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Author Topic: Westerns  (Read 37189 times)

1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #350 on: August 03, 2018, 03:35:37 PM »
Distant Drums:
I didn't see it on Blu-Ray and initially I thought that's why it looked so cheap, but then you mention the bad production values. I thought BR would only heighten that. I've seen two Raoul Walsh films with a gator scene and both times they reminded me of Ed Wood.
Arthur Hunnicutt is a favorite of mine. If you can't get Walter, get Arthur. (For me, this comes from El Dorado, where Hunnicutt plays Brennan's role and does an even better job with it.)


Viva Zapata!:
I had a similar feeling about Kazan's direction. It's so much better than typical of the genre, it just happens to be a Western. Says a lot that this doesn't make my Top 5 Kazan. He was one of the best ever.
I wonder if it's because I'm not a fan of Brando, but I thought Quinn stole the film. Quinn is one of those actors I'll watch in anything, but this is some of his finest work.

oldkid

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #351 on: August 07, 2018, 12:27:19 AM »
Arthur Hunnicutt is a favorite of mine. If you can't get Walter, get Arthur. (For me, this comes from El Dorado, where Hunnicutt plays Brennan's role and does an even better job with it.)


Look at your profile pic.

Look at it!

See how sad he is?

Walter feels betrayed.

Sad Walter.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #352 on: August 07, 2018, 01:11:19 AM »


Walter Brennan's very resilient. Like Gumby.

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #353 on: August 07, 2018, 02:58:35 PM »
Bend of the River (Anthony Mann, 1952)

Welcome back Anthony Mann and James Stewart! I've hit a rough patch in this marathon, and while I could chalk it up to genre fatigue, I always knew it was just a bad run of films that would break sooner or later. Well, here is the second film in a row which I have enjoyed (Viva Zapata!), which sets a trend and bodes well for the future. Of course, getting director/actor teams like Kazan/Brando and Mann/Stewart certainly has a lot to do with that. Winchester '73 already feels so long ago, but the pair showed they're capable of making a compelling film, mostly because of Stewart's western persona, which is a little tougher and edgier than we're used to seeing him, and Mann's prowess to tell a hard edge story in a rough and ready setting. Bend of the River is another notch in their belt.

The film opens with Glyn McLyntock (Stewart) leading a wagon train of farmers to the fertile lands of Oregon. Along the way, he picks up a questionable stranger named Emerson Cole (Arthur Kennedy), who was about to be strung up by a vigilante posse. Once they make their way to Oregon, the farmers settle up river from Portland, the booming town. But when their ordered supplies don't arrive on time, Glyn travels down to Portland to investigate. While there he discovers that because the price of supplies has gone up, the farmers' share isn't coming, as it was sold at a higher price to someone else. Not taking a liking to this business, which includes the opportunistic play of Cole, Glyn sticks his neck out for the farmers, as he sees a new life with them and a girl named Laura (Julie Adams).

I know I opened talking about Stewart and Mann, and we'll get to them, but I think this is the first time we've seen Arthur Kennedy (which would also be the first time I remember seeing him in general), and boy what a nice surprise he is. His presence is so inviting, and he really plays the rather ambiguous Cole pitch perfect. He has a menace to him, but his overwhelming persona is warm and happy. He has some great grins here, and really seems to be enjoying himself on screen. It's that kind of verve and passion that makes a film like Bend of the River better than most. Of course, Stewart is awesome here too. He gives as good a performance as anything else he's done, though perhaps the part isn't as meaty as some of his more memorable and notable roles.

I'm not sure if there's a connection between Glyn McLyntock and John Wayne's McLintock! (which I've yet to see), but if not that's a strange coincidence. I really do love the harder edged Stewart though. He's one of my favorite actors and now getting to see this other side of him has been really fun to experience and watch. It only adds to his mystique, and doesn't take anything away. Imagine if George Bailey went up to Mr. Potter with a Winchester or a .45 and demanded he make things right instead of doing things "the right way". The heart is still in the right place, it's the method that's changed and the violent and physically intimidating Stewart is just as exciting and interesting. Playing against character does give it a little extra "ummph", I must admit.

As for the story, it's fairly standard, but with the actors in play I think they give greater depth and intricacy to the twists and turns than we could have expected from anyone else. The cinematography is gorgeous. As a big fan of both cinematography and western landscapes, I am definitely excited we've entered more into the color period, with the opportunity for my eye-popping vistas. I enjoyed this film very much. It's a short, effective, and very entertaining yarn with plenty to take away from it and further proof that Stewart is a great actor, capable of adapting his style across genre. Hey, did he ever do a musical!?

★★★ - Liked It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #354 on: August 07, 2018, 06:23:27 PM »
I thought I was going to start out by exclaiming Bend of the River as my favorite Western of 1952, but then I pulled up my list and found it grouped like this...
14.   Bend of the River
15.   High Noon
16.   Viva Zapata!
17.   The Lusty Men
18.   The Big Sky
19.   Rancho Notorious

It's a pretty tight configuration with no clear winner. So, I see you entering into a pretty solid swing. Bend has a lot going for it (and I'll get to the cast), but my favorite thing is its unpredictability. So much happens in such a short span of time, I can watch it again and forget who the real bad guy is. There are scenes with Arthur Kennedy and Rock Hudson where it's like a great buddy film, only there's betrayal just below the surface.

If Winchester '73 was so long ago, you probably only remember Destry Rides Again barely. Destry stands apart because it's what you would expect from a James Stewart western. These Mann films are a great mini-marathon for anyone diving a little deeper into Stewarts career and prove that the man had range. His blue eyes could look like steel with a rifle held up for him to sight.

"You'll be seeing me. Everytime you bed down for the night, you'll look back to the darkness
and wonder if I'm there. And some night, I will be. You'll be seeing me!"

It probably won't surprise you now to learn Arthur Kennedy was nominated for 5 Oscars, 4 for Supporting. You'll be seeing him 2 more times in 1952 and one more Stewart/Mann western later on. I'll be curious to hear which of his performances is your favorite.

Quite a promotion for Hudson after a brief turn as an Indian in Winchester. He doesn't do much besides act charming, but it's useful in places. I hope you also recognized Jay C. Flippen as the older man who gives the speech about rotten apples. He was last seen in Winchester as the Sergeant and will come up a few more times. A very reliable Western character actor. This might also be your first time seeing Stepin Fetchit - very famous at the time, seen as horribly racist today - in one of his last film appearances. He's the assistant on the steamboat with the vocal affectation like something Adam Sandler would do. This work is on the low end of the racism scale, but it still stands out. He's patched over by Chubby Johnson as Cap'n Mello.

There is no connection between Glyn McLyntock and John Wayne's McLintock! It was a somewhat common western last name.

Anthony Mann was particularly adept at using geography to make a scene unique, and there are two great examples here: the river port, especially when it's jammed with people during a later nighttime action scene, and the sequence late in the film on the rocky ground along the river's edge with a cliff up ahead.

Stewart appears in a couple of musicals but you won't see him doing any big song and dance numbers. You will have this to look forward to...

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #355 on: August 08, 2018, 09:03:31 AM »
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I did notice Fetchit and thought he was a very racist character. I'm glad more characters like his haven't shown up a ton, although the other side of that coin is that not many black characters have turned up so far. This is one of the reasons Sergeant Rutledge is intriguing to me. Not sure how blacks will play into the later stages of the marathon, but would be interested in your overview thoughts on their inclusion/exclusion from the genre generally.

I'm definitely hitting a hot streak of films. Waiting on High Noon and Son of Paleface from the library. I expect one will continue the tradition while the other won't, but regardless, I've had a nice little run of late.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #356 on: August 08, 2018, 12:17:49 PM »
I don't know enough about historical black representation during that time, but I speculate being before and after the Civil War, there aren't a lot of positive portrayals to draw from. Woody Strode's Pompey in Liberty Valance may be one of the best threadings of a needle. His character is largely a silent, sad witness to events, occasionally backing up the good guys, but largely ignored by the white folk around him.

The best positive inclusions of Black characters outside of Blazing Saddles - the elephant in this room - have come through the fantasy of exploitation, like Posse (1993) and The Black Bounty Hunter (1975). This is why I had such hope for The Skin Game (1971) starring James Garner and Louis Gossett Jr. The writer also did Charade and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, but the film falls apart when it tries to go deeper than its con game start.

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #357 on: August 27, 2018, 12:38:12 PM »
Rancho Notorious (Fritz Lang, 1952)

Sometimes a movie comes around which just feels very much like its own thing. While perhaps rooted in the tropes that define the genre in which it plays, it still has enough unique values which set it apart. Whether these are good or bad, at the very least the filmmaking team is trying something a little different, and interesting. When you get players such as director Fritz Lang and star Marlene Dietrich, you can begin to understand how a film like Rancho Notorious came to be, and set itself apart. Now, I will hold off on details until later in this review, but suffice it to say Rancho Notorious proves to be a breath of fresh air in how it approaches the Western genre. Not everything need be new and fresh. There are some truly wonderful works which stay within the confines, but a unique entry every now and then is truly welcome.

Vern Haskell (Arthur Kennedy) is happy as can be, he's set to marry his sweetheart. That is until she is unexpectedly murdered. Her murder sets Vern off on vigilante justice, but his is not swift justice, as he is forced to follow the breadcrumbs, trying to find out exactly what "Chuck-a-luck" is. He soon finds a connection with Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich), who was once a saloon performer who has since come to found a safehouse ranch for outlaws named "Chuck-a-luck". One of her closest allies, Frenchy Fairmount (Mel Ferrer) leads Vern to the ranch, where he must find out which of the bandits being harbored by Altar is the one who killed his fiancee. It's a delicate balance between his original mission and newfound "friendship" he has developed.
For my money, this film has the best opening line of the marathon to this point. The film opens with Vern and his fiancee kissing, and Vern delivers this great line: "Nothing's better than that to make a man agreeable." There is something about that old-fashioned language which is so satisfying to me, and not surprisingly, it sets the tone for what would be a film I greatly appreciate. And speaking of appreciation, Arthur Kennedy, a name I praised in Bend of the River once again delivers the goods, albeit in a slightly different role this time. No longer the villain, Kennedy shows us a passionate good guy with a necessary mean streak, and is once again very entertaining in the role. But overall, the lead trio is very good together, including Marlene Dietrich, a name I haven't fully appreciated yet.

Of course she is found singing in the early goings, I have to imagine that's in her contract, although I can't say I much enjoy her singing voice. But she is very entertaining and fun in this role, a character who is fully fleshed out and easy to root for, even despite some of her cruel intentions. The same can be said about Ferrer's Frenchy, a likeable bad guy, the type that sits on the fence between good and evil. We're meant to like them, I believe, and yet they're also outlaws. There is definitely a distinction between Altar and Frenchy and some of the other shady characters at Chuck-a-luck. And speaking of Chuck-a-luck, since I already mentioned Dietrich's singing, the theme song really grew on me. I was distracted by it at first, but its beat became a part of the rhythm of the film.

Lastly, Fritz Lang seems the perfect director for such a film. He brings in some of his noir style chops to create mystery and intrigue, and marries it with his action/suspense chops learned from The Return of Frank James, another western entry which I was fond of. Some of the action actually feels ahead of its time, perhaps because of the fast cuts and pacing. Overall, Rancho Notorious benefits from a swift feeling pace, fully developed characters, and a penchant to push the boundary and create some of the more unique and memorable moments from this marathon. Sure, there is risk in upsetting the balance of the genre by reaching out on a limb and defying convention, but sometimes you can just create your own celebrated space too. That's what this film does.

★★★★ - Loved It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #358 on: August 27, 2018, 12:57:35 PM »
I have a lot to say but I may not have the time. Short version: I agree and wish this was a more popular film, at least level with Johnny Guitar.  Itís a rare case where itís strange qualities make up its charm.

My one disagreement with you is your choice of screenshot. The film is in color and in the frame I used Arthur Kennedyís look isnít so exaggerated.

Corndog

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Re: Westerns
« Reply #359 on: August 27, 2018, 01:06:38 PM »
I don't really have a standard when it comes to screenshots. I typically don't think of a particular shot and seek it out. My process is as simple as doing a google search on the film with a large resolution and finding something that's presentable and not watermarked by Alamy Stock Photos.
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