Author Topic: Once Upon a March in the West -2017  (Read 1886 times)

Knocked Out Loaded

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2017, 09:56:40 AM »
I might remember it all differently tomorrow.

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2017, 09:59:39 AM »
I see lots of insults but nothing in the way of bravo.
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

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Sandy

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2017, 10:29:25 AM »
I see lots of insults but nothing in the way of bravo.

Tis true, so you might have to add There You Ain't to the insults.  Such as,

Sandy, worse than a cat in a roomful of rockers, there you ain't.

Or, there is one I found, so you could say,

Sandy, you're top-sawyer.

And then I'd say, much obliged. :)

"Don't be shy. You learn to fly and see the sun when day is done. If only you see."

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2017, 11:32:23 AM »
But what if, in an access of dyslexia, I call you Tom Sawyer instead?
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

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Sandy

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2017, 02:11:14 PM »
But what if, in an access of dyslexia, I call you Tom Sawyer instead?

I'd take it as a huge compliment!

No, [her] mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful...

Love and life are deep
Maybe as [her] eyes are wide
   :D
"Don't be shy. You learn to fly and see the sun when day is done. If only you see."

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2017, 02:30:43 PM »
I should really read Mark Twain...
Society is dumb. Art is everything. - Junior

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1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2017, 02:42:36 PM »
L.A. Best Video Store just delivered 5 more titles

The Last Sunset (1961) - starring Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone and Joseph Cotten
Lawman (1971) - starring Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Lee J. Cobb and Robert Duvall
Mackenna's Gold (1969) - starring Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, Telly Savalas, Keenan Wynn, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Massey, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach and Edward G. Robinson
Posse (1975) - starring and directed by Kirk Douglas
The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) - starring Glenn Ford and Gene Tierney

Corndog

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2017, 02:58:56 PM »
Just call me an Oklahoma Sooner!

Union Pacific (Cecil B. DeMille, 1939)

Cecil B. DeMille makes his second appearance in this Westerns marathon after the promising The Plainsman, which showcased Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in traditionally well-known western roles. The exciting shootout scene is what stands out from that film, so for DeMille, known for his spectacle, an "iron horse" film sounds awfully promising, especially when given the talents and screen presence of Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, even if the transcontinental railroad has been profiled on multiple occasions early in this trek through the history of the Western filmmaking. It didn't end up being railroad fatigue which derails this film, but rather a serious lack of narrative focus.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, work began on the enterprising idea of connecting the continents two great oceans by rail. While the idea set out to bring expansion and opportunity to the country, certain people took it as a chance to make an extra buck. When a greedy investor plans to "short" the stock of Union Pacific, banking on the Central Pacific to reach Ogden, Utah first. Union Pacific "troubleshooter" Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea) is sent to the end of line to encourage the progress of the Union Pacific, but is met with opposition from Campeau (Brian Donlevy), the agent of the greedy investor, and his minion Dick Allen (Robert Preston), an old army buddy of Butler. Forced to battle his old friend, Butler seeks to bring law and order to the lawless landscape of "Hell on Wheels", all the while falling for Mollie Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck), the railroad lifer who runs the mail car.

Union Pacific turns out to be quite the roller coaster ride. As the film opens, it has a distinct prestige feel, much like how The Iron Horse felt. A picture more about the accomplishment of the Transcontinental Railroad than any individual characters. But that route changes quickly when we're introduced to Mollie, Jeff, and company. Then it becomes about how Jeff plans to reform Hell on Wheels and keep the Union Pacific ahead of the Central Pacific. And then the love triangle rears its head and Mollie is being courted by both Dick and Jeff. And then it's back to trying to save the railroad. DeMille's film certainly doesn't lack for ambition throughout. It reeks of a film which could have lasted well past its 135 allotted minutes, but instead settles for abrupt, incomplete plot turns, laying tracks in the wrong direction all too many times.

The performances are fine, for what it's worth, and there are even moments early on which gave me great promise. Barbara Stanwyck is always a joy to watch on screen, but she delivers a forced Irish accent which, while her character is supposed to be Irish, adds little to the performance other than to serve as a distraction. My biggest issue with Mollie were her character's choices, outside the hands of the wonderful Stanwyck. As soon as her "dilemma" begins, the film lost my interest, realizing that these were not real characters. McCrea is also a joy to watch. He fills the screen with confidence and is perfectly cast in the authority role. He and Stanwyck show good on screen chemistry, one which feels authentic compared to the chemistry shared between Preston and Stanwyck, further complicating that storyline's validity.

The film has a moral backbone, supporting the authority of Jeff Butler, while also carefully depicting the Native American response to the encroaching railroad business. There are certainly racist characters in the film, but DeMille, through Butler, is able to carefully address these spurts of racism with careful handling. No, the film's issues are not with racism, but rather with the screenplay. I quite liked when it showed the railroad coming together. It captured the Hell on Wheels concept of a moving, lawless town quite well. The details it gets right for the most part. But what sets Union Pacific on the wrong path are its larger plot developments, and it inability to focus on the more personal plotlines, those of Butler, Mollie, and Campeau. Too often the narrative is taken away from the main story for an unnecessary tangent which only serves to distract and bloat, neglecting and ultimately rushing the relationships between Mollie, Dick and Jeff. A disappointment to be sure.

**1/2 - Average
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2017, 07:21:17 PM »


The Last Posse (1953)

I decided to break open this Month's marathon of Westerns with The Last Posse because everything about it is Western comfort food. Leading the cast is Broderick Crawford as the once great, now broken down town sheriff. Surrounding him are a number of familiar Western faces, if not names, which is why I couldn't settle on just one screenshot. There's a hold up, a saloon fight, mischief from the wealthy citizens, sins of the past and talk about what is justice. With its brief 73 minute run time that begins and ends back at the town, this would make an easy companion to The Ox-Bow Incident, if it were as good.

I like the layers to the characters, something you often don't get from the Western, which specializes in easily identifiable stock types. There's also a darkness to the tone, a post-noir feeling that however this turns out, some good people are going to suffer. Where the film lacks most is in the manhunt itself. You watch westerns, you see people going through terrain on horses. Most films find a way to make these shots exciting. I can't put my finger on why the pursuit here is so un-cinematic, but it drags the back half down.
Rating: * * * - Okay

Corndog

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Re: Once Upon a March in the West -2017
« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2017, 01:48:50 PM »
Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 1939)

1939 is one of those famous years for cinema. A year where there are a handful of films that could have easily won Best Picture in a different year, or could easily make their way onto a Top 100 films of all-time list. Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Young Mr. Lincoln, the list goes on and on and on. Destry Rides Again is usually on that list as well, but never near the top. It certainly ranked as one of my more anticipated films from the Westerns marathon for that very reason. It has a tremendous reputation, and of course also stars James Stewart, perhaps my favorite actor of all time (as I am sure he is the favorite of many), in his very first Western.

Destry Rides Again, as popular as it is within the genre, also gets billed as both a comedy and a musical at times, though in my opinion it's not really either, but that's neither here nor there. The town of Bottleneck is a rough and ready frontier town, where shooting, cheating at cards, and other lawless activities are darn near encouraged. It's the design of boss Kent (Brian Donlevy) to cheat local ranchers out of their land for profit. With the mayor in his pocket, along with the local entertainment (Marlene Dietrich), Frenchy, to help with the cheating, Kent gets rid of the local sheriff and replaces him with a drunk (Charles Winninger), thinking him the easiest pushover to promote to the position. But when Washington, the drunk, calls on Tom Destry Jr. (James Stewart), the son of a famed lawman, to be his deputy, Kent feels even more comfortable in his plan, as Destry prefers to enforce the law without guns. Soon enough the town of Bottleneck sees just what Destry's style of law enforcement can do.

Let me get right back to my comment about this not being either a comedy or a musical, so as to clear that up before anyone gets any other ideas. There are songs here, sung by Dietrich, it's true, but that hardly constitutes a musical. There are also laughs here, often provided by the likable character of Boris and some other laughable situations, but that hardly constitutes a comedy. At its core, Destry Rides Again is just another Western. By introducing the gunless Destry, it is definitely a movie that is playing with the traditional tropes of the genre, but everything else feels familiar. Again, this is beginning to sound uncomplimentary, which is not the perception I was hoping for with this review. Ugh. Words are hard sometimes.

James Stewart is a national treasure, and inserting him into the landscape of the Wild West is perfect in every single way. His unassuming, and in this case literally disarming, personality is everything when set to the backdrop of the outlaws and lawlessness of the setting. He is a step above even Errol Flynn in his peerless principles. Destry Rides Again is indeed a great movie. While much of it's elements are familiar (the drunk sheriff, the evil boss, the conspiring female, the hero deputy), the film is so seemlessly put together, so beautifully performed by the whole cast. It's a narrative tour de force from beginning to end. It's easily the most polished narrative of the marathon, just behind Stagecoach.

There are classic moments in the film. The famed cat fight between Marlene Dietrich and Una Merkel seems very risque for its time. And there are tons of laughs to be had as well. Boris losing his pants in a game of cards to Dietrich's Frenchy. But my favorite moments were actually the more dramatic moments, like when Destry urges Frenchy to try seeing what she looked like without all of her makeup. It's a film I can see myself returning to, time after time, if for no other reason than for James Stewart. I felt a distinct Harvey vibe from his performance here (though perhaps in a less strange setting), so at odds with how everyone else around him sees the world, and yet Tom Destry Jr. is the one we should all be listening to. He sees things others don't, and that's his greatest weapon against criminals.

***1/2 - Great



I also greatly appreciated this bit of writing when reading reviews afterward:

Destry Rides Again

This film demonstrates, albeit fictionally, that a drunk, when given authority, can be surprisingly wise.  A fool, when given an opportunity, can be dependable.  And a weak man, without superior arms, can create justice. 

« Last Edit: March 02, 2017, 02:07:07 PM by Corndog »
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."