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.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Stanwyck out west, redux

I love Barbara Stanwyck out west where she excelled at playing strong-willed, independent women, usually a cattle queen or town big wig who gave as good as she got - I grew up on those movies like CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA and THE MAVERICK QUEEN and 40 GUNS. See Stanwyck label for comments on these and 1957's very under-rated TROOPER HOOK which I loved as kid where she plays the white woman rescued from the redskins in a very interesting way, quiet and watchful. (The '50s was a good decade for Barbara what with CLASH BY NIGHT, EXECUTIVE SUITE, TITANIC, all these westerns before programmers like ESCAPE TO BURMA or WITNESS TO MURDER, and her other deceitful wife in BLOWING WILD).

A posed shot with scissors for THE FURIES
Now I have discovered two more of her '50s westerns I had not seen before: Anthony Mann's THE FURIES in 1950 and Rudolph Mate's THE VIOLENT MEN in 1955.  THE FURIES (like Wyler's THE BIG COUNTRY) is hardly a western at all but an engrossing drama of a divided family out west.  Walter Huston (his last role) is the powerful rancher who has brought up his daughter Vance to be as tough as himself and and has promised her the ranch The Furies will be hers after his death. But then he brings home his ageing fancy woman Judith Anderson (firing on all cylinders as usual) who wants to be his wife and begins to ease Vance out but goes too far by telling her there will always be a room there for her .... we had earlier seen Barbara playing with that large pair of scissors and it is an electrifying moment when she lets Judith have it in the face, which leads to bitter emnity between father and daugher.

Barbara lets rip with the scissors
Apart from Barbara and Judith we also have Blanche Yurka and Beulah Bondi - what a quartet - the men are Gilbert Roland, Barbara's Mexican pal who gets strung up - but his mother Blanche gets her revenge at the climax - and that oddity Wendall Corey, surely the dullest least attractive leading man ever? (see review of DESERT FURY, westerns label) This is a long western drama as Vance aims to buy out her father's ranch  and has some great black and white photography and as usual with Mann, there are some great compositions.
Barbara has a great line when visiting Corey, his girl tells her she is new here, Barbara retorts "honey, you wouldn't be new any place".
Ford, Keith, Robinson & Stanwyck
THE VIOLENT MEN is a more conventional western with great ourdoors vistas in Scope and colour as another rancher Glenn Ford faces up to crippled Edward G Robinson who wants to own the whole valley, as egged on by his unfaithful lustful wife Barbara (who is carrying on with his brother, the fitter Brian Keith). This gets pretty violent too, there is the sadistic murder of a ranch-hand by evil Richard Jaeckel, and also that great scene as Barbara (a mix of Medusa and Lady Macbeth) throws Edward G's crutches into the fire as their house burns leaving him to perish in the flames... She has a great moment at the climax when she thinks Robinson is dead but he rides back and like Bette at the climax of THE LETTER she too meets her nemesis ....a good afternoon's viewing then.

Joan Crawford was of course just as good out west in JOHNNY GUITAR (westerns label) the first movie I ever saw aged 8, as I often mention. Coming up: more on Joan's 50s classics, and Lana Turner's 50s sudsers, and also that other outdoor gal Susan Hayward who also went west a few I spoil you.

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