rides away without killing Tarp, having belatedly decided that revenge is an empty motivation.

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The wounded Benedict (William Holden) and Irish nurse Reilly (Susan Hayward) get to know each other.

There are a couple of things about the movie that don’t work very well.  One is the interlude with the Irish nurse (Susan Hayward) that doesn’t really go anywhere. Her accent isn’t good; it clanks as badly as Barbara Stanwyck’s faux-Irish in Union Pacific (1939).  When Hayward makes a reference to the possibility of having children, we notice that she seems to be in her fifties (at 55, she was a year older than Holden and three years away from her death of cancer) and children are improbable.  Benedict is supposed to be good with a gun, but he looks his age, his shoulders are rounded by now, and he’s not all that persuasive as a gunslinger.  And the ending, with Benedict just walking away from the revenge that has been the point of the movie, is similarly unpersuasive.  At the least, you’d expect that one of the remaining five would get Tarp, since they’ve all demonstrated that they’re not good at impulse control.  Most of the six are not well fleshed-out characters, but the film does keep moving.

Daniel Mann (The Rose Tattoo [1955], The Teahouse of the August Moon [1956], Butterfield 8 [1960], Our Man Flint [1966] et al.) didn’t do many westerns; this may be the only one.  Holden and Borgnine (a replacement for Van Heflin after Heflin’s unexpected death) were reunited from The Wild Bunch (1969) for more adventures in Mexico, but this doesn’t remotely approach that classic in quality.  This is Holden’s last western.  Hayward, in her extraneous role, was coming to the end of her career and wasn’t making many movies.  This was written by Wendell Mayes, who had been nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for Anatomy of a Murder.(1956), and who went on to write the blockbuster Death Wish and Towering Inferno.  The music occasionally reminds one of 1970s television.  In color, shot in Sonora, Mexico, at 106 minutes.  It was made available on DVD in May 2014, with a blu-ray to come in August 2015.

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Benedict (William Holden) prepares to hold off the Comancheros and their Indian allies.

Although it was released in the heyday of the revisionist westerns of the 1970s, this is more traditional in its approach and sensibility.  For better Holden and Borgnine at this late stage of their careers, see, obviously, The Wild Bunch.  For good Susan Hayward in a western, you have to go back twenty years to Rawhide (1951) and Garden of Evil (1954).

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Shooting Stars, Part 3

Nicholas Chennault ~ May 14, 2015

Shooting Stars:  A Ranking of the 29 Greatest Western Actors Since 1939
Part 3—Eleven Through Fifteen

Here we continue with our ranking of the top actors in westerns since 1939.  For the top ten such actors, see our posts Shooting Stars Part 1 and Shooting Stars Part 2.

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11.  James Garner [Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, Hour of the Gun, Duel at Diablo, Support Your Local Sheriff, Support Your Local Gunfighter, Skin Game, A Man Called Sledge, The Castaway Cowboy, One Little Indian, Murphy’s Romance, Sunset, Maverick; on television, Maverick, Bret Maverick and The Streets of Laredo]

Oklahoma native James Garner is best known for his roles as an amiable western con-man, first demonstrated in the Maverick television series of the late 1950s.  He was better at that kind of role than anybody else (see Support Your Local Sheriff, Skin Game and Support Your Local Gunfighter).  He successfully played variants of that role in movies set in more modern times, including a couple of good ones set in World War II (The Great Escape [1963] and The Americanization of Emily [1964]) and a number of 1960s romantic comedies (Boys’ Night Out with Kim Novak, Cash McCall with Natalie Wood, The Thrill of It All and Move Over, Darling, both with Doris Day).  But that wasn’t the limit of his talents.  He could also do well at a kind of grim, humorless role, as he showed in Duel at Diablo (1966) and while playing Wyatt Earp in John Sturges’ Hour of the Gun (1967).  It was his misfortune that mainstream westerns were starting to decline in popularity when he was at his peak, and by the mid-1970s he was showing up in light, Disney-produced westerns with Vera Miles that haven’t been much seen (The Castaway Cowboy, One Little Indian).  More successful was his venture back into television as private detective Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files (for six seasons, starting in 1974).

In the later stages of his career, he was very good in a modern romantic western with Sally Field in Murphy’s Romance (1985), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.  He showed up in two more westerns, once again as an aging Wyatt Earp in Hollywood of the late 1920s in Sunset (1988), and in the Mel Gibson Maverick remake (1994).  He returned to television with a short-lived series reprising his original Maverick character in Bret Maverick (1981) and with a credible turn playing an aging Capt. Woodrow Call in the television miniseries The Streets of Laredo (1995), based on a sequel to Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.  (One story has it that he had been offered the role of either Woodrow Call or Gus McCrae–his choice–in the original Lonesome Dove miniseries but was sidelined by health problems.  Lonesome Dove, of course, went on to become a classic with Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall in those roles.)  An interesting sidelight of his late career was to see him together with fellow westerns star Clint Eastwood as aging astronauts in Space Cowboys (2000).

Like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, Garner was long interested in automobile racing.  He was a good enough driver that he did his own driving stunts in The Rockford Files because he was better at it than any stuntman they could find.   In a 1973 interview, John Wayne called James Garner the best American actor.  Of all his films, The Americanization of Emily, with Julie Andrews (1964), was said to be Garner’s favorite—an excellent movie, wonderfully written and superbly acted but unfortunately not a western.

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12.  Burt Lancaster [Vengeance Valley, The Kentuckian, Vera Cruz, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Unforgiven, The Hallelujah Trail, The Professionals, The Scalphunters, Valdez Is Coming, Lawman, Ulzana’s Raid]

Burt Lancaster was one of the biggest movie stars of his time, from the late 1940s well into the 1970s.  Known especially for a vigorous brand of physical athleticism (he had once been a circus acrobat), an equally vigorous growth of hair and a large grin showing off a full set of very white teeth, he was willing to take any role that interested him.  He won an Academy Award as Best Actor for his performance in Elmer Gantry (1960).  For an early performance in a western, see him as the grinning unscrupulous quasi-outlaw Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954), playing with and against the more traditional and stolid Gary Cooper.  One of many to play Wyatt Earp, he did a credible version in John Sturges’ Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), and he could also play a certain kind of comedy convincingly (The Hallelujah Trail [1965], The Scalphunters [1968]).  He was not afraid of taking a role secondary to lesser star Lee Marvin in The Professionals (1966), and his strong performance alongside Marvin made for an excellent western.

By the 1970s, as westerns faded in popularity as a cinematic genre, Lancaster was doing some of his strongest work in westerns as old scout Bob Valdez in Valdez Is Coming (1971) and as old scout Archie McIntosh in Ulzana’s Raid (1972), probably the last really good cavalry movie.  He’s even good as the central figure in the revisionist Lawman (1971) with Robert Ryan, which otherwise has some problems with its writing and direction.

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13.  Gregory Peck [Yellow Sky, Duel in the Sun, The Gunfighter, Only the Valiant, The Big Country, The Bravados, How the West Was Won, The Stalking Moon, Mackenna’s Gold, Shoot Out, Billy Two Hats, The Old Gringo]

Gregory Peck shared Joel McCrea’s ability to project a basic American style of decency, although his brand of that quality was a little flintier and less self-effacing than McCrea’s.  His ultimate cinematic expression of that quality is probably as southern lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).  It made him convincing in playing reforming outlaws (Yellow Sky [1948], The Gunfighter [1950]), but less so in portraying bad guys (Duel in the Sun, 1947).  He was a big star, both comfortable and convincing at the center of a large-budget production (The Big Country [1958]).

He didn’t make many westerns in the 1960s, part of his period of greatest stardom—only appearing in How the West Was Won (1962), as one among many stars.  Toward the end of the decade he appeared in a fairly good western thriller (The Stalking Moon [1968]), but like others he didn’t fare well as the genre, and his career generally, moved into a twilight period.  He showed up in such turkeys as Mackenna’s Gold (1969) and Billy Two Hats (1974).  Shoot Out (1971), which is watchable but not remarkable, is probably his best western from this period.  In his last western, he starred as crusty writer Ambrose Bierce, the titular character in The Old Gringo, during the period of Mexican revolutions in the 1910s, with Jane Fonda (1989).  He is justly praised for The Gunfighter and The Big Country; Yellow Sky and The Bravados are probably the most underrated of the westerns in which Peck appeared.

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14.  William Holden [Arizona, Texas, The Man From Colorado, Rachel and the Stranger, Streets of Laredo, Escape from Fort Bravo, The Horse Soldiers, Alvarez Kelly, The Wild Bunch, The Wild Rovers, The Revengers]

Like Burt Lancaster and Gregory Peck, William Holden is not remembered first for his westerns.  He is remembered first for his roles as the young writer found floating face down in a swimming pool in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, and for Wilder’s World War II drama Stalag 17, for which he won his Best Actor Oscar.  But his slightly acid modern-seeming persona translated well enough to westerns if the material and directing were right.  He starred in them from his earliest days in the movies, beginning before World War II with Arizona, with Jean Arthur and Edgar Buchanan (1940), and Texas, with Glenn Ford and Edgar Buchanan (1941).  After service in the war, he resumed his film career generally, and westerns specifically, with such good films as The Man from Colorado, again with Glenn Ford (1948) and with the colonial western Rachel and the Stranger, with Loretta Young and Robert Mitchum (1948).

Even with his success and elevation to stardom with Sunset Boulevard and Stalag 17, he made the occasional good western during the 1950s, working with director John Sturges in the underrated Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) and with John Ford in the Civil War cavalry story The Horse Soldiers, playing an army doctor continually feuding with John Wayne (1959).  Even as Holden’s alcoholism took its toll on him, Holden’s work in the 1960s included the good Civil War story Alvarez Kelly, with Richard Widmark (1966), and the western for which he is best remembered now:  Sam Peckinpah’s landmark The Wild Bunch (1969), in which Holden very effectively plays Pike Bishop, leader of an aging outlaw gang trying to pull off a last job amid the Mexican revolutions of the 1910s.  His career in westerns ended on an ignominious note with The Wild Rovers (1971), although the seldom-seen The Revengers (1972) is slightly better.

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15.  Kirk Douglas [Along the Great Divide, The Big Sky, Man Without a Star, Last Train from Gun Hill, The Indian Fighter, Gunfight at the OK Corral, Lonely Are the Brave, The Last Sunset, The Way West, The War Wagon, There Was a Crooked Man, Posse, The Man from Snowy River]

One of the biggest stars of his time (the prime of which was the late 1940s into the early 1970s), Kirk Douglas appeared in a surprising number of westerns. But many of them weren’t all that good, and in some of them his persona seemed to be fighting with the traditional western ways of looking at things.  Like Burt Lancaster, he liked to not wear a hat, or to wear it only pushed back on his head.  He experimented with especially tight and unlikely wardrobes (The Last Sunset, The War Wagon) which emphasized his robust physique and athleticism.  He played a gunfighter who improbably only used a derringer (The Last Sunset).  He didn’t really need the theatrical gimmicks, though.  If you look only at his best work in westerns, you find one of the best mountain man movies (The Big Sky), his athleticism and physical strength (not to mention real acting ability) used to good effect without gimmicky costuming in Last Train from Gun Hill, the bitter edges of his personality being used effectively as Doc Holliday in Gunfight at the OK Corral, and as an isolated loner in the modern west in Lonely Are the Brave.

His ego was extraordinarily large (not unusual in Hollywood), but he managed to team well with Burt Lancaster (Gunfight at the OK Corral) and John Wayne (The War Wagon) when those two were in the dominant roles.  As the 1970s came in, he starred in less effective revisionist westerns (There Was a Crooked Man, Posse), which would probably not have been made without him.  In his last western, he chewed the scenery in dual roles in The Man from Snowy River.

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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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The Horse Soldiers

Nicholas Chennault ~ May 30, 2014

The Horse Soldiers—John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Ken Curtis, Judson Pratt, Willis Bouchey, Denver Pyle, Strother Martin, Althea Gibson, Hank Worden, Hoot Gibson (1959; Dir:  John Ford)

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Not exactly a western, since it takes place entirely in Mississippi during the Civil War.  But it stars John Wayne and William Holden riding horses and fighting battles, and it’s directed by John Ford.  So the western genre seems to be where it fits most comfortably—specifically, it’s a cavalry western.

Gen. U.S. Grant has besieged Vicksburg on the Mississippi River but not yet taken it, so that puts the time of this story in the first half of 1863.  Grant calls in cavalry Col. John Marlowe (John Wayne) and gives him the assignment of destroying supplies and railroads to the south in Newton Landing, between Vicksburg and Baton Rouge.  Marlowe’s officers include Col. Phil Secord (Willis Bouchey), an older man from Michigan with political ambitions, and Maj. Henry Kendall (William Holden), a surgeon who is almost instantly at odds with Marlowe.

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Hannah Hunter, Marlowe and Kendall at Greenbriar; Marlowe with one of his scouts.

Heading south and trying to keep the Confederates in ignorance of their whereabouts and objectives, the cavalry stops at the plantation of Greenbriar, run by Miss Hannah Hunter (Constance Towers).  She receives them hospitably, given that her sympathies are southern, and discovers that they plan to destroy the supplies at Newton Landing and then head for Baton Rouge.  Kendall finds Hannah and her slave Lukey (Althea Gibson) listening, and Marlowe is forced to take them along so his plans are not prematurely revealed.  Hannah’s attempts to escape and hostility to the Yankees provide another source of tension within the column.

Hannah Hunter:  “They’ll catch up to you and cut you to pieces, you nameless, fatherless scum.  I just wish I could be there to see it!”

Col. John Marlowe:  “If it happens, Miss Hunter, you will be.”

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Trying to figure out why the Confederates aren’t putting up more resistance.

As they move toward Newton Landing, Marlowe’s men discover a couple of Confederate deserters (Denver Pyle and Strother Martin), whom Marlowe lures into giving information on Confederate units in the area before he turns them over to the southern sheriff.  At Newton Landing, there are a few Confederate soldiers led by a one-armed Col. Jonathan Miles (Carleton Young), known to Kendall from their days fighting Indians out west.  It turns out Miles has telegraphed for reinforcements, and when those additional men arrive on a train, Marlowe’s men are reluctantly forced to fight a battle. The Yankees win handily before destroying the supplies and railroad, which pains the one-time railroad worker Marlowe.  When the Confederate army asks a local military school to send its young men into battle, led by their reluctant headmaster/minister (Basil Ruysdael), Marlowe and his men are forced to leave the field rather than shooting them down, once more demonstrating Marlowe’s comparative humanity.  The political Col. Secord continually gives poor and self-aggrandizing advice, and when Marlowe takes to referring to Kendall as “Croaker,” Kendall responds by calling Marlowe “Section Hand.”

Col. John Marlowe [during firefight]:  “I didn’t want this. I tried to avoid a fight!”

Maj. Henry Kendall:  “That’s why I took up medicine.  

With Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry on their heels, they move south toward Baton Rouge, only to find their way blocked by another Confederate unit at a bridge about 40 miles from their destination.  Hannah’s slave Lukey is killed by the initial Confederate attack.  Meanwhile, Marlowe and Hannah get to know each other better as Hannah nurses Marlowe’s wounded men with Kendall and sees that Marlowe cares about his young wounded soldiers.  His hostility to doctors is rooted in the period before the war, when he was a young railroad section hand and his wife was killed by a medical mistake.  Marlow’s cavalry finds a way to ford the river and flank the blocking Confederates while their attention is fixed on a direct charge across the bridge.  Marlowe takes a leg wound, which Kendall binds up.

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The Colonel lights the fuse and dashes across the bridge.

Marlowe has to blow up the bridge so Forrest can’t follow him so closely.  He is the last across the bridge and tells Hannah he loves her, taking her bandanna for a neckerchief.  He barely makes it across the bridge, leaving Kendall and Hannah tending the wounded and Kendall presumably bound for captivity in Andersonville prison in Georgia.  Marlowe and Kendall are to some degree reconciled, with some mutual respect at the end.

Director Ford does well in managing his large cast and the action in this film.  There are typical Fordian touches, such as the opening shots of a column of cavalry riding along railroad tracks against the sky and supposedly singing a Civil War song over the initial credits.  There are the low-angle shots of cavalry riders as they charge across the bridge.  The story is based on an actual historical incident from the Civil War:  Grierson’s Raid, from Legrange, Tennessee, in April 1863, led by Col. Benjamin Grierson.  Grierson was a music teacher who was afraid of horses because one kicked him in the head as a child.  Joining the Union army to fight slavery (he was a staunch abolitionist) he wanted infantry duty but was assigned to the cavalry by mistake.  He turned out to be good at it and stayed in the cavalry after the war, becoming the first Colonel of the 10th Cavalry (buffalo soldiers).  It’s unclear why the names are changed, but presumably it was to give the writers and director greater freedom to deviate from the real historical events.  There probably wasn’t much of a love story involved in the real raid, nor such animosity with the regimental doctor.

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John Ford directs Wayne and Towers in an intimate scene.

Overall, the film seems to take an anti-war stance.  The movie takes an interesting attitude toward southerners and their slaves.  It does not condone slavery, but it shows close relationships between owners and slaves, as with Hannah and Lukey.  It seems sympathetic to the Union side generally, but it does not shy away from showing nobility in southerners in a way that now seems slightly old-fashioned (the sheriff to whom Marlowe turns over the deserters, the military school headmaster and his charges, the courtliness of Forrest in offering medical assistance to Kendall at the end, for example).  In modern times, when there can be no cinematic tolerance at all for slavery, it could probably not be done this way, although arguments could be made that Ford’s approach is historically accurate or defensible.  The incident with the two Confederate deserters is reminiscent of several situations in Cold Mountain (2003).

This is one of Ford’s last movies and not, perhaps, among his very best, although it is still a very good western.  There are a host of Ford’s usual character actors, such as Strother Martin, Hank Worden and his son-in-law Ken Curtis in one of his better performances, but there is no Ben Johnson or Harry Carey, Jr.  1920s cowboy star Hoot Gibson shows up in a small role as a Union sergeant in his penultimate movie.  (His last appearance was as an uncredited deputy in Ocean’s Eleven.)  1950s African-American tennis star Althea Gibson appears as Lukey.  Judson Pratt is good as Marlowe’s hard-drinking Sergeant-Major Kirby, the sort of role in which Ford once would have cast Victor McLaglen.  This is one of three Civil War cavalry movies for William Holden, along with Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) and Alvarez Kelly (1966).  He was drinking heavily at the time and during production broke his arm falling off a bridge.

Strother Martin on working with John Ford:  “I did a tiny bit in The Horse Soldiers (1959) first, and that’s when I met him; and he liked me, I guess.  Ford said to somebody I knew, ‘I’ve got to get something else for that Stuffer.. Smucker… Stoofer… whatever the hell his name is,’ and he put me in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).”

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John Wayne and Hoot Gibson trading stories behind the scenes.

Constance Towers, who otherwise didn’t have much of a movie career, appears in one of her two Ford movies (along with Sergeant Rutledge), with her curiously 1920s-style looks.  Gen. U.S. Grant, appearing briefly at the start of the movie, is played by songwriter Stan Jones, who composed the movie’s featured song “I’ve Left My Love” which plays over the opening credits and elsewhere in the film and three years earlier had written “The Song Of The Searchers,” sung by the Sons Of The Pioneers over the titles of the The Searchers (1956).

Cinematography is in color by William Clothier.  The film was shot on location in Mississippi and Louisiana, giving it an authentic look.  Screenwriters were John Lee Mahin and Martin Rackin, based on a novel by Harold Sinclair.  The score is by David Buttolph, with the title song by Stan Jones.

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The film marked the beginning of mega-deals for Hollywood stars.  John Wayne and William Holden received $775,000 each, plus 20% of the overall profits, an unheard-of sum for that time.  The final contract involved six companies and numbered twice the pages of the movie’s script.  The movie was a financial failure, however, with no profits to be shared in the end.

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Arizona

Nicholas Chennault ~ December 30, 2013

Arizona—Jean Arthur, William Holden, Warren William, Edgar Buchanan (1940; Dir:  Wesley Ruggles)

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Set in Tucson before and during the Civil War.  Phoebe Titus (Jean Arthur) is the quintessential strong western woman, running a pie business, starting freighting operations and building her dream ranch.  The movie revolves around her.  Pete Muncie (William Holden) is originally passing through on his way to California, but they catch each other’s eye.  When this movie was released, in a reversal of the usual pattern Jean Arthur was 40 and Holden only 22, but the difference isn’t very visible on screen.  This and Texas are among the earliest films for both Holden and Edgar Buchanan; this was Holden’s first western and first starring role. 

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In Tucson the local bad guys are led by saloon owner Lazarus Ward (Porter Hall), until Ward is taken over by new arrival Jefferson Carteret (Warren William).  They sell guns to the Indians (Apaches) and organize other forms of theft and evildoing.  Muncie takes his time getting ready to settle down, and Titus’ freighting business allows her to build up the money she needs for her ranch.  The Ward-Carteret gang steals her money, and she borrows it back from Carteret.  Muncie takes it to Nebraska to buy a herd.  On his return, he is attacked by Apaches paid by Carteret, who shoots his own partner Ward in the back.  After his wedding the next day, Muncie shoots it out with Carteret, offscreen (as in Stagecoach).  The focus remains on the new bride Phoebe as she stands in the local store ordering supplies for her ranch, hearing gunshots outside and wondering whether she’s already a widow.  The camera stays on her face, and there is real acting going on there. 

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Phoebe Titus interrupts a poker game.

Arthur anachronistically wears pants for almost all of the movie, and the plot is kind of uneven, but it’s watchable and Arthur in particular is good.  Edgar Buchanan, a former dentist in real life, plays the first of his reprobate judge roles, in which he would specialize for the rest of his career.  Long for a western in 1940, at just over two hours, and some feel it has pacing problems.  In black and white.

Jean Arthur didn’t make a lot of westerns, but she’s in some good ones.  Look for her as Calamity Jane in The Plainsman, for example, with Gary Cooper.  Her final movie, for which she was enticed out of retirement in her 50s, was Shane.

One of the lasting legacies of this film was the creation of the set, the Old Tucson Studios, used as a setting for western towns in hundreds of movies and television shows since, including, for example, Rio Bravo and Tombstone.

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Rachel and the Stranger

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 22, 2013

Rachel and the Stranger—William Holden, Robert Mitchum, Loretta Young, Gary Gray (1948; Dir:  Norman Foster)

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Set on the Kentucky-Ohio frontier, either before or shortly after the American Revolution—the exact time is not clear.  David Harvey (William Holden) is a still-bereaved widower with a young son Davey (Gary Gray), isolated on a remote farm.  Prodded by his hunter-friend Jim Fairways (Robert Mitchum), Harvey decides to travel to the stockade and see if he can find a new wife. 

He finds Rachel (Loretta Young), now a bondservant because of her father’s debts, with whom a Mr. Green is willing to part for $18 dollars plus $4 more in the fall, even though that’s a very steep discount from what he paid.  Since it would be inappropriate for the man and woman to live under the same roof otherwise, they are married before leaving the stockade.  The problem is that Harvey is still grief-ridden over his first wife’s death and thinks of Rachel as a bondservant more than as a wife.  He doesn’t try to talk with her much or develop the relationship.  The marriage is not consummated, with the two parties sleeping apart. 

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The plot bears noticeable similarities to Young’s better-known (and more complex) The Bishop’s Wife, in that her husband fails to notice her good points until Fairways returns and finds her interesting.  Whereupon she blossoms; she was always beautiful (being Loretta Young), but it now comes out that she’s educated, has musical talent (she can play the piano) and has taught herself to shoot as well as Harvey’s first wife did, for whom Harvey and Fairways were once romantic rivals.  Pushed by Fairways’ interest, Harvey is more open about his own developing romantic interest, leading to a fight between the two males. 

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Rachel decides to leave, but fate intervenes in the form of a Shawnee war party.  Together the three of them hold off an attack by Shawnees on the homestead and it looks like they’re about to succumb to fire.  We know how all this romantic (or determinedly non-romantic) stuff will turn out; the interest is in how the characters will get there. 

For a similar setting with a more rollicking story, see Many Rivers to Cross.  This is better than that one, and better than average, mostly because of the excellent (if small) cast.  Young really makes it all work by her restraint, although she seems older than the 25 she gives as her age.  (She was 35 at the time.  A year past The Farmer’s Daughter, for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award, she was at her peak.)  There is also a question about whether Fairways is completely serious in his interest; he may just be prodding Harvey to help him out again.  Still, it’s one of those situations where there would be no plot if these people (Harvey and Rachel) would just talk with each other.

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Fairways romancing Rachel with music.

Mitchum comes off as a more attractive character here than Holden, who spends most of the film seeming stiff and grumpy.  Maybe part of that’s how the parts are written.  You could easily see Van Heflin in the Holden part, too.  Mitchum’s singing voice proves to be pleasant enough.  It’s unclear who the stranger of the title is—presumably Fairways?  But Rachel’s new husband is also a stranger to her.  And Rachel is never given a last name, other than “Mrs. Harvey” once she is married.  If you like Loretta Young in this western, try her in the 1945 sort-of-comedy with Gary Cooper, Along Came Jones. She plays a strong woman in that one, too.

Some see similarities to Rebecca, with a new wife living in the shadow of the now-deceased first wife and a conflagration at the end.  There might also be thematic similarities with The Sound of Music.  But that could also be over-analyzing a fairly simple and straightforward film.  Based on a story by Howard Fast; screenplay by Waldo Salt.  In black and white.  Filmed around Eugene, Oregon.  Short, at 83 minutes.  Despite its low budget, the film became RKO’s most successful film of 1948, making over $350,000.  Released briefly on DVD in 2008, it now has very limited availability.

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Alvarez Kelly

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 21, 2013

Alvarez Kelly—William Holden, Richard Widmark, Janice Rule, Patrick O’Neal, Harry Carey, Jr., Victoria Shaw (1966; Dir:  Edward Dmytryk)

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Mexican national Alvarez Kelly (William Holden) has brought a large herd of cattle to Alabama in 1864 at the request of the Union army.  Now that they’ve arrived, Col. Stedman (Patrick O’Neal), a Massachusetts lawyer in civilian life, insists they go by train to a location outside of Richmond, Virginia.  Kelly grudgingly complies and is paid at the Warwick farm.  Mrs. Warwick (Victoria Shaw), a southern belle, has arranged for Virginia cavalry (the so-called Comanches, led by one-eyed Col. Tom Rossiter [Richard Widmark]), to steal both Kelly and his cattle, on the theory that the Confederates are a lot hungrier than the Yankees, in part because their money isn’t any good. 

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Rossiter (Richard Widmark) and Kelly (William Holden) negotiate.

The relentlessly non-affiliated Kelly is hard to persuade until Rossiter shoots off a finger and threatens to shoot off the others unless Kelly agrees to go along.  Meanwhile, in part for revenge because of his mutilated hand, Kelly arranges to help Rossiter’s fiancée Liz Pickering (Janice Rule) escape Richmond aboard a Scottish ship bound for New York.  There is a not-terribly-convincing sequence where Kelly demonstrates that regular cavalry men don’t possess the skills to drive catlle.  Rossiter instructs Kelly’s watchdog Hatcher to kill Kelly if anything happens to Rossiter. 

Stedman figures out where Rossiter is heading with the herd and positions his men and a few artillery pieces to stop them at a bridge.  Kelly stampedes the cattle over the bridge and into the Black Swamp and on to Richmond.  At the end there is a not-terribly-convincing rapprochement between Kelly and Rossiter, and Rossiter even shoots Hatcher to keep him from killing Kelly at the bridge.

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Rossiter and the Confederates aren’t so good at herding cattle.

The story is based on an actual event from the Civil War—Gen. Wade Hampton’s “Beefsteak” raid of September 1864.  Holden is good, but was said to be suffering through a particularly bad bout with his alcoholism.  Production was held up for six months when Holden contracted salmonella.  The stars, Holden and Widmark, as well as director Dmytryk, were said to have reservations about the film’s script, which isn’t all that strong.  It’s hard to rehabilitate a character like Rossiter after the shooting-off-the finger incident; usually somebody who’d do that is an irredeemable bad guy, as in The Man from Laramie.  Whether the movie works at all depends on the two leads playing off each other, and they’re both excellent actors.  Holden and Widmark remained lifelong friends after the filming.  In color, filmed near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Steve McQueen was filming parts of Nevada Smith at the same time.    

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Ukrainian/Canadian/Californian Edward Dmytryk, who had been directing movies since 1935 and became known for his films noirs by the end of the 1940s, was one of the “Hollywood Ten” in 1948 and was sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of Congress.  Consequently he was among those blacklisted in the 1950s, but he was making his way back by the middle of the decade.  He made only five westerns, the best of which was probably 1959’s Warlock, with Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark and Anthony Quinn.  Second would be Broken Lance (1954), with Spencer Tracy and Richard Widmark.  But this might be the third best from a good director.  It would make a good double feature with John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers (1959), another Civil War movie, also with William Holden as one of the leads and also with good battle scenes.

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Escape from Fort Bravo

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 10, 2013

Escape from Fort Bravo—William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsyth, Richard Anderson, William Demarest, Polly Bergen (1953; Dir:  John Sturges)

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One of the best of the early John Sturges westerns.  Filmed in Death Valley and New Mexico, Sturges is obviously playing visually with the stunning desert landscapes throughout the movie.  The movie makes good use of color, if you’re watching a clear print.  Apparently there are problems with some DVDs.  Cinematography is by Robert Surtees. 

Fort Bravo is supposedly located in Arizona Territory during the Civil War (1863), when the war is not yet decided.  Confederate soldiers are held there under loose conditions; they may even outnumber their captors.  The fort is surrounded by hostile Mescalero Apaches in league with Cochise’s Chiricauhuas.  The main character is the implacable Captain Roper, convincingly played by William Holden.  He’s the one who deals with Confederates who escape, chasing them down in hostile territory and bringing them back.  John Forsyth is the leader of the Confederates, including a small group that is planning an escape.  (Echoes of the future Sturges WWII movie The Great Escape, to be made a decade later.)

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The sullen Confederate captives are led by John Forsyth (center).

Eleanor Parker shows up as Carla Forester, an elegant Texas friend of the post commandant’s daughter (Polly Bergen) who’s getting married, and also the film’s principal romantic interest.  In fact, she’s there to set up the Confederate escape.  While doing so, she plays the hardened Roper, who falls in love with her.  She is more a Howard Hawksian female than a John Ford one—one who comes close to the edges of propriety in her relationship with Roper while she’s playing him.  The escape takes place, and Carla joins the escapees.  Roper is ordered to go after them, and the Apaches are after them all.  Roper does capture them, and they start to fight their way back to the fort.  The fight back is desperate; this is one of those cavalry movies (like, for example, Fort Apache) that depicts the Indians as good tacticians. 

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Sultry Confederate spy Carla Forester (Eleanor Parker) plays Lt. Roper (William Holden) as he falls for her.

Escape from Fort Bravo belongs to that small category of  cavalry westerns, along with Two Flags West and Major Dundee, that has Yankees and Rebs fighting side by side against the Indians.  The supporting cast is good, especially crusty William Demarest as the oldest Confederate.  Richard Anderson is decent as Lt. Beecher, a young Union junior officer.  John Forsyth is elusive as the Confederate commander, who has his own romantic interest in Carla. 

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Lt. Roper (William Holden) faces a hopeless situation, vastly outnumbered by Apaches while trapped in the desert.

The film is not without weaknesses:  Eleanor Parker seems way too glitzy in dress and makeup for (a) the 19th century and especially for (b) a frontier post.   She also doesn’t seem very Texan.  The ending is abrupt and not entirely convincing, with the Apaches taking care of some of the difficult decisions.  It would be good to see at least a little of how Roper and Carla work things out instead of just watching them ride into the sunset with Carla’s betrayal unresolved.  Maybe a little more backstory on Carla would be interesting.  But this is a good, watchable western.

William Holden is the center of the movie and his flinty personality and determination make it work.  The film came out the same year that Holden won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17.  He’s equally good here.  Eleanor Parker didn’t show up in westerns much.  If you’d care for another look at her, this time in a colonial-period western, she plays an aw-shucks-type backwoods female who is after mountain man Robert Taylor in Many Rivers to Cross (1955).

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The Wild Bunch

Nicholas Chennault ~ August 26, 2013

The Wild Bunch—William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Edmond O’Brien, Bo Hopkins (1969; Dir:  Sam Peckinpah)

In Peckinpah’s earlier Ride the High Country, two former lawmen were playing out their string in a corrupt turn-of-the-century west.  In The Wild Bunch, there’s no hiding the fact that the protagonists are a gang of bandits and savage killers coming to the end of their time in an even more corrupt revolutionary Mexico.  Eventually they find unexpected humanity, even heroism, in that end.  “I was trying to tell a simple story about bad men in changing times.  The Wild Bunch is simply what happens when killers go to Mexico.  The strange thing is you feel a great sense of loss when these killers reach the end of the line.”  That’s what director Peckinpah says he was trying to do, but it’s more than that.

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The title notwithstanding, this doesn’t deal with the outlaw group historically known as the Wild Bunch—that was Butch Cassidy’s gang of bank and train robbers.  Like Butch Cassidy and, to some extent, True Grit in the same year, this is an end-of-an-era western.  The outlaw gang has reached the end of its time and knows it.

It is 1913, just before World War I—an era of multiple revolutions in Mexico.  The fictional outlaws in question are led by Pike Bishop (William Holden, in one of his last good roles).  Other members of the gang are played by Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Edmond O’Brien and Jaime Sanchez.  Robert Ryan is Deke Thornton, a former member of the gang captured and forced by the authorities to help track down his onetime comrades.  The movie opens with a memorable image of several children torturing a large scorpion with ants as the gang rides into a town, and the analogy of the scorpion to the gang will become obvious.  In the town, the gang botches a train station robbery, is shot up and then looks for a last big score.  They find it south of the border, agreeing to steal U.S. military weapons from a train for the benefit of Mexican revolutionaries.  However, there is a falling out with their employers on this job, and the climax of the movie involves a long shoot-out between the outlaws and the corrupt revolutionaries, which the outlaws cannot possibly win. 

wildbunchletsgo “Let’s go.”

The shoot-out scene is reminiscent of the final scene of Butch Cassidy, released the same year.  Both involve outlaws in a final fight against overwhelming odds south of the border.  A major cinematic difference, however, is that Butch Cassidy ends with a freeze frame of Butch and Sundance emerging from their cover and firing at the Bolivian army.  In a sense, they never really die because we don’t see the effects on them of the hail of bullets we hear.  The famous end of the fight in The Wild Bunch features extended slow-motion violence as each member of the gang is cut down while slaughtering as many Mexicans as possible.  In that slow-motion violence, it also has much in common with the end of Bonnie and Clyde from two years earlier.  Some felt that The Wild Bunch glorified violence too much, and it certainly influenced the way violence has been shown in westerns ever since.  That’s why most of the good westerns in the last two or three decades have R ratings.  Butch was lighter and more enjoyable; The Wild Bunch was more influential among cineastes. 

Playing Pike Bishop is one of William Holden’s best performances ever.  The role was originally slated to go to Lee Marvin, but he dropped out to make Paint Your Wagon (bad career move).  Holden made this at a time when drinking and hard living were taking their toll on his appearance and acting skills, but here he was still very good.  As with central characters Charlton Heston in Major Dundee, and Joel McCrea in Ride the High Country (earlier Peckinpah movies), the movie depends on Holden’s ability to keep our interest and sympathies.  He does it well.  Ernest Borgnine is excellent as Dutch Engstrom, Bishop’s principal support in the outlaw band. 

This is also one of the last roles for Robert Ryan, who plays Deke Thornton, conflicted as he leads a group of despicable bounty hunters in tracking down his former friends (much like the John Vernon role in The Outlaw Josey Wales).  Few actors in westerns played conflicted as well as Ryan (see Day of the Outlaw and Lawman, for example).  As edited for the film’s theatrical release, Thornton’s principal function is as audience surrogate, telling us what to think about what are actually repulsive-seeming outlaws, but are in many ways more admirable than the other characters with whom they come in contact:  railroad executives and detectives, bounty hunters theoretically on the right side of the law, corrupt Mexican revolutionaries, even German militarists.  Everybody’s corrupt, it seems to say; you just get to choose the direction and the degree of your corruption. 

wild-bunch-machine-gun Pike Bishop goes big.

The film also has good supporting performances from Peckinpah regulars Ben Johnson and Warren Oates (as the outlaw Gorch brothers), Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones as sleazy bounty hunters, and Bo Hopkins in his first role as a feeble-minded gang member abandoned and killed in the early railroad office holdup.  Edmond O’Brien is the old horse wrangler for the gang.  There are no significant female roles in the film, but even those few females are less admirable in their way than the outlaws who are their customers.

The depiction of many of the Mexicans now seems a little dated, but it’s still powerful.  They’re mostly caricatures and prostitutes.  Jaime Sanchez as Angel, the Mexican member of the outlaw band, may have deserved better.  Much of the movie was filmed in Mexico, a favorite Peckinpah location as well as the actual setting for this movie’s action.

Most would see The Wild Bunch as Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece.  Others prefer the earlier Ride the High Country, as a purer story.  The Wild Bunch certainly has a lot more moral ambiguity; there are no purely admirable characters, just strong ones and weaker ones.  There are some themes of honor and loyalty, but it’s not certain what they mean or exactly how they apply.  The Wild Bunch shows some development in cinematic abilities from High Country (the memorable scorpion image, for example) and it’s near the peak of Peckinpah’s depiction of male bonding and love of violence.  Even in this great movie, however, there are signs of the self-indulgence that marred much of the director’s career.  Decades later, the violence still seems savage and excessively gory.  The glorification of drunken roistering as central to male bonding seems somewhat misplaced, although it fits with Peckinpah’s own views and life.  As with some earlier Peckinpah movies (notably Major Dundee), and almost all later ones, Peckinpah had continual battles with the studio over his inability or unwillingness to control the film’s budget and shooting schedule.  This one is a great western and a strong one, but it’s also one of those, like Unforgiven and even The Searchers, which can be easier to admire than to watch again, mostly because of their emotional roughness.

The cinematography by Lucien Ballard is marvelous.  There’s a brilliant shot, for example, of an exploding bridge dumping a dozen horsemen into the Rio Grande, and another of horses and their riders tumbling down sand dunes where you can taste the sand and dust.  The movie has many memorable images, but not a lot of memorable lines.  The lines you do remember seem unremarkable by themselves; it’s the situations which cause you to remember them.  When Bishop says to his gang, “Let’s go,” for example, you know then (and you sense that they know) they won’t survive, and you remember that feeling.  Bishop’s ethos is expressed in his rationale for not breaking up the gang:  “We’re not gonna get rid of anybody!  We’re gonna stick together, just like it used to be!  When you side with a man, you stay with him!  And if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal, you’re finished!  We’re finished!  All of us!”  But it isn’t like it used to be, and the suggestion is that it probably never was.  They are finished, and they’re just trying to find a way to play it out.  The screenplay and Jerry Fielding’s score were nominated for Oscars; they didn’t win.

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In the DVD age, there is a director’s cut of the film (144 minutes), released in 1994, although Peckinpah was long dead by then.  It includes more of the relationship between Pike Bishop and Robert Ryan’s Deke Thornton, giving the Thornton character more weight than he had in the theatrical release.

This movie did not spring fully-grown from nowhere.  It owes something to The Professionals three years earlier, to the sensibility and look of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, and to Bonnie and Clyde two years before.  But it is clearly its own Sam Peckinpah movie, too, and has itself become very influential far beyond westerns.  As a western, its limitations may be that it lies on the fringes of western themes and leaves a feeling of nihilism and discomfort for reasons that can be hard to define.  Roger Ebert referred to it on its release as “possibly the most violent film ever made,” and more than 40 years later that violence has not lost its impact or its controversiality.  And it has influenced just about every western (and many movies in other genres) made since.

This was not just an “end-of-an-era” western; it was also one of several “end of the western” films, supposedly tolling the death of an entire genre of movies.  It was the end of its era in westerns, certainly, and the beginning of another one.  The lover of westerns can find quite a few great westerns in the 40-plus years since this one, including such other “end of the western” movies as The Shootist and Unforgiven.  According to Roger Ebert, one of the film’s stronger proponents, “It represents its set of sad, empty values with real poetry.”  He recommended the restored 144-minute cut.  The Wild Bunch is one of the five westerns listed by the AFI on its list of the 100 greatest American movies, along with High Noon, The Searchers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. and Unforgiven.  (See http://www.afi.com/100years/movies10.aspx.)

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