Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Blowing Wild: homage to Gary Cooper

BLOWING WILD - nice to re-acquaint myself with this nifty 1953 tough little meller, which I saw at a Sunday matinee back in the 50s. Directed by Hugo Fregonese and scripted by Philip Yordan it assembles 5 tough cookies somewhere in South America for a tale of oil riggers versus bandits. When your cast is Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Anthony Quinn, Ruth Roman and Ward Bond then wait for the fireworks!

Coop and partner Bond have their oil digging operation ruined by bandits and have to seek work. Enter wealthy Quinn and his predatory Medusa-like wife Stanwyck who once had the hots for laconic Coop and wants him back - he though falls for new girl in town Roman, playing a nice girl here .... then the bandits come back for the final explosive shoot-out - after Stanwyck has disposed of Quinn, so like all bad girls she has to pay the price. Stanwyck and Cooper (their third teaming?) are great together.

This had made me realise how much I love Gary Cooper, particularly his later films - perhaps the most beautiful man of the 1930s (check out his two with Dietrich MOROCCO and DESIRE, and the delirious THE FOUNTAINHEAD with Patricia Neal in 1949 and he and Ingrid Bergman are perfect together in SARATOGA TRUNK in '43), he was ageing rapidly in the '50s - like Gable, Tracy, Bogart, Flynn, Power and those other early '30s hellraisers who partied hard with all that smoking and heavy drinking - most of them did not see much of their 60s or the 1960s.

He turned out lots of routine movies but I particularly like him in Wyler's still charming FRIENDLY PERSUASION, that fondly remembered hit of 1956 (Samantha the goose and Pat Boone's theme song) and then Wilder's LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON in 1957, one I did not see until lately but this one does not work for me at all, Audrey Hepburn being far too young for his ageing roue - Wilder may have intended a light souffle in the spirit of Lubitsch but not for me. Much better is TEN NORTH FREDERICK in '58 from John O'Hara, and that brace of tough westerns: Anthony Mann's MAN OF THE WEST with Julie London and Lee J Cobb, and Delmer Daves' THE HANGING TREE in '59 with Maria Schell and Karl Malden, a particular childhood memory. Rossen's THEY CAME TO CORDURA is also a tough drama with the ageing Coop and Rita Hayworth very touching here. He then made his final two in Britain for Michael Anderson - the Hammond Innes adventure THE WRECK OF THE MARY DEARE with Charlton Heston and a great supporting cast (Michael Redgrave, Virgina McKenna, Richard Harris etc) and the thriller THE NAKED EDGE in '61, again the cast is the thing, with Deborah Kerr, Diane Cilento, Hermoine Gingold etc but it is impossible to think Coop could be the murderer. He was clearly ill by then and died on May 13 1961, aged 60, shortly after Gable's passing a few months earlier.

Seeing Coop now always reminds me of my father as my dad was a very Gary Cooper kind of man, both in looks and manner. We will always keep watching Coop and Cary Grant and James Stewart and Bogart and John Wayne, perhaps the greatest of the great male stars - there are others like Gable, Tracy and others whom we do not see so much now, perhaps their later films were not that special and are not revived much now.

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