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Westerns

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Mr. Arkadin
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Re: Westerns

Postby Mr. Arkadin » February 21st, 2014, 8:22 pm

Canyon Passage is an amazing film. I remember I was painting our son's room when I ran back our bedroom to hit record and was so struck by the camerawork and colors I actually sat through the first 15 minutes of the film before I heard a voice yell "I don't hear any work going on back there!" :P

RedRiver
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Re: Westerns

Postby RedRiver » February 22nd, 2014, 3:49 pm

As a youngster, I was very impressesed with the star-studded WARLOCK. A more recent viewing left me less satisfied. One thing's for sure. It boasts one hell of a cast!

kingrat
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Re: Westerns

Postby kingrat » March 3rd, 2014, 7:42 pm

Last night we watched High Noon (1952). I popped it in the DVD player, and my spouse heard the theme music, wandered in, and wound up watching the whole movie. The tension and pacing don’t let you go. I liked it much better than when first seen a long time ago, especially the cinematography by Floyd Crosby, a name new to me, and the direction by Fred Zinnemann. For instance, notice the variety of compositions of the three outlaws waiting for the arrival of the train: never the same, always interesting, always tellingly lit. Carl Foreman’s script gives quite a number of townspeople the opportunity to speak their piece about the showdown, and Zinnemann never condemns them with his camera set-ups or instructions to the actors.

The scene with Otto Kruger as the judge packing away the American flag is one of the best, and Lon Chaney Jr. as the former sheriff, and even a Kane supporter in church named Ezra (played by one Tom Greenway) has a fine moment before Thomas Mitchell takes over the church and betrays the sheriff’s cause. His seeming rationality, quite persuasive, makes the betrayal the more telling. All the little vignettes are well-done, including a fine turn by Howland Chamberlin as the bitchy hotel clerk.

In the larger roles, Lloyd Bridges hits all the right notes as the deputy—seeing this performance and his villain in Try and Get Me really raises my opinion of his acting. I do wish the script could probe a little more deeply into the background of Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado), clearly the most interesting and complex character. Grace Kelly has the right quality as the Quaker bride, and Gary Cooper’s age is an asset, with the hunched posture and slightly awkward gait just right for Sheriff Kane. Unlike his wife, he is not a youthful idealist.

Is Dimitri Tiomkin the Stanley Kramer of film composers? He has plenty of talent, but seems eager to underline and overemphasize, not trusting us to get the points that the dialogue and the images convey perfectly well on their own. I feel the same way about his scores for Red River and The Young Lions. Yes, I’ve known and liked the theme song since I was young, but less would have been more.

High Noon has been a favorite of presidents as different as Eisenhower and Clinton, and the allegory which the script seems to be reaching for can be interpreted in contradictory ways. Foreman probably intends a reference to those who did not stand up against the blacklist, yet the story has also been interpreted as a defense of the Korean War. We fought against evil in WWII, but we didn’t finish the job (by attacking the Soviet Union, for instance) and now we’re having to fight them again. High Noon was attacked by the Soviets as a glorification of the individual (which it certainly is), and thus became an anti-Soviet symbol to Solidarity—see the Wikipedia article for an interesting poster.

High Noon seems one of the most culturally important films of the 1950s, and I wonder if it didn’t influence another such cultural landmark, On the Waterfront (1954). Carl Foreman would have hated this line of thought. In each film, one man must stand up against an evil man (Frank Miller, Johnny Friendly) supported by a corrupt officialdom (Frank Miller has been pardoned) and a general populace afraid to do anything. On the Waterfront is more optimistic, as other longshoremen are inspired by the courage of Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando). In High Noon, Will Kane and his bride simply drive away in the final shot, leaving the townspeople to make what they will of what has happened.

To back away from this kind of speculation: High Noon makes perfect sense as a story about a brave man in a Western town. It is extremely well made and has a remarkable hold on the audience. And how cool is it that the first shot of the movie shows an outlaw played by a then little-known actor named Lee Van Cleef?

RedRiver
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Re: Westerns

Postby RedRiver » March 4th, 2014, 4:37 pm

High Noon has been a favorite of presidents as different as Eisenhower and Clinton

As well it should be. A great story has something for everybody.

I wonder if it didn’t influence another such cultural landmark, On the Waterfront

"Waterfront" is as allegorical in that regard as any movie I've seen. (With the exception of Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE, of course!) Brando's character is asked to spy on people who resist the organization. Then he's subpoened to testify against the labor bosses. Then he's shunned by the good guys AND the baddies!

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JackFavell
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Re: Westerns

Postby JackFavell » March 4th, 2014, 4:42 pm

Great remarks on High Noon, kingrat. It's not an easy movie, with easy characters, or an easy story. It's difficult, just as the decisions such a situation requires are difficult.

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Re: Westerns

Postby kingrat » March 6th, 2014, 5:30 pm

If I were teaching a class on filmmaking, I might just begin by showing the opening scene of Seven Men from Now (1956, dir. Budd Boetticher) for an example of first-rate writing (by Burt Kennedy), directing, and film acting. A man’s back is the first thing we see. He walks away from the camera. We see it’s a dark and stormy night in the middle of nowhere. The man heads for a campfire, around which two men drink coffee. The two men are suspicious of the newcomer because in all this space, no one can hear you scream. The stranger, whom we now recognize as Randolph Scott, asks for a cup of coffee. The dialogue is sparse, laconic, and telling. When they ask the stranger about his horse, he mentions the Chicawara, an Indian tribe. “Stole it?” “Ate it.” (I love this exchange.) John Beradino, who plays the younger, better-looking of the two men, the leader, does almost all the talking. The other man seems frightened, though nothing Randolph Scott says or does seems to account for it. A minimum of dialogue, a minimum of screen time, the maximum tension. The location of the men in the shots and the editing subtly heighten the feeling of unease. The scene is resolved elegantly, and it makes us want to know what happens next (and what happened in the past). Sharing coffee will be a motif in other scenes, and the reference to the Indians being so hungry they ate a horse also affects another scene.

In all the 78 minutes there’s no padding, no wasted scenes, yet nothing seems left out. William H. Clothier’s cinematography makes the high desert another character, maybe the most important one. After Dimitri Tiomkin’s overbearing scores for Red River and High Noon, what a pleasure to hear the work of composer Henry Vars, who, in addition to some lighter moments, can add to the tension with lightly scored passages—Tiomkin, on the other hand, brings out the brass in full force whether they are needed or not. Boetticher tried unsuccessfully to get rid of the title song; at least it isn’t as bad as the one from The Man from Laramie, and it’s interestingly scored for low male voices.

How could I go this long without mentioning Lee Marvin, who plays an ambiguous character: he’s villain—oh, maybe not, and he does have a certain charm—no, he’s behaving like a villain. It’s the kind of performance that makes you say, “I want to see more of this guy.” Randolph Scott is a minimalist actor—less is more—which only works when you can suggest that deeper things are happening under the surface. That’s just what Scott does. He’s perfectly cast as a man whose code of behavior requires him to minimize all signs of his inner turmoil.

Gail Russell doesn’t look as young as the script tells us she’s supposed to be, though that’s not a flaw. The flaw is the 50s hairstyle, like something my mother would have worn, not like a pioneer. Russell never quite looks in period, though she acts her part well. Her personal fragility adds something to this role.

I’ve now seen all six of the Boetticher/Burt Kennedy/Randolph Scott westerns and liked them all. By the way, I purchased this film for a grand total of $4.24 on Amazon, not including shipping, and this was the letterboxed version with an excellent print.

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ChiO
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Re: Westerns

Postby ChiO » March 6th, 2014, 6:06 pm

My favorite Boetticher Western and my favorite Randolph Scott Western and probably in my Top 5 of all Westerns.
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CineMaven
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Re: Westerns

Postby CineMaven » March 6th, 2014, 8:09 pm

You can always tell what decade a western is made, by looking at the leading lady's hairstyle. I saw marcelles in 30's westerns, pompadours in the 40's and ponytails in the 50's. Lovin' Boetticher. He doesn't quite make it simple black hats and white hats. I must re-visit him.
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JackFavell
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Re: Westerns

Postby JackFavell » March 7th, 2014, 8:16 am

Terrific movie and review, kingrat.

Lee Marvin can make sipping coffee seem immoral.

RedRiver
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Re: Westerns

Postby RedRiver » March 7th, 2014, 12:57 pm

If I were teaching a class on filmmaking, I might just begin by showing the opening scene of Seven Men from Now

I love when a movie inspires that reaction. I've felt that way a few times myself.

RedRiver
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Re: Westerns

Postby RedRiver » March 7th, 2014, 1:00 pm

Lee Marvin can make sipping coffee seem immoral.

Especially if you're Gloria Grahame!

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mrsl
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Re: Westerns

Postby mrsl » March 7th, 2014, 6:37 pm

.
The teaming of Boetticher and Scott was undeniably as good as the team of Ford and Wayne. Although the former works with a smaller budget, he manages to get all of his information pertaining to the story across with little excess baggage. In 7 Men from Now, the scene on the rainy night when Marvin informs Gail Russell and her husband the back story of Scott and what happened between his wife and the guys he's after is so off the cuff that it's almost over before you realize he's giving YOU, the audience, all the info you need to understand the forced chase. But Boetticher does this with most of his movies, the back story is usually told as an anecdote around the campfire, or to calm a woman down. It's a truly subtle but masterful ploy.

It's a shame how many people are missing truly fine movie making by flatly stating they do not like Westerns. Some of Boetticher's movies may change their mind if the can see the fine nuances apparent in his work.
.
Anne


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RedRiver
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Re: Westerns

Postby RedRiver » March 8th, 2014, 4:33 pm

people are missing truly fine movie making by flatly stating they do not like Westerns. Some of Boetticher's movies may change their mind

You're absolutely right, Anne. The same applies to the best of Henry King, Anthony Mann and that Irishman who made all those John Wayne movies!

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Re: Westerns

Postby MissGoddess » March 10th, 2014, 5:28 pm

The Far Country is on TCM...I just can't get enough of this movie. It was my first Anthony Mann western, and still my favorite...and among my top ten favorites of all time. I believe Man of the West to be a stronger film, creatively and dramatically, but I love the texture of frontier life to be found in The Far Country, as well as the assortment of characters, each deftly fleshed out and making me believe in them and the reality of their world. I also love the friendship between Jeff (Stewart) and Ben (Brennan), it's among the best and warmest on film. It is reminiscent of Stewart's "George Bailey" and his "Uncle Billy" (Thomas Mitchell) in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. The celebration of forming a community is beautifully realized.

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movieman1957
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Re: Westerns

Postby movieman1957 » March 11th, 2014, 7:55 am

I also like the relationship between Brennan and Stewart. The best part is that Brennan doesn't hold back when he tells Stewart what he thinks about some of the things going on. Friends should be able to tell another the truth without fear of losing the relationship. It's one of my favorites too.
Chris

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