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, 16 November 2016

"That'll be the day"

A western double bill, for late autumn afternoons. Only the best western ever: John Ford's THE SEARCHERS, and a routine oater from 1949 MASSACRE RIVER, only of interest now for teaming of the young Guy Madison and Rory Calhoun - see previous on them, below, or at labels.

We have written about THE SEARCHERS here before, and my 2010 appreciation on Jeffrey Hunter is at 'Jeff Hunter 1' label. Looking at Ford's classic again (I also have it on Blu-ray, as Martin would say) it is a timeless American Classic and the climax is as emotionally stunning as the end of CITIZEN KANE or CASABLANCA. Maybe they are the Top Three American Movies Of All Time?  Its certainly in my Top 10 (along with my other favourite western JOHNNY GUITAR)
The images and the scenery - did Monument Valley ever look more iconic? - stun one again, as does Ford's narrative, Wayne is superlative, Jeff Hunter has his best ever role as halfbreed Martin Pawley - he and Natalie are so poignant together, a perfect Fifties pair, Vera Miles excels as ever, and grown men cry when Ethan picks up Debbie at the end ....
Ford has some amusement too with Wayne's son Patrick and the regulars are all here from Ward Bond down. The early sequence when the settlers realise that Scar is about to attack is chilling and brilliantly done too, as is the scene where Ethan and Martin meet Debbie again in the wigwam with those scalps. Ford orchestrates it all perfectly, as per previous reports; and of course that line of Wayne's "that'll be the day" which gave Buddy Holly the title of one of his best songs ... Max Steiner's score is one of his most evocative and complements the images perfectly. 
Ethan Edwards is racist towards the Indians and the depiction of them may be problematic for some now, though Ford 'atoned' for that with his CHEYENNE AUTUMN in 1964; the squaw Martin gets married to is despatched rather heartlessly. 

MASSACRE RIVER on the other hand is pure studio dross, but a very rare film. I had ordered the dvd only to see it crop up on our Western channel, otherwise known as TCM uk. This must be where Guy Madison and Rory Calhoun got pally, as per my previous on them, and the various reports on their longtime relationship, despite their marriages, and some scurrilous rumours, but there are lots of photos of them together - just like Cary and Randy. 
They share a tub in this and one can see the chemistry between them. Calhoun was an ex-con who got into the movies, mainly rememered now for his two with Monroe and with Hayward in WITH A SONG IN MY HEART. Madison continued in westerns and dramas - both were filming in Europe by the early Sixties, Calhoun in the rather good COLOSSUS OF RHODES by Sergio Leone, so maybe they were meeting up then too. 

THE SEARCHERS though will live forever. 

1 comment:

  1. THE SEARCHERS is certainly in my top 20 all time best films, if not my top 10. MASSACRE RIVER I never heard of but now I will keep a look out for it. Guy and Rory together in a tub; what's not to like!