The Man from Laramie (1955) Revisited

The Man From Laramie (1955)I remember watching this at the at of 2nd year at university, having just discovered James Stewart I was exploring his film, taking a look here at his westerns which back then I had little understand of what was really going on in the film, let alone the world of the west which was being fought by a stranger and cattle men. I was also unaware of the 7 film deal between Stewart and director Anthony Manngiving us here The Man From Laramie which plain confused me. Even as I explored other films that have made together I was still not really appreciating them. Deciding another look was needed to fully appreciate this western.

James Stewart’s Will Lockhart could have come from anywhere, when he arrived in Coranado with a delivery for a shop, he gets more than he bargained for. In the very first scene we are shown the remains of a deadly raid which means more to Lockhart than he first lets onto his colleagues. It’s more than just debris from another Indian raid. Trouble soon follows him and his men when they try to take some salt, which stirs up the local cattle baron’s son Dave Waggoman (Alex Nicol) who doesn’t take much to anger him, burning Lockhart’s wagon’s and shooting his mules. Mann’s west is a very dangerous and dark place, where anything can stir a man to the brink, drawing his gun on a stranger who so much as steps foot on a man’s land. All this does is anger Lockhart further who wants to find the man who wronged him before he even entered the town.

His presence is something that puts fear in cattle baron Alec Waggoman (Donald Crisp) who believes he has dreamed that Lockhart has come to kill his son, wanting to employ him, to ease his mind. There is a sense of dread and fate in the air amongst all the tension between the stranger and the cattlemen. It’s only an old flame Kate Canady (Aline MacMahonof Alec’s that takes in the stranger, his only true ally in this dangerous town that only wants rid of him.

Whilst an internal struggle between Dave and Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) to take over the ranch after Alec. Whilst rumours of weapons being sold to the Apache are in the air. Tensions throughout are high, no one can truly be trusted in the town or Mann’s world that has no real light at the end, just the hope of some form of justice that might bring peace to a man.

On the second watch I now understand more the inner workings of Mann’s westerns, cleverly placing Stewart in the centre, an actor known more for his every-man roles that leaves you feeling all warm inside. If it wasn’t for Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) he may never have been considered. It’s that pent-up emotion that explodes on-screen from a man who seemingly won’t hurt a fly. He was a passionate man, unafraid of laying bear the anger inside him. Now I can see why the partnership worked so well.

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8 responses

  1. I’ve never seen this movie, but I admire the fact that you gave it a second look though you found it confusing at first.

    June 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    • Thanks. Yeah I’ve decided to give a selection of films another chance, sometimes we look at a film without knowing what its all about. Then I learn more about it’s context, or just simply growing up to think, lets give it another chance.

      June 2, 2014 at 6:17 pm

  2. This is my favorite James Stewart Western. Has some powerful scenes.
    I remember how shocking for me that scene was where he gets shot through the hand.
    Haven’t seen it for a while .. better have another at it and see how it stands up.

    June 8, 2014 at 10:26 am

    • I found it quite brutal, i think because the act was intentional so you flinch and feel for him.

      June 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm

  3. A terrific and intense movie. It’s good to hear you went back and gained more from your viewing. I think this happens with certain films – the years bring a different appreciation of exactly what’s going on on the screen.
    When you get through with the Mann and Stewart westerns I recommend you look at Man of the West, if you haven’t already seen it.

    June 11, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    • Thanks for the comment Colin. It’s very powerful. I had to go back as I just didn’t get it which is madness now when I’ve explored so much of the genre. I have indeed seen Man of the West, his last great western I believe, reviewed it too.

      June 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      • Ah, I should have explored further! I’ll do so now.

        June 11, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      • no worries,

        June 11, 2014 at 9:44 pm

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