Posts tagged “Anthony Mann

The Tin Star (1957) Revisited

I’ve been meaning to return to The Tin Star (1957) for a while now, an under appreciated Western by Anthony Mann without James Stewart, his first Western without Stewart due to a falling out between the two of them. I wonder how he would have approached this role, making it the 8th together. Instead turning to Henry Fonda, a longtime friend of Stewart’s making for the film we have today. Paired opposite a young pre-Pyscho Anthony Perkins which itself makes for interesting reading.

I could come at this review as a could have been different with James Stewart but that would be doing a dis-service to decent film that takes on the apprentice/master relationship. Something that has been done countless times, to become a man you must be able to defend yourself. Here however you don’t need the guns to do so. They are simply tools, something that fresh-faced Sheriff Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins) has to learn the hard way. When bounty hunter Morgan ‘Morg’ Hickman (Henry Fonda) arrives with bounty in tow he wants only to collect his money and leave, keep to himself and cause no trouble. His very presence in the town causes a stir with the establishment and business that have supported Ben who took over at little notice. “This is a law and order town” is mentioned a few times to warn Hickman off interfering on his way. This is not the Clint Eastwood bounty hunter whose very presence scares those he’s about to shout down and collect on. This town has moved on from this model of keeping law and order. It’s follow the law and live by the law. Yet we still have the classic Dead or Alive posters which contradict that thinking. criminals are still wanted, however the arrive is a different matter. Hickman’s  presence spreads fast through the town, no rooms at the only hotel, no room for his horse at the livery stable (on the edge of town). They don’t want him to stay, he’s a reminder of a different time, he’s outmoded.

Instead of being filled with rage, like many of Stewart’s roles, there’s no build up of emotion, not big release that leads to great dramatic scene. Instead he holds his own in a town that resists him. Taking up lodgings with another outsider Nona Mayfield (Betsy Palmer) and her mixed race son Kip (Michel Ray) a curious boy who wants only to play with others. Not having many friends due to his Native American heritage (which isn’t really mentioned outside the house). Getting off to a rocky start, it could have increased in tension however it’s dealt with calmly the next day surprisingly well.

The main focus of the film is making a sheriff out of Owens who wants to assume the role with more confidence, something that he is lacking. This could also be seen in the actors hidden sexuality, hiding him true-self on-screen to conform and get work. Can only a heterosexual male become a sheriff? His skills with a gun are rough around the edges, it takes Hickman’s presence, a former sheriff himself to help him. It’s a reluctant help, after being pleaded by the sheriff, not the image we’re used to in our law enforcement out in the West. He’s still a boy who needs to learn the ways of being a man. It takes another to teach him. We get the classic target practice scene, not played so much for comedy, more to see how far he has to go. He wants to prove himself to the town and his woman – Millie Parker (Mary Webster) who wants him to take off the badge to live a safer life, unlike her father who died with it on.

Another test comes in the form of Bart Bogardus (Neville Brand) one of the ugliest men you could get caught up in a fight with. A man who should really be wearing the badge, instead he tests the sheriff to the limit. When a posse’s formed to catch two men responsible for the deaths of two elder men, he leads the mob mentality, which is stirred up. Owens seems powerless to really do much about him. If Ben can overcome him, stand up to the brute he has come a long way, learning how to hold himself in public and as the law. The bully of the playground has no one left to push around.

The real test comes as the posse are out chasing no-one after setting a light, Hickman has resisted the lure of the reward on the two wanted brothers Ed and Zeke McGaffey (Lee Van Cleef and Peter Baldwin), again mixed race with Native American heritage, these two face the full force of racism, whilst young Kip joins in from a distance playing sheriff on his new horse. Hickman is able to put his drive for money to one-side when he knows Kip’s caught up, becoming a father figure to him. Not forgetting his sheriff in-training Ben who just wont listen to reason, stay out of it and be safe. The life he wants is fraught with danger and heartache, which can be avoided. Instead he’s headstrong and blinkered, riding in to prove himself. Ultimately, no guns are used to safe the day and bring in the two men. Even when they face a lynch mob, guns are threatened not used, showing that can be used as tools not just weapons  for protection.

Tin Star is the beginning of a decline for Mann who had made some classic Westerns with Stewart, this could have been up there. Gary Cooper makes for a strong replacement in The Man of the West (1958). However from there on in it’s down and out, if we ignore a tense The Heroes of Telemark (1965) for a brief return to form. Here however we have a small budget film that tries to get into the characters, some more successful that others. There’s a lot going on in this 80 odd minute film, it’s tight with a bit of excess around the edges. I know I’ll be revisiting in future thanks to a fine performance from Fonda which gives it some weight and experience.


Winchester ’73 (1950) Revisited

Winchester 73 (1950)I’ve watch three James Stewart films in the last week, culminating in Winchester ’73 (1950) which is probably the more iconic of them. Beginning with The Spirit of St Louis (1957) which I watched more out of curiosity than anything, a biography written and directed by   Billy Wilder . It was an interesting effort, the only time that Wilder dabbled with factual events, there were hints of his wit, however watered down by history. If it wasn’t for Stewart at the helm, combined with his past war record in the U.S. Airforce. Hearing some of the sharper lines delivered from Stewart didn’t really have the desired effect. With fiction Wilder is able to have a lot more fun with the characters, only able to do so here through flashbacks that did more for padding the film out as Lindberg made his ground-breaking transatlantic flight. Maybe in the hands of another director more used to biopic’s this could have been something special.

Turning then to The Naked Spur (1953), the third collaboration for   Anthony Mann and James Stewart they hit a slight snag with this lower budget affair. A smaller cast of characters, there’s potential for more tension and drama than there is on-screen. It just doesn’t spark your attention. If we turn back to their first film together Winchester ’73 (1950), Stewart’s first straight Western, needing to find a new direction in his career in a post-war world. He has seen the darker side of life whilst at war, which comes through into his performance that show more to the master of the every man. Before he was a bumbling and love-able man who got himself in all kinds of situations. It was It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) changed that for him, a man with good intentions, dreams whose brought to the brink, nearly ending his own life. Never had we seen that side of him. Anthony Mann developed that side of him out in the West where as could “play out all kinds of cide” in the American landscape.

So why watch these two films in reverse order? sheer luck of how the cards were dealt at the time. I needed to remind myself of this classic western which I watched at least 4 years ago. Following not the journey of just men, but that of a gun, a powerful emblem in the West. Part of the constitution to bear arms, it helped the country win the West. Yet today there is a fight for gun-control, there’s not a month that goes by in the States a mass-shooting takes places. There’s a warm place in the hearts of the American public, a protector for the weak, a sign of strength, and danger to the powerless. Going back to the film was a chance to rediscover how rich this film really is. Not just starting a long relationship between actor/director but changing the course of Stewart’s career to be part of the American mythology that is the Western.

I should really start now, set in an dream-like version of the West a shooting contest in Dodge City home of the infamous Wyatt Earp (Will Geer) who doesn’t really add much to the on-screen mythology of the historical figure. He definitely runs the town, ironically with an iron fist in regards to gun-control, his office is full of gun-belts. He is also considerate of the tone of the town, sending barroom singer Lola Manners (Shelley Winters) on her way for the contest, not wanting to lower the tone. Much to the surprise of Lin McAdam (Stewart) and High Spade (Millard Mitchell) who are in town for McAdam to track down fast-gun Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally). On first meeting they naturally go for their guns, met by a feeling of nakedness that men in the West rarely have. Stripped partially of their masculinity and a right to defend it. You can feel something palpable in the room, they share a history that I barely remembered from the first viewing, not wanting to shout it out before the reveal at the end.

This could be the start of a standard Western, a silent stand-off before a show of masculinity in the streets. Naturally Stewart wins the much prized repeating rifle a Winchester 73, a weapon that is even admired by the young boys, part of the image of being a man. The history of the gun in the West is further explored in other films but not the aspect of the objects journey through a film, as it passes from owner to owner. Usually taking on a fictional version of facts of entertainment value. Here we have pure story and journey as it leaves after a fight in town with Brown to then be lost in a game of cards with Joe Lamont (John McIntire) an Indian trader who gambles his life when he tries to hide his find from Young Bull (Rock Hudson) who dies with it in battle. It brushes by Mcadams leaving it for Waco Johnny Dean (Dan Duryea) to take it into a gunfight where it in turn looses it.

The journey goes on until the rifle is reunited with Mcadams in a gunfight to end all gunfights between himself and Brown. The big reveal of their past is laid bear in a few scenes and a gunfight that relies more on knowledge that the accuracy of the gun itself. The skill of the man using the weapon truly make it what it is. A tool, is only as good as the man/woman who uses it, if you don’t use it the right way, not just as it was designed, you never unleash its potential or understand it. So why did McAdams want to win the gun? Was it to prove a point to Brown or to himself that he hadn’t lost his edge, the skills he was taught by his father. The journey that happens with the gun proves that it’s just a gun, that what happens to the user was going to happen anyway, it can bring out the best and the worst in us. It’s a tool that can make or break a man in the West.

I had forgotten how action-packed this film is, it has everything you want in a western as we ride on through, never looking back. Bringing together a cast that would work again with Mann and Stewart. A stock company that could even rival John Ford‘s. Even the main female is anything but set-dressing, she has teeth and not afraid to show them. Of course playing the voice of reason in the film, she can stand-up for herself, no one is left on the sidelines which makes this an important Western in the cannon of the classic genre.

Related Articles

The Naked Spur (1953)

The Naked Spur (1953)The Naked Spur (1953) has been at the top of my watch list for a longtime, the wait is finally over, the remaining Anthony Mann/James Stewart western I hadn’t seen. So was it worth the wait? I’d say so, not really knowing what to expect I found a troubled bounty hunter Howard Kemp is hot on the trail of Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) who we learn has shot a Marshal back in Abilene, we don’t know why and it doesn’t really matter, Kemp’s possessed in his pursuit of this wanted man. Becoming suspicious with gold digger Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) who becomes embroiled in this hunt for the as yet unseen Vandergroat. Our first encounter’s restrained by view and the avalanche of rocks that prevent us getting further. We are up in the mountains once more, where man hide and danger can surround you. It’s only when the two men meet dishonorably discharged soldier Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker) who is the first to begin to reveal the cracks in Kemp’s goals.

It really has been a while since I’ve seen an Anthony Mann western which drown themselves in the darkness of humanity, the drives that make is who we are. Using Stewart as his every-man is perfect casting if I’ve not said so before, ranging from the soft family man to a unsocaiable loner who wants to be left alone with his dark past, unable to spend time with civilised people of the young country below. Sounds like a lot of westerns from that decade that made a real shift in the genre to become more adult.

When we finally meet Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) Kemp has met his match, he even has the girl Lina Patch (Janet Leigh) in tow (or has he really) who is open to both sides as they are brought on a long and protracted journey through open country in the hope taking the reward money that they now all know is at stake. Vandergroat begins are series of acts that are supposed to slow down the men and goad Kemp who wants the money more than he wants to be with the men who only divide his odds not improve upon them.

Besides Stewart the standout performance clearly comes from Ryan who is used to playing the darker roles, really enjoying himself in the open country. Taking every opportunity to push Kemp to the limits, in the hope of escaping or being set free. We are surrounded by actors who are seen more in urban film-noir type roles, they are simply transported to the West, at the mercy of Stewart and Ryan’s game of push and pull.

Coming from my pro-Native American position there is one scene that does stand out in the film and change the tables in Vandergraots favor, a gunfight with a local nation that are all but gunned down, injuring Kemp to the point he should no longer lead, in fact should be left behind. He literally hobbles on to hold power over the other men, even swaying Lina to my surprise, coming out of nowhere.

Its a pretty standard Western when all said and done, with the dark edges brought about by the performances by a cast that is trapped almost within the confines of a B-movie. It looks like one in terms of screen ratio and cinematography that dirties the landscape that should be shimmering. Maybe that’s the effect of time on the film or it was not made with real care. Placing it with the rest of the Mann/Stewart films I would place it at the bottom with Thunder Bay (1953) which doesn’t really deliver. Maybe that’s expectation though when we look at the other films in comparison. Although I have found that in the Ranown cycle of films, there is always a few weak ones in any actor/director collaboration. Sadly for this actor and director they both happened in 1953. There is a darkness to the film that comes all from Stewart who delivers the goods every time, and that’s why he’s so celebrated today.

Related Articles

Ride Lonesome (1959) Revisited

Ride Lonesome (1959)The second film in my journey back through the Ranown Cycle, or the 6th out of seven films that Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott made together. Much the same as Anthony Mann and James Stewart did at the start of the decade. After the previous film Westbound (1959) which really doesn’t fit into the series as strongly as Ride Lonesome (1959) which I began to remember quite strongly as I viewed it for a second time.

From the opening titles I felt more engaged, the music more dramatic and powerful as we embark on a film that is set out in the untamed West, using a location – The Alabama Hills in Lone Pine; a favorite location of the director. Mirroring John Ford‘s use of Monument Valley. Boetticher use of the location brings out the horror and the danger. Placing cowboys into an alien world that they have to ride out of back into what they hope is civilization or ride on for eternity. Anything or anyone could be hiding behind these structures that stretch for miles. If anything this film is more cinematic out in the open, no sound-stage shots, all out on location, a western that relies on the open to tell its story.

So I’m more impressed with this later installment of the cycle, things are looking darker if only in terms of soundtrack as we meet Ben Brigade (Scott) who has already find who is looking for, we’ve come in half way through his journey. Our traditional hero is a bounty hunter, not even the later anti-hero of the Dollars trilogy that uses his intellect to get what he wants. Instead he is driven to see this young man Billy John (James Best) hang, a man who has shot men in the back. A good enough reason to be brought to justice, not even giving his opponent a fair chance to defend himself.

The audience is already on the side of the bounty hunter, how long will that last as we meet more people at a stage stop, two men and the wife of the boss of the post. Its a barren landscape and dangerous too, as we learn when a stagecoach rides in, only to crash into the post after an attack by Native Americans who bother the five for half of the film. We also have a return to the minimal cast which is something that really works out in the open, allowing us to focus on these individuals. From the stage post we meet Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn) a double act essentially, the smart and the dumb man who plot to snatch the wanted man Billy and set him free, having heard there is an amnesty on his head. However plans to head to Santa Cruz for the bounty is where we are heading.

However Santa Cruz is not really where we are heading, taking our time through open country, taking a longer route, out in the open, not hiding their tracks. The threat of Billy John’s brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) who is already riding over in pursuit of rescuing his brother. We see little of him and his men, only a few scenes in all. Allowing more focus on the men and Mrs. Carrie Lane (Karen Steele) who has only just realised she is a widow, as she stays with these men more out of safety than anything else. She has to trust them, finding that as however united they are as a group they are as the ride on, they are divisions between them.

The divisions are best highlighted through the night scenes, heavy in dialogue and shadow leaving the characters almost in profile. Even though its basically day-for-night lighting its allows us to look inside these men and Mrs. Lane as they begin to understand each other and the situation they are in. Boetticher has definitely bounced back here with more adult western that really hits home when the truth is revealed to us. Brigades past is told to us with striking tree in the background, a hanging tree, it doesn’t take much explanation. Simultaneously the images of the past are that occurred at this location are being retold, we can imagine the awful scene that have drawn him back here for what is essentially the bounty he has really been waiting for. A reward that is worth more than any money could substitute.

The hanging tree is a familiar image in the genre that has never been so potent, always associated death, unlawful trials, racism and injustice. A lone bare tree in a wide open space allows the potential for so much imagery, becoming an arena of death for a short time, taking the Western back to ancient Rome or Greece where all could see your rise or fall from miles above. It’s all about the staging of the ideas, the emotions, out in the open even when they are held up tight inside you can feel the tension as nothing can truly escape the elements.

Related Articles

Forty Guns (1957) Revisited

Forty Guns (1957)

Ever since I saw Forty Guns (1957) a few years ago I have not been able to shake that opening sequence of sheer madness and cinematic magic as the Bonnell brothers are stopped in their tracks by a stamped of Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) and her men as they ride on by them, inviting you into a world that is anything but normal. Raising the dirt from the ground, leaving these three men in bewilderment at this spectacle that is only to continue as we enter into the cattle barons town.

It’s one of the few westerns that really made for the wide-screen, making full use of the format and pushing the visual boundaries of what you can do. Samuel Fuller is giving us a different brand of film-making, one that is all out there, taking your on a journey from different points of view and throwing in anything that comes into his head. You could say this is a movie that should only be shown on the big screen, no widescreen TV can really do it justice.

Forty Guns has nothing to do with the myth of conquest as such. It’s a myth within the myth where anything can happen. As we saw in the opening titles to the first showdown with cuts back and forth to elder brother Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) who makes his mark after the marshall has been shot dead. You can see strong influences for Sergio Leone with the closeups that fill the screen, looking on at the audience, he’s coming for us, no, he’s coming for Jessica’s brother Brockie Drummond (John Ericson), and without a shot he’s down. There’s a new form of law in town, independent from that imposed by Drummond and her puppet Sheriff Ned Logan (Dean Jagger). These are the Earp’s or the of the town, complete with their own history, bringing law with them. A dying breed of man who everyone knows will be gone soon. Even Griff himself who follows in a long tradition of gunfighters who cannot stand still in a town for long.

Even thought Stanwyck was no stranger to the genre she is particularly strong in this masculine role. The men are referred to as guns not men, tools that she uses at work, those who she gives orders to on her ranch. It takes a really strong man to stand up to her, which we find in Sullivan. Also the rifle-makers daughter (Sandy Wirth) is a match for middle brother (Robert Dix), it’s a masculine position that makes her more attractive, not just at home or in the dancehall, working the gambling tables. Our view of her on the screen is still very masculine even looking down the barrel of a gun, a target that has to be caught and married. When he visits her one time, he is measured for a gun, much like a suit, a gun is still seen as an essential part of being a man. A made to measure tool for the man, by the woman, allowing him to get closer to her, or more the other way around. Acting as the secondary romance to that between Griff and Jessica which does come out of the blue, both strong characters who brought together by chance. 

Thats chance encounter being a tornado, a real personal touch by the director, another of those moments of spontaneity which bring these two characters together. Well forced I should say by the elements. You could say nothing make sense in this film, that was my original conclusion as it goes against tradition and the language of the genre to deliver a thrill-ride of a film. Throwing in these motifs in part to engage a declining audience and to make the genre fresh again. Acting as an antidote to the darker Anthony Mann westerns of the decade, with all the hallmarks of New-wave cinema, combining classical imagery with unconventional cinematography.

With the crooked sheriff, with have a cowardly lion who’s roar is soon quietened, living in the pocket of Jessica, before living in fear of her after the arrest of one of her men/guns. We see a loyalty to the landowner destroy him as the film progresses. There’s a lot going on for a film that has only an 80 minute running time, so much happens and you can’t really process it. This was a welcome and much anticipated revisit that has given me so much more. A powerful female figure in the west was factually rare, and on cinema even rarer. Stanwyck’s presence on-screen is softer, able able to retain that far better. She never loses authority of her, it’s just over what she has authority of than changes.

Cimarron (1960)

Cimarron (1960)With the combination of both Glenn Ford and Anthony Mann I was sure Cimarron (1960) was going to be strong western. Maybe I was expecting too much when I look at Mann’s later work which was not as strong as that of the James Stewart films or even his later films which don’t really sit well with me. What I found with Cimarron was a flawed attempt at a Giant (1956) in the west. Both indeed take place in the developing frontiers of America.

Looking back at Giant as I did a few months ago I found it to be a larger than life epic that really looked at the lives of all affected by the times they were in. Whereas Cimarron which starts out with great intentions from the land rush of 1889 of Oklahoma that filled the screen like only an epic can do, seemingly thousands of wagons, men and horses ran across the open plains, making for exciting viewing, it could have gone on forever as settlers made it across the open country to claim a bit for themselves. There was a real sense of history being brought alive as all creeds of men and women had gathered together, as if a hundred wagon trains had reached the end of the Oregon trail before they split up to go in different directions to find a home. I felt such potential for the film which for the first hour stayed with it. The growing territory that would later become a state from the wooden buildings that saw a community grow before the audience over a 25 year period.

If only Glenn Ford was onscreen for more of the film it may have made for a better film. Leaving the film to be lead by Maria Schell as Yancey ‘Cimarron’ Cravats (Ford) wife Sabra Cravat who does the best she can and ably. Maybe I was just expecting more of Ford who when onscreen was a man of ideals and principals which he stuck too throughout. From coming to the defence of the Native American’s who chose the settlers life, the white mans way. To the greed of money that began to consume those around him.

Instead of the gold rush that took place at the start of the century, we have the striking of black gold, Oil which bursts into the hands of the most unlikely of people, that Tom and Sarah Wyatt (Arthur O’Connell and Mercedes McCambridge), who enjoy the highlife, beginning to ignore their roots, living the American dream to excess. Whilst the simpler Cravat family struggle on running the local paper which allows Cimarron to share his views with the world if they like them or not.

When he leaves the screen it’s all the air is beginning to escape from the balloon that keeps this film floating, I want him to come back, During which time things progress with the other characters. For Sabra a growing dependence for loans is developed to keep the family going, a theme that does run through, the over-reliance of money, not understand that a better life does not come with more money when Cimarron is later offered a powerful position which could benefit his family.

I guess the themes discussed in the film do save it from falling apart, it’s a strong film on those merits, yet without the strong central character that draws the audience is off the screen we want him back. At least when it comes to Mann and westerns he will always be remembered for those he made in the previous decade, strong, dark and mysterious, characters filled with dark desires that are more memorable. What I can take away from this film is great visuals of a changing country that you usually find in different films.

Related Articles

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.

Related Articles

An Idea or just a thought?

I watched this short interview with the director Anthony Mann with a focus on his westerns with James Stewart which I would like to revisit myself, not fully aware of their power or influence in the genre and film. That’s another post or two for the future.

I was stopped in my tracks from 8.03 – 8.25 when he mentions the great stories being laid in the west

you can take any of the great dramas, doesn’t matter if its Greek plays or whatever, you can always lay then in the west and they somehow come alive and this kind of passion and drama you can have patricide every kind of cide in a western and you can get away with it, it’s where all action took place

Anthony Mann

This has really struck a chord with me. I don’t know if it’s the start of another piece of work, it feels very early to say that. Or is it just a thought, a great connection from one text to a genre which I love so much.

I have ideas of adapting a play of Shakespeare’s into the West, in screenplay form. Or even building the sets for a theatre production, documenting them, or having a stage play. I’m not a writer really, the reviews are a search for ideas and enjoyment of film. To really write takes talent which writers have. Thinking about it, the theatre sets is one step I could easily make, I could build the stage with simple mechanics.

Again its too early really to say where and if it goes beyond the quote. Until then enjoy the interview, any ideas would be welcome.

Red River (1948)

Red River (1948)I’ve been eager to watch/revisit Red River (1948) for a few weeks now, last night I finally took the time to sit down and watch this epic western. I remember the first time being drawn to Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) after killing a man, buried him and read the bible over them. A guilt ridden man who at first wants to do right after leaving the love of his life in an ill-fated wagon train up north to settle on open ground north of the Rio Grande river, taking with him a cow, a bull and Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan). And not soon after a massacre survivor Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift in his debut role).

We catch up with these men and young boy 14 years later, after seeing a dream of a successful cattle ranch had taken root in the land, strewn with graves of Dunson’s enemies. We learn he has been affected by the civil war that left the south almost penniless. Meaning a massive drive up north to Missouri of 10,000 cattle was the only answer.

Joined by an impressive supporting cast who all become victims of Dunson’s drive and anger to finish the drive north. A hard task-master to say the least. A complex man riddled with guilt anger and determination to make good to survive. Along the way he begins to really unhinged and break down in front of the men who can see he’s going “plum crazy”. Moral breaks down as the men are treated almost like the cattle they are moving on the dangerous trip over the Red River, over open land filled with danger in the form of Native American, to themselves scaring the cattle into a stampede at night. Red River is jam-packed with it all.

Dunson, the natural leader and respectable man begins to lose his grip, everyone can see this, especially those close to him. His actions become irrational, as he stops sleeping becoming consumed with making the drive, pushing the men to extremes and break point. They begin to turn on him. Going back to the shoot and bury action which runs through the film, it becomes away to right a massive wrong, to ensure some justice and righteousness is maintained. Which loses all meaning, how can you kill a man out of anger, then bury him?

Throughout the film there is time to pause and reflect as the character digest the days events over the long journey, as they set up camp, allowing for strong character development. we also see a cast of actors who become synonymous with the genre, such as Harry Carey. Jr, John Ireland, and Hank Worden to name but a few. Director Howard Hawks leaves his mark on the genre, showing that the scale of drama can and does apply to the Western. Complex characters can exist in a simplistic world, developed more in the following decade by the likes of Anthony Mann and John Ford.

Red River is more than just a cattle drive is the growth of the men as well, namely Dunson and Garth, both polar opposites of what a man can be in the west, but can still survive and earn the respect of each other.