It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have. – Unforgiven (1992)
I decided to open with the above quote to prove a point of sorts. It’s a point about perception, the way cinema tricks us into believing certain things, or at least the way those who write about cinema shape our views. There are plenty of people who point to Eastwood’s Unforgiven and hold it up as the ultimate myth buster. I like the movie well enough but it does bring a wry smile to my face when I hear it lauded as a film which highlighted the corrosive effects of violence on men who lived by the gun. It’s easy to see how those unfamiliar with the genre, or even those with only limited exposure to it, could buy into the theory that Unforgiven is a bigger game changer than it really is. There is a tendency among some, probably fueled by the influence of the spaghetti western, to imagine the genre was all about cool, trigger-happy gunslingers prior to 1992. Somehow, the perception arose that the western shied away from or glossed over the consequences of violence and killing. Yet if one goes back to the golden decade of the 50s, it’s clear that the genre had already faced such themes head on. Saddle the Wind (1958) is a film about killing, a painful and probing examination of the repercussions of pulling a trigger and taking a life.
The opening sees a stranger (Charles McGraw) riding into town. He’s one of those bristly, hard-bitten types, the kind of guy who oozes insolence and aggression, who demands rather than asks. Men like this have a swaggering confidence born of the knowledge that they’re tough, mean and fast enough to carry it all off. Anyway, he makes it clear that he’s looking for a man, Steve Sinclair (Robert Taylor), and guys such as this don’t come looking for men just to be sociable. Steve Sinclair is now a respected rancher but he has a murky past that he’s trying to live down, having once been a famed gunman and killer. So what’s new, you may ask. Thus far the scenario is one that ought to be familiar to anyone who’s seen more than a handful of westerns. Well Steve is a man who has learned from the sins of his youth, he’s become a reformed character and has rejected violence. However, Steve has a younger brother, Tony (John Cassavetes), who appears to have inherited the worst traits of his elder sibling. Tony is more than just a cocksure kid with a gun and a point to prove; he’s a damaged human being, a walking stick of dynamite without a hint of remorse and a lust for killing. We first see Tony as he arrives home with a girl he intends to wed, former saloon singer Joan (Julie London), and a new gun. It’s immediately clear that there’s something itching away under Tony’s hide: he deposits his betrothed in the house, introduces her to all, and then proceeds to indulge his real passion. Where a normal guy would fawn and fuss over his newly acquired fiancée, Tony instead gets straight to work honing his shooting skills with his new six-shooter. Not only that, but there’s a manic, obsessive edge to his practice, rounded off by his blasting away at his own reflection in the water – which of course foreshadows the film’s climax. And this, more than anything else, is what the whole movie is really about, two very different brothers and their attitude to violence. The more Steve tries to rein in the excesses of his brother, the more Tony strains against that moderating influence. What finally brings the conflict to a head is the arrival of a former Yankee soldier (Royal Dano) bent on claiming his family’s legacy and stringing the dreaded barbed wire on the open range. Tony’s overreaction and stubborn refusal to heed Steve’s call for calm leads to a tragic confrontation. His neglect of Joan has already irritated Steve, but it’s his determination to usurp the authority of the local land baron (Donald Crisp) which finally forces the two brothers into a situation where only one can walk away.
Robert Parrish isn’t a director whose name will be familiar to many these days. However, he made a string of fine films throughout the 50s, culminating in the truly excellent The Wonderful Country. I recall reading somewhere that Parrish was unhappy that he wasn’t given full control over the final cut of that movie; I don’t know if that’s true but the fact remains his career as a director appears to have slumped dramatically after hitting that peak. Anyway, Saddle the Wind (with its screenplay by Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone fame) comes awfully close to being his best work – I reckon The Wonderful Country just about pips it to the post but there’s not a lot in it – with some memorable visuals and an extraordinarily powerful theme. Pitting brother against brother always makes for good drama. When you mix in the simmering resentment left over from the Civil War, and a scathing critique of machismo and the culture of violence then it all adds up to something quite special. It’s that last point which I mentioned in my introduction, and I’d like to explore it a little further here.
Others have pointed out that the scene where Jack Palance gunned down Elisha Cook Jr in Shane was a pivotal moment in the development of the western, and I’m not going to argue with that. That proved that gun play and violence was a mean, dirty business. Saddle the Wind follows on from that and literally hammers the point home: apart from the heartfelt speeches delivered by Taylor and Crisp at various times, the killings that take place in the film, and there aren’t actually that many, are grim and brutal. No-one dies easily; as the bullets tear into bodies, the victims clearly suffer, twitching, kicking and coughing to the bitter end. And then there’s the aftermath, the consequences of taking a life. Two of the characters (Crisp & Taylor) bear the psychological scars of a violent past and their world view is shaped by that. For me, it’s this mature consideration of the effects of violence on the souls of men that marks Saddle the Wind out as one of the great westerns of the greatest decade of the genre.
The more often I watch Robert Taylor’s westerns, particularly those of the late 50s, the more I come to view him as one of the most significant figures in the genre. I didn’t include him in my list of the top ten western stars which I compiled at the tail end of last year, and I tend to think now that it may have been a major omission. I guess Taylor is never likely to attain the status of Stewart, Scott or Wayne but his finest western roles made a big contribution to the genre. In Saddle the Wind he achieved a marvelously quiet dignity, a kind of pained courage that projected all-round masculinity as opposed to juvenile machismo. Taylor’s calm awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses contrasts well with the strutting bravado of Cassavetes. Now there’s a figure one wouldn’t normally associate with the west. Cassavetes had a very urban and modern air about him, a guy who it’s hard to imagine outside of a big city environment. Yet that otherness, that discomfort with his surroundings, works under the circumstances. Cassavetes’ character is a young man at war with himself, and by extension with the whole world around him. If Cassavetes doesn’t truly belong in this frontier setting then it’s merely a reflection of the character whose psychological flaws and displaced morality set him apart from those around him. He honestly comes across as some unbridled force of nature, and Taylor’s futile efforts to tame him could easily be seen as a fruitless attempt at saddling the wind. These two men unquestionably dominate the film but it’s also important to mention the work done by Donald Crisp and Royal Dano. Crisp was always good in patriarchal roles and his benign presence in this movie is every bit as touching and influential as the rather different yet comparable part he played in Anthony Mann’s The Man from Laramie. Royal Dano was one of those character actors who seemed to pop up all over the place, and his halting delivery and hunted look tend to stick in the mind. Saddle the Wind offered him a role to get his teeth into, a desperate man driven on by his private sense of honor and justice. And that brings me to Julie London. Her fame today derives from her singing (and she provides a beautiful version of the theme song of this film) but she also starred in three exceptional westerns around this time: The Wonderful Country, Man of the West and the film under discussion.
Saddle the Wind was an MGM production and so it was released on DVD by Warner Brothers a few years ago in their Western Classics box set. The film has been given a very good transfer to DVD, the anamorphic scope image looking bright, clean and colorful. The location photography in Colorado looks quite stunning in places and the audio is also strong with the gunshots packing a considerable punch, and Elmer Bernstein’s brooding score sounding rich. The only extra feature offered on the disc is the theatrical trailer. I believe this is a very fine western, although nowhere near as well-known as it deserves to be. I see it as further proof of how far the western had progressed by the late 50s. However, the fact that thoughtful films like this are only infrequently mentioned can also be regarded as evidence of the regression the genre experienced through the following decade. Anyway, next time someone claims that a film such as Unforgiven broke entirely new ground in terms of its critique of violent lifestyles, you can simply point them towards this production and tell them it’s not as new a concept as they first imagined.
92 thoughts on “Saddle the Wind”
What a great review, Colin . And I do agree Saddle The Wind is very good. I love your description of the John Cassavetes character – “a walking stick of dynamite”.
Great cast though I wish Charles McGraw had a bigger role. Royal Dano always has that anguished look and his stand against Nick is very moving.
I love how Steve looks up to Donald Crisp (‘benign presence’ is a lovely description of his character).
This has always been one of my favourite westerns and I am grateful to you for such a fine tribute.
Thank you. Charles McGraw is an actor I always like to see make an appearance, but very often those appearances are far too brief. The opening of Robert Siodmak’s The Killers comes to mind when watching this movie, not least because McGraw (along with William Conrad) similarly terrorizes and intimidates the guys in the diner. Aggressive, assured and just a heartbeat away from exploding into action, McGraw had an air of real menace about him.
Very perceptive and well-written Colin. I fully agree that a bit too much has been credited to “Unforgiven” (fine picture though it is) by people who are not that knowledgeable about westerns.
“Saddle The Wind” is indeed one of the great westerns of the 50s and one that I watch regularly and I can’t really add anything to the insightful remarks you’ve offered.
I’m glad that you mentioned Julie London’s beautiful rendition of the title song! A highly melodic and simple song, quite intentionally in contrast with the violent subject matter of the film itself.
Yes…Royal Dano! What a name (sounds like an obscure type of winning poker hand doesn’t it?) and what a character actor! He never seemed to age or change and always had that haunted victim-of-the-world look about him. His appearance here competes for status, I think, as his ‘most miserable character’ with his brief cameo as the USAF minister whose job it was to carry the news that test pilots had been killed, to their widows, in “The Right Stuff”.
Hi Dafydd. Listen, I think Unforgiven is a fine movie and it’s certainly not my intention to offer any harsh criticism of it here. However, as you say yourself, it’s one of a handful of westerns held up as examples of “great westerns” – that’s fair enough as far as it goes, but the problem is that a number of people see that select handful and then appear to form judgments on the whole genre on that basis. There’s so much variety and richness out there that it’s quite impossible to come to any worthwhile conclusion from such a narrow perspective.
And Royal Dano (I love that name too) is simply terrific here. I can’t think of another performer who could have invested the level of pathos in his role that he did. When he faces off against Cassavetes (twice) there’s such a contrast in the approaches of the two characters. Dano’s resolute righteousness becomes even more poignant when he’s confronting Cassavetes’ grandstanding.
Thank you so much for voicing my exact sentiments on Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”, Colin! Having watched, enjoyed and added Parrish’s “The Wonderful Country”, I can’t wait to check this one out. Excellent review.
Thank you very much David. Seeing as you enjoyed The Wonderful Country, I think you are likely to find this movie rewarding too.
Terrific post, Colin, and your points about Unforgiven are dead on. It’s a damn good movie, for sure, but nowhere near the game-changer it’s been held up as. The fact that Hollywood itself is responsible for a lot of that hoopla might be an indication of their ignorance of the genre.
Your take on Robert Taylor is a good one. Maybe his Westerns are too varied, too unusual to make him one of the genre’s icons — Westward The Women, The Last Hunt, Devil’s Doorway. That’s quite an assortment.
Tangent: The Last Hunt may be the most uncomfortable viewing experience in 50s Westerns, thanks to Taylor’s performance and the incredible herd-thinning scenes. That film really got to me — it’s been well over a year since I got the DVD, and I still haven’t finished the post on it. (My wife couldn’t watch it.)
Saddle The Wind is one I’m way overdue to revisit, and you’ve convinced me to move it to the top of the heap. Your posts have a tendency to do that.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks for that Toby. I have issue with Unforgiven really – I think it’s a great piece of work, but it bugs me a little when the popular assessment of any movie ends up distorting or playing down earlier achievements.
That’s a good point about the diverse nature of Taylor’s westerns and it’s possible effect on his standing in the genre. I hadn’t thought of that before but you may be on to something there. Most of the other western greats often stuck to, or at least became identified with, a certain type.
The Last Hunt is indeed a challenging movie for the reasons you mentioned – but it remains a great one. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it whenever you get round to it.
I do not want to rain on your parade Colin so I will keep my reservations to myself.
I do like the film well enough but for me it is not in the front rank of Fifties Westerns.
Taylor is of course brilliant in this film.
What is more of interest to me is the cross reference to Eastwoods UNFORGIVEN
the last truly great Western.
I thought the film that pre-figures Eastwoods film more than any other is Harold Schusters
JACK SLADE (1953) starring Mark Stevens. The film really echoes Eastwoods line “Ive killed
children,dogs and women,just about anything that walks or crawls.”
Schusters film starts with a child killing an adult in an incredibly bleak opening.
This situation is reversed a couple of times in the film.
Kids are gunned down in cold blood by crazed desperadoes ,a child is trampled beneath the
hooves of drunken gunfighters,old duffers are caught in the crossfire in saloon shoot-outs
When watching Schusters film you cannot help think that this is what William Munney must have
been like as a young man. When it seems Slade is about to find redemption fate intervenes and
drives him further into booze fuelled violence.Most shocking of all when Slade is forced to hang
the cocky guitar strumming kid that he tried so hard to prevent from a life of crime.
JACK SLADE made a huge impact on me,I just could not shake the thing off for days,eaisly the
most disturbing Western that I have ever seen.
The films message is simple……..violence aint romantic.
JACK SLADE did pretty well for Allied Artists they even did a follow up called RETURN OF
JACK SLADE which had nothing to do with the original film.
JACK SLADE is my idea of a true “lost” film and a DVD release seems highly unlikely at this
time………..sad because the film should be far more well known.
Actually there is a great scene in JACK SLADE when Mark Stevens and Barton Maclane
(never better) are about to face each other off in a gunfight when a dog appears out of nowhere
and casually wanders between them. I have no idea if this was deliberate or it just “happened”
Great scene though!
John, I’ve read contributions from yourself in the past singing the praises of Jack Slade and I must admit I’m more than a little intrigued by this movie. I hope it does appear somewhere – I’d love to see it.
Thanks especially for the first paragraph of this piece. In truth, I probably agree with John Knight that UNFORGIVEN is the “last truly great Western” and wrote about it when it came out in pretty glowing terms, but naturally I was at pains to point out that Eastwood drew his motifs, ideas and themes from classical Westerns and especially those of the 1950s, that had long been forgotten, though not by him. For me, he did put enough of an individual spin on it that it’s challenging and provocative in its own right, though not a movie to replace the greatest Westerns, all made earlier.
By the way, I saw JACK SLADE once on TV a long time ago. I do remember it as very harsh and grim on its subject, a distinctive film, though not the standout for me that it is for John Knight. But everytime he mentions it makes me feel I want to see it again.
Now, re SADDLE THE WIND, yes, it’s a beauty–THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY is definitely the greater of the two for me and one of my favorite of all Westerns (and I just caught up your piece which I guess I missed since there is no comment of mine there)–but I like this and am happy thinking of having that Western Classics set you mention just a room away so now I’m very motivated to get back to it for the first time in years. It’s interesting that certain themes will play strongly in Westerns in certain years, like this family thing. In GUNMAN’S WALK the same year, a father has to kill his out of control son in the climax, and here it’s the two brothers facing off. Also, in that year, Robert Taylor in THE LAW AND JAKE WADE has to kind of return to the outlaw past he left and destroy it in order to fully move on just like Gary Cooper in MAN OF THE WEST (Taylor’s character here also has resonance of this same genre motif). Good years for redemption and renewal in the best Westerns–the Ranowns treated this, THE LAST OF THE FAST GUNS does, and plenty of others culminating in the sublime THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY.
And I just have to add that for me Julie London’s performances in the three Westerns you cite, all outstanding films in the genre, are all superb for me and make her an iconic figure. And I absolutely love the title song of SADDLE THE WIND and her singing of it–a highlight of the movie, which so beautifully provides that moment of tender contrast.
Now I just must add that I was interested in Toby’s comment about THE LAST HUNT (and already knew he had this reaction to it last time out). This is another great one for me, but I do think he’s right about it–I consider it the harshest Western of the 50s. It’s vision of the West is not at all benign, and it’s hard to think of a more forbidding villain ever in his attitude toward killing than Taylor plays. But unlike post-classical Westerns, it isn’t cynical about anything it treats, and along with the brutality, the spiritual evolution of the hero Stewart Granger takes it in a parallel, opposite direction. Yes, I know we’ve discussed all this before. But it’s worth repeating. You’ll still hear some people say older Westerns were simple, but the opposite is true. They treat the deepest things. But never pretentiously, and in a way that anyone is encouraged to understand and appreciate.
I hope I didn’t give the impression that I dislike Unforgiven. I just say this because I think I’m not too far away from either John’s or your positions. The reason I used it, for purposes of comparison, was to highlight the way some writers and critics have portrayed the film.
Your third paragraph there draws attention to the sheer volume of strong, influential westerns that came out in the last couple of years of the 50s. If that was all the decade produced, it would still constitute one helluva legacy.
No, I understood you liked it too. That’s why I said thanks especially for the first paragraph because it put UNFORGIVEN in the proper perspective.
All the great Westerns owe to others that came before and none of them are the less for that. The difference is that by the time of the 90s the filmmakers knew people had forgotten and were willing to position their films as in some ways groundbreaking. A much less appealing example to me is DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990). The director, producer and screenwriter all acted as if this was the first movie to portray Indians sympathetically (even though I’m sure that they all knew better), conveniently overlooking the entire Indian cycle that began in 1950 (and a fair number of movies before that too). DANCES WITH WOLVES is in the National Registry but the far superior BROKEN ARROW and DEVIL’S DOORWAY are not–and Mann’s is especially tough-minded on the subject. and has never come to seem less so.
UNFORGIVEN is my favorite movie of Clint Eastwood, both as a director and as an actor. I like and admire it a great deal (and like others of his too, even if none of the others are on that level) and I must say that I like it better than the highly opportunistic way that he has positioned himself to be taken as a great director. The directors who are really the greatest let us figure it out for ourselves.
Yes, filmmakers do seem, for the most part, willing and sometimes even keen to point out how they were influenced by the work of predecessors. Understandably enough I suppose, those in the business of promoting movies can gloss over such facts in an effort to talk up the originality of a film. However, when I see writers who are neither filmmakers nor marketing people willfully ignoring or perhaps remaining blissfully ignorant of the process that got us to the place we are now, I think some comment needs to be made.
Terrific review Colin and I never spotted the similarities with UNFORGIVEN – I caught this one fairly recently on a TV screening and admit to having been drawn more by the presence of Cassavetes and Serling’s script than by Taylor and I’m fascinated to read your thoughts about him. I had tended to lump the film with the various films of the 1950s that emphasised troubled youth but will have to look at it again from the perspective of the Taylor character – cheers mate
I think you’ve highlighted something else worth mentioning there in your comment – the way good movies can be approached from different angles and on different levels.
It says a lot for a film when we’re able to watch it multiple times and appreciate it for another reason on each viewing.
Absolutely- one of the joys of revisiting a work of art (at least, one would hope) – equally, I now feel, after your review, that I really didn’t give it its due frankly!
I guess I just left the “angry young man” aspect of the story a little to one side. Of course that’s not to say it’s not an important part of the plot – a fair bit of Cassavetes’ motivations arise from this. It’s more that I found myself focusing on the other strands and themes.
I think you’re right – it was more the casting that influenced me I suspect.
I can completely understand that. Cassavetes in a western does sound a little odd, to say the least.
Just a quick post because I am running really late,rushing off to meet someone but I feel that
I just had to chip in on Blakes comments regarding DANCES WITH WOLVES.
I totally agree with his comments.In fact recently a friend mentioned that the film was really
a remake of RUN OF THE ARROW. I said that it had never even entered my mind due to the
fact that Fullers film is far,far superior.
Anyway as this is developing into a most interesting thread I thought I would mention my
downside views of SADDLE THE WIND. This needs more thought,and I know that I am going
to get an avalanche of flak,but I am going to go for it anyway…but at the moment I need to
think a bit more about what I am going to say.
BTW for me Eastwoods masterwork is THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.
John, I’d be very interested to hear the criticisms you have of Saddle the Wind when you have the time. And you needn’t worry about receiving flak, all opinions are welcome here.
Eastwood’s best? I tend to favor The Outlaw Josey Wales too.
I saw this a long time ago and found it to be below average. Now that you have reviewed it, will find time to view it again. I am looking forward to John’s downside views of Saddle The Wind. Best regards.
Chris, I (as you can see) found plenty to enjoy in the movie and I do hope you have an opportunity to watch it again and see how it looks on a second viewing.
I also hope John is able to get back and throw in a few counterarguments as I think it’s always good to get an alternative take on things.
Your excellent points about Unforgiven have engendered a great discussion, Colin, and I have enjoyed reading the points of those above. The story of regret for a life of killing and gunslinger reputation would also date back to another excellent 50s Western, The Gunfighter (1950)….thematically, Unforgiven did not appear out-of-the-blue. (Also…as a side-note….I don’t enjoy the casting of Unforgiven….Hackman and Freeman are great thespians but I just don’t feel them in the genre to the degree I would have others. Maybe it doesn’t help that for a while they seemed to be in every movie that was out, ha.)
My vote for an Eastwood Western would also be The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). I think Eastwood himself has even been quoted as saying it was one he would go back to watch again. The interesting plot (which has the one seeking revenge as the one pursued), the landscapes and the efforts to give respectful representation to Indigenous voices (with Indigenous actors) all add up to a Western that can be enjoyed by a diverse audience.
Hello Chad. On the matter of preferences regarding Eastwood’s westerns, I think we are looking at two very strong films here, and I might add that High Plains Drifter continues to inch its way up in my estimation.
The thing is though, if you were to sit me down, put Unforgiven and The Outlaw Josey Wales in front of me and ask me to choose which one I’d like to watch, then I’d probably go for the latter. I know that’s not terribly scientific, but that’s how it is.
Regarding what I do not like about SADDLE THE WIND; for a start John Cassavetes is totally
wrong IMHO. Vienna has already taken me to task regarding this and quite right too!
I DO like Cassavetes both as an actor and a director, but not in this film.
I followed his work as a director from the word go starting with the ground-breaking SHADOWS.
I enjoyed later efforts like HUSBANDS an KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE through to
his return to the mainstream with GLORIA.
I admired the way that he appeared bad movies to fund his pet projects MACHINE GUN
McCAIN being a prime example….and yes I saw that too.
Secondly Richard Erdman doing his Southern Hick shtick was far too OTT.
Oddly enough Erdman appeared in another Robert Parrish Western THE SAN FRANCISCO
STORY by far the very least of Joel McCreas Westerns. Actually a more restrained Erdman
is very good in this one his droll performance saves the film from total ruin.
Between the two very similar themed films I will take GUNMANS WALK any day.
Teen faves Tab Hunter and James Darren are very good in this film, which shows what a great
director Phil Karlson was with actors apart from his great technical ability.
Robert Parrish totally lost the plot later in his career THE BOBO and A TOWN CALLED
BASTARD are stinkers and totally worthless though that is no reason to have a go at
SADDLE THE WIND. His final feature THE MARSEILLE CONTRACT was at least a return to
form of sorts.
BTW several sources state that John Sturges had a hand in directing SADDLE THE WIND.
Certainly the feel for the landscape is very typical of Sturges.
Those are all fair and reasonable points in my view John. I think the casting of Cassavetes in such a role and setting is always going to raise eyebrows. I acknowledged the incongruity of his presence myself but I think I understand it too. As I see it, Cassavetes is playing a young man deeply uncomfortable within himself, struggling to emerge from the long shadow of his brother’s reputation and choosing the wrong way to do so. As we’re told in the story, his early experiences have scarred him and subverted his humanity. He uses bluster, bravado and aggression to cover the cover his lack of compassion, indeed he seems to rejected this quality altogether – perhaps his lack of maturity mistakenly causes him to view it as less than manly.
Anyway, for me, the Cassavetes actually becomes eminently suitable for such a part by virtue of his appearing to be something of an outsider when it comes to westerns – it’s like he doesn’t quite fit on any level and so, paradoxically perhaps, he fits the role.
And you’ll get no arguments from me on the quality of Gunman’s Walk, an excellent movie in every way. I also noticed that Sturges is mentioned but uncredited, although I didn’t mention it as I have no way of knowing how much truth there is in that.
Lots of mention here about THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY a film I must revisit, there are several DVDs around do not know which is the best. Perhaps I will wait to see if it surfaces on Blu-Ray.
Saw it decades ago on the giant cinema screen and thought that it was a knockout.
Tried to watch it on UK TV recently but it was in the wrong ratio so I gave up.
UK TV are forever showing films in the wrong ratio,a few days ago they showed YELLOWSTONE
KELLY as 4×3 !.
Anyway my favourite Mitchum Western is MAN WITH THE GUN and I know that I am out on a
limb here. I love that movie directed by Richard Wilson an interesting director with few credits.
Really, really want to see Wilsons WALL OF NOISE a film with a most interesting cast.
One UK critic at the time said that it was an excellent film about a potentially boring subject;
horse racing. Richard Wilson is best known for his two top-notch gangster pictures AL CAPONE
and PAY OR DIE. I really wish that he had made more features.
There is a dual format (DVD & BD) version of The Wonderful Country available here from France, which I imagine would offer the best quality image although I have no idea what the subtitle situation would be. As for DVDs, I guess that either the US MOD or the German release are the way to go.
I’m actually very fond of Man with the Gun too and watched it again not that long ago. I like Mitchum’s performance in the movie a lot, and love the minimalist feel of the whole thing.
Now then Mr Blake Lucas;if you are still out there I must take issue with a point that you
made earlier. Before I start I must say that I enjoy every single word that you write here and
But the following statement you made bemused me to say the least.
Regarding Eastwood “the highly opportunistic way he has positioned himself to be taken as
a director” Frankly Blake I just don’t get it enlighten me if you will.
For a start Eastwood never got any sort of an award until he was 62 (UNFORGIVEN)
I liked the way he gave Warners a Dirty Harry re-tread or one of those highly successful
“ape” pictures so he could pursue his pet projects.
Of course those pet projects were often films that no-one went to see:HONKYTONK MAN,
BIRD, WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART.
WHITE HUTER BLACK HEART is to me an amazing film, as one renowned UK critic stated
the film is in a genre all of its own. I am convinced that some of his overlooked films will be regarded
as masterpieces decades into the future; time sorts all that stuff out.
For me FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is one of the truly great American films since 2000
and I was amazed that it never found much of an audience.
Eastwood just goes on and on he makes the films he wants to make regardless of box office
appeal. Remember Warners were reluctant to finance smash hit MILLION DOLLAR BABY
half of its low budget had to be sourced elsewhere,Warners lost millions on that deal.
Interesting fact;go back to any press ads/posters for films from the Eighties onwards and in the
credits you will see e.g. Paramount Pictures present………a Joe Bloggs film…..
Even first-time directors got this credit despite the fact that they were totally unknown.
The only two guys who rejected this nonsense were Clint and Woody Allen.
Clint and Woody are still very much here a lot of the other guys are not!
Now their stature in the industry is so great posters will now say A Film By Woody Allen/
Clint Eastwood in the main part of the poster,these guys have “earned” that sort of respect.
I do not know if this makes any sense and I certainly have not liked everything Eastwood has done
but he has never struck me as someone who has wanted to be classed as a master director or
whatever. At any rate lots of Eastwood’s less successful films will be re-evaluated in the future
just like the way Preston Sturges was re-discovered in the Sixties/Seventies and Boetticher
perhaps a few years later.
I couldn’t’ take time to reply since you wrote this, John, but promise I will today or tomorrow. Please keep looking in.
Nice review Colin, as usual. I saw this for the first time recently and was impressed by it too. Completely agree that Taylor is very under-rated as a western star (and generally for that matter). I think one reason he isn’t usually listed in the very upper echelons is he doesn’t have that relationship with one of the master directors that did so much for Wayne and Stewart and Scott and even Glenn Ford with Delmer Daves. And he doesn’t quite have the iconic status of a Gary Cooper who was more or less his own auteur. Every time I see him, though, he rises in my estimation.
One aspect that really fascinates me in this period is the relationship (some might say clash) between the classical acting style and the method. My favorite example is Henry Fonda and Tony Perkins in The Tin Star, but this one is right up there as a fine exhibit. It’s sort of it’s own little sub-genre!
There may be something in that. Taylor did work with top directors like Mann, Wellman and Curtiz on westerns, but you’re right that he wasn’t associated with anyone in particular and all the films, along with the roles Taylor played, had their own style.
I agree too that this period has a good many examples of the conflicting acting styles. I’m not the biggest fan of the Method myself – I find I catch performers visibly acting too often and that kind of thing can take you out of the film.
End of the trail…………….
Before this thread moves on I thought that I would chip in again as I have been so (over)
subscribed to it.
Firstly I was expecting some sort of feedback from Blake regarding my Eastwood comments; perhaps he it treating them with the contempt that they probably deserve.
Anyway, I thought I had a point to make and I am not done yet; time for a final rant.
Firstly I do not really know why Eastwood was brought into the mix in the first place; I do not really
get the connection between UNFORGIVEN and SADDLE THE WIND.
As so few people apart from Eastwood have been making decent Westerns over the last 40 years
he is an easy target I guess. I am not BTW a rabid Clint fan either.
I have met lots of people who do not like UNFORGIVEN mainly “old school” Western fans.
For me a totally over rated film and one always cited as a “game-changer” is PAT GARRETT AND
BILLY THE KID a film that I have little time for. I would have thought that film would have been a
better choice to contrast with SADDLE THE WIND.
I have read some really dumb stuff about PG&BTK including total rubbish from these Godawful
“trendy” film magazines that have evolved over the last 20 years in the UK at least.
Some time ago I remember some” know nothing” rant on about the Peckinpah film saying it was
the greatest Western ever made because Sam was stoned out of his mind on coke at the time.
Whatever happened to great British film writing, I remember years ago we had brilliant young
writers like Chris Wicking and Raymond Durgnat, those days are long gone. Mark Kermode……
give me a break!
Rant time over and time to move on.
If there had been more good non-Eastwood Westerns made over the last 40 years we would
not concentrate on him so much.
I did enjoy the Coen Brothers TRUE GRIT but as a Coen Brothers film not a great classical Western.
In a way its sort of a trilogy teamed with OH BROTHER,,,,,NO COUNTRY………..and TRUE GRIT.
In typical Coen fashion these films take the audience on an incredible journey and we meet
lots of weird and wonderful people. Not too endeared by “The Dudes” Edgar Buchanan impression
in TRUE GRIT however. Also not enough Barry Pepper a brilliant young actor, kinda reminds me
of a young Dennis Hopper.Pepper has all the qualities to be a great future Western star!
He is the only reason that I might see the Depp LONE RANGER.
Years ago, early Seventies I think Peter Bogdanovich wanted to team up John Wayne,James
Stewart and Henry Fonda in a Western.The three all decided to turn the script down because it
was making them look like “old fogies”
Fantasy time………….perhaps Bogdanovich should re-pitch the project to Eastwood,Tommy Lee
Jones and Robert Duvall………they ARE all old fogies,and magnificent ones at that!
Trivia fact: Round about the same time Larry Cohen B Movie titan,(THE STUFF;Q-THE WINGED
SERPENT) pitched a comedy Western script to Eastwood and John Wayne. Eastwood loved the
script and wanted to develop it at Malpaso. Wayne however hated the thing and wanted no part of
it.Cohen did give a second version to Waynes brother and asked him if he would re-present the
script to him. Michael Wayne did this while they were enjoying a boating trip,The Duke threw it
overboard saying “not that Goddamned thing again”
What a shame…The Duke and Clint in the same movie!
John, lots of stuff there but I just want to pick up on and reply to a couple of points.
I guess the whole Eastwood discussion grew out of my introduction. I’d like to reiterate that this was in no way intended to be taken as an attack on or criticism of Unforgiven – it’s an excellent film in my view. The only criticism I offered was of the way in which its significance or place in the evolution of the genre has been portrayed by some. That was merely my comment on certain perceptions of the film, not on the film itself.
Secondly, I’m a great admirer of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, although I can see how it may not appeal to everyone. For me anyway, both Unforgiven and Saddle the Wind focus strongly on the notion of killing and the consequences of this. Peckinpah’s film does of course touch on this theme too, but I think only tangentially as his prime concerns were other themes contained in the script.
The Last Sunset,……..
Colin, I guess that you have read more about UNFORGIVEN than I have.
As has been stated before I feel that many of us feel that,up to now, it is the last great Western.
When I read Todd McCarthy’s glowing review saying that it is a classical Western for the ages
that was all I really needed to know. Always admired McCarthy’s writing and was glad that
Eastwood finally had made the film we had been waiting for, at a time he was giving us such
stinkers as THE ROOKIE and PINK CADILAC. The only jewel among the drek at that time was
the aforementioned WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART.
I am so dismayed by the current film critics that I tend to read very little about film these days, at
least as far as the UK press goes. My needs are far more well catered for on-line especially by the brilliant Laura who gives such enlightening insights into B Movies and cheap minor films, her blog is a joy to read. Laura of course reviews all sorts of films but B Movie lover that I am I find her blog
an absolute must. in many ways, I feel that I should not really be here on RTHC as I am far more
in-tune commenting on films like PRINCESS OF THE NILE and DEATH IN SMALL DOSES.
I am really enjoying your comments (and Blake’s…darn his hide!) over in Tobyland on the
GUNSLINGER thread. Oddly enough I am totally with you regarding GUNSLINGER I feel
that it is a horrible film and I sure hope that Toby does not get to read this. Yes Colin, even B Movie
fanatics have their limits!
I quite agree that Laura provides superb coverage of a frankly staggering range of movies – I often feel a little envious of the breadth of material she manages to feature.
And John, your comments, observations and little nuggets of information are always most welcome and appreciated here. Believe me, you are very much “at home” on this site and I’d hate to think you felt otherwise.
Again, John, I just haven’t had a chance to properly reply re Clint Eastwood and intend to. What you wrote (and in followup posts) deserves a good reply.
Sorry Blake,somehow I missed your previous post.
As I mentioned I am intrigued by your comments and am seeking enlightenment more than
I guess I am more in my “comfort zone” on Laura’s blog, you cannot really intellectualize a film like
DEATH IN SMALL DOSES. I guess I like to approach things from a different angle sometimes
and feel guilty about going off-topic so much on your blog Colin. I have always felt that perhaps
RTHC is a tad too erudite for the likes of me, which is why I held back for so long joining in the
fun, although I have always enjoyed reading your most perceptive comments on each film.
Anyway it is good to be on board and I am pleased that you do not seem to mind my ramblings
so much. Regarding Laura,she said that she is going to review CANYON RIVER a film that I have
waited years to see and frankly found a big let-down. I am sure however Laura will probably find
something in the film that I have overlooked. She is also going to review THE LONG HAUL a film
that I enjoyed very much and one that I feel would fit in very well on RTHC. These are really obscure
little-known films and its great that they are getting their hour in the spotlight. I also find it far
easier to pitch in on these type of films because so little, if anything has been said about them.
The thing I feel is very commendable about RTHC is that you always review films that are “out
there” somewhere on DVD. You also give people pointers as to what territories these films are
available in. It must be tempting sometimes to review some obscure gem that has not been
released. However, when a title appears on RTHC you know that it can be yours if you want it.
John, I never thought of this place as “erudite” although it’s quite a compliment to have it described as such. Personally, I like to hear as many voices and viewpoints as possible – all who contribute here are most welcome and the mix is very refreshing.
On The Long Haul, that’s film I acquired a few months back but I haven’t managed to watch it yet.
Colin, THE LONG HAUL shows Ken Hughes moving up to A movies after years churning out
Merton Park quickies. Some of those were pretty good too. THE LONG HAUL played as
a main feature in the UK and the critics were not impressed.
Its interesting because time has been very kind to this film and it looks very impressive today.
I am not a huge Diana Dors fan, although she is very good in this film.
I am also hoping Laura’s forthcoming review may make you want to move it up your “viewing stack”
Not as good as HELL DRIVERS perhaps but still pretty good IMHO.
John, I bought The Long Haul mainly because the story sounded like it might have something to offer, and the cast is a very attractive one.
I also like what I’ve seen of Ken Hughes’ work – some of those Scotland Yard features he made are quite impressive and I’m fond of Heat Wave.
On September 25 at 10:00 pm, in context of appreciative remarks about UNFORGIVEN and Clint Eastwood’s direction of that I film, I wrote this:
“…I must say that I like it better than the highly opportunistic way that he has positioned himself to be taken as a great director. ”
On September 27, 9:58 am, John Knight wrote a post that questioned and implicitly criticized this statement in context of broader defense of Eastwood. I’ve promised to reply to that and hope you are here, John.
So, first, I want to say that although it doesn’t happen too often with what I write in blog comments, I immediately regretted writing the above statement. And I am now retracting it. John was right to reproach me for that statement. I can’t be clearer that that.
I try to keep my opinions of someone’s work separate from personalities in all events, and that’s why I believe I was wrong here. Even if what I said was true–and it is something one could argue about–the merits of Eastwood’s work as a director should be judged strictly in terms of what is in the movies and how well they do work or not. Anyone plainly has a right to conduct their career in any way that will do them the most good–a director or anyone else. And the movie business is tough, so if someone can get a reputation as a great director while still active in their career, it only makes sense to make the most of it.
So here is a more objective critical view of Eastwood that I have and this time I hope given with more respect for the way he has built his career–first as actor, then as a director–and sustained his own production company to have more freedom in what his body of work would be than most directors.
John is right about the first part of Eastwood’s career. He worked hard and professionally without a lot of recognition, sustained in doing so by being a major star, and I will say I found him interesting from the very beginning with PLAY MISTY FOR ME and then HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER–and, unexpectedly, BREEZY–even if I wasn’t totally won over. But apart from UNFORGIVEN, my favorite Eastwood movies came along early–these were not action pictures but drifting odysseys and knowing character studies, the Capraesque comedy BRONCO BILLY and even more the melancholy, moving HONKYTONK MAN. The latter was neither a popular nor critical success but on the heels of BRONCO BILLY gave me great faith in Eastwood and I hoped he would make more movies like it. I wrote on HONKYTONK MAN in the 1983 Magill’s Cinema Annual, a full essay, and I’m pretty certain it was the most appreciative critique this movie had at the time. So, even with ups and down, I liked him (and it never comes up here but I’m as much a jazz fan as a Westerns fan so was very absorbed and admiring of his movie BIRD) and then felt he peaked in UNFORGIVEN.
But honestly, John, I felt he has increasingly been disappointing since then. I haven’t seen any string of masterpieces although he kept a flair for the darker sequences (in A PERFECT WORLD the following year the sequence with Mary Alice and the dancing where Costner comes close to cold-blooded murder) and I’ve liked some films, most recently GRAN TORINO. On the other hand, I didn’t like the much-admired MYSTIC RIVER at all, and the ending, even if ambiguous, seemed unnecessarily cynical to be that way. So we may differ on how great he is, but I’m sure we would agree that once he was fully recognized with UNFORGIVEN, these projects were all choices he made with little regard for which had the best commercial prospects, and that he works in his own mind as an artist, which is fine. I would say, though, that even with far more freedom, he is in the end a lesser artist, and less interesting, both in style and sensibility, than his mentor Don Siegel.
Again, it was totally wrong of me to blame Eastwood because so many critics act like he is a great American director on a level with John Ford. Even if he himself believes that maybe he is, he is entitled to that belief. As is often pointed out, he works very efficiently and professionally and without the temperament of many self-styled auteurs, but even if that were not true it is the work that counts.
I finished my Magill’s tenure in 1993, writing my very last piece for them on UNFORGIVEN. It was actually written with the first month or so of the film’s release so I didn’t know it was going to get a lot of awards. I did think it was great but also felt bound to point out that it was created with great awareness of the classic genre themes and ideas about killing, redemption, renewal–things that it treated with an ambiguity that did have real individuality, especially in a powerful climax. This was a glowing piece and felt appropriate for me to leave on after many years writing for them, but it intimates a greater career ahead than Eastwood has turned out to have, at least for me.
Of Eastwood’s four Westerns, I will say this: I have tried over several viewings since it was first released to warm up to THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, which I know is many people’s favorite.
Somehow, though I recognize its seriousness–and the same awareness of the depth of treatment that revenge/reconciliation/redemption/renewal had in great Westerns of classical years–there is something slack or at least overelaborate about if for me, and it seems inflicted by so many of the aesthetic vices of the 70s. My second favorite of his Westerns is really HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER which I think works well within a more narrow concept (town painted red and all those things) though as you yourself pointed out at 50 Westerns from the 50s recently, A DAY OF FURY, inevitably far more obscure, has more depth and the films do have affinities. Eastwood alternated the two “supernatural avenger” Westerns with those two with more richly human protagonists and as opposed to DRIFTER, I felt the second “supernatural avenger” one PALE RIDER, with its self-conscious rereading of SHANE, was far and away the least of the four Westerns as much as UNFORGIVEN was the single one that was really great.
I do think enough of him that one day I plan to get up in the morning on a Saturday and, starting in the morning and taking breaks and finishing late at night, watch all four in a row and maybe I will appreciate them more as a whole group. Right now, on a list of 50 favorite Western directors that I keep (and that’s far from all the ones I have liked), Eastwood is 27th, but he wouldn’t be nearly that high without UNFORGIVEN. If it is the last Western we can unequivocally say is a masterpiece, that is definitely an achievement and does kind of accord him a special place.
John, thanks for taking me to task for my unfair use of the word “opportunistic” in the earlier post.
Actually, Eastwood is 26th on that list. Sorry, but gives me the opportunity to say something I had meant to–UNFORGIVEN also had Eastwood’s best performance as an actor, a complex character and he did it beautifully, not only for that character but playing on his established screen persona to telling effect.
Blake,many thanks for your most perceptive reply…..now I know why you took your time to
reflect on your comments on Eastwood.
Firstly I do not really know how he is regarded in America I would be very bemused if anyone
compared him to Ford. Secondly there is the Pauline Kael factor and of course many see him as
a rabid right-winger so that does not help either. I remember the reviewer in New Yorker
(David Denby?) reviewing UNFORGIVEN stated “this is the sixteenth film directed by Clint
Eastwood and the first one that I have liked.” I tend to hear about the negative things rather
than the positive.
Rolling Stone magazine back in the days when they were a left leaning publication had a real
problem when DIRTY HARRY came out, they did not like Eastwood but they loved Don Siegel.
“Not a film to celebrate….its too uncomfortable for that”…..was their way round that one.
Peter Travers of course is one of Eastwood’s greatest defenders these days.
Off topic….Country singer Merle Haggard round about the same time was being championed
by the left for his blue collar songs, prison ballads and songs about The Depression and
the cotton fields. He was sort of regarded as a early Seventies Woody Guthrie.
Then Haggard had hits with Okie From Muskogee and The Fighting Side Of Me, two of
the most right wing songs ever written……….the left’s new hero had turned traitor. It took Haggard
a long time to iron things out with his new found audience.
It took Eastwood even longer but he got there in the end.
Blake, I was certainly not trying to “take you to task” I was merely trying to find out more about
HONKYTONK MAN is a frustrating film for me because traditional Country Music is my “thing”
and the film is full of anachronisms to say the least, Having a sixtysomething Johnny Gimble
play a thirtysomething Bob Wills was the least of its problems. Snuff Garrett chose the music
for that film and it’s all over the place. Actually the film would have been far better if The Coen
Brothers were involved, in the music at least; their knowledge of traditional music is
formidable. Actually HONKYTONK MAN is very much like a Coen Brothers film.
The music aside, HONKYTONK MAN has some wonderful moments and a great supporting role
for John McIntire.
I enjoyed BIRD and MYSTIC RIVER and the films that I mentioned earlier.
One thing’s for sure; in Clint’s filmography,the good sure outweighs the bad.
In a fairly recent interview Eastwood stated that as a director he is still on a learning curve and I
do believe Scorsese has said the same regarding himself.
Scorsese on Eastwood…..”the technique looks simple,the acting looks simple….but it isn’t.”
Now for the real cruncher…..I have only one Eastwood film in my collection. The reason I have
only been collecting DVDs for about five years and naturally I have honed in of films by
some of my favourite directors: Joseph H Lewis, Tourneur, Boetticher, Siegel to name a few.
Also with all the obscure gems that the Warner Archive dig up I and my bank balance are kept
pretty busy. The Eastwoods and many classic films are on the back-burner but I intend to
address that now I have a Blu-Ray player. Got the Blu-Ray of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and it
looks stunning to say the least. I will pick up on most of Clints Westerns and will definitely get
ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ. I understand THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT is due out soon
so that’s a must. Also want the as yet unreleased EIGER SANCTION not great but such a
treat visually, WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART is also a must when they finally release it
as it’s one of my own personal favourites. Only Eastwood could make a film about the mystique
of big-game hunting where not one single animal is shot.
The thing is all these films are still pretty fresh in my mind so the obscure or not seen stuff takes
Anyway Blake many thanks for your most gracious reply and thanks for taking the time and effort.
Colin, sorry its really late and my last post may need a radical edit.
One word I messed up on is Muskogee and I doubt if its the only one!
Whats Merle Haggard doing in an Eastwood rant?
Well he did appear in BRONCO BILLY and Clint and Merle have sung the odd duet together.
Interestingly Nixon asked Johnny Cash to sing Okie From Muskogee and the even more
right wing Welfare Cadillacs (title explains all!) at a White House gig. Cash refused saying that
he found both songs repellent. One thing I loved about Cash you could never politically align
him, Welfare Cadillacs was a right-wing one off underground hit. Cash and Haggard were
great buddies as well.The reason I started collecting DVDs so late is there was not a lot
released in the UK that interested me that much. Then a pal introduced be to the joy of region 1
(Randolph Scott triple bills and the like) then the MOD thing arrived so that was it really.
Just to clear a couple of points which may confuse.
Firstly I hope that I did not give the impression that Merle Haggard wrote “Welfare Cadillac”
The reason that I brought Haggard into the mix is because of the amount of flak that he
received from the left at the time similar to The Duke and Eastwood.
I was an avid reader of Rolling Stone at the time (early seventies) mainly for their excellent
music reviews. Their film review of RIO LOBO was interesting because they hated Wayne but loved Hawks. I found the whole political thing at that time confusing but interesting nonetheless.
The Haggard thing is really interesting because just as he was being embraced by the left and hippie culture he came up with the two aforementioned songs.His classic songs about The Depression and Labour Camps had really struck a chord with left leaning country music fans.
Also Haggard was a huge influence of the emerging Country Rock movement. One group
The Youngbloods (also Haggard fans) did a hilarious parody of Haggard’s hit titled “Hippie From
Olema” Haggard of course was just sticking up for the “silent majority” I think everyone got that
For Eastwood THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES was a sort of turning point people started to realise that this guy really could direct.
Once I moved out of London (2008) and retired I knew that I would not have the National Film
Theatre to rely on for classic movies, that is when I decided to start my DVD collection.
I am still bemused that WINCHESTER 73 has not turned up on Blu-Ray but I am sure the
wait will be worthwhile.Have already placed my order for the forthcoming UK Blu-Ray release
of RED RIVER and hopefully more “greats” will find their way to that format over time
Well Colin we are a long way for SADDLE THE WIND and thanks as always for the edits.
John, it’s always a pleasure for me to see discussions take off and spin in various directions – the exchange of opinions and pieces of new (for me anyway) information are most welcome.
Blake, if you are still with this; just a couple of points.
Firstly I am more than a little intrigued by your “50 Directors” list. This of course is something
that you may want to keep to yourself but I thought it would be really cool to know your top 10,
although your top 20 would be even cooler!
Regarding Eastwood; and its Colin’s fault for bringing him into the mix in the first place (only joking!)
unlike yourself I feel that quite a bit of his post UNFORGIVEN work has been quite impressive.
As mentioned before I rate FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS pretty highly; have you actually seen it?
At the time I posted a comment on imdb and stated that the combat sequences bring to mind
Fuller, Walsh and Siegel. Some wag then replied…………”I think they used to sort out my tax”
Anyway,and I know that I am on thin ice here Blake but I would rate Eastwood’s film alongside
NAKED AND THE DEAD and THE BIG RED ONE.
NAKED AND THE DEAD I have not seen for decades. I do know that Warners are restoring
the film and I do hope that it gets released through Warner Home Video; not an MOD.
Even better would be a Blu-Ray.
As I sort of stated before I do not know who these people are who are comparing him to Ford.
I have always had a fascination with American culture in the late Sixties early Seventies and
as I mentioned before Wayne and Eastwood did seem to get more than their share of flak from
the left. The Rolling Stone review of PLAY MISTY FOR ME was a real hatchet job.
I brought Merle Haggard into the mix because I remember too the flak he received for the
two songs I spoke about. Haggard was of course the “real deal” he did time for his early days
of crime and of course his fine songs usually championed people at the lower end of the social
pecking order. It would have been churlish of the left to keep getting on his case; although
Wayne and Eastwood generally remained unforgiven, at that time at least.
Anyway Blake I guess its time this thread rode off into the sunset but thanks again for your
most interesting reply to my original comments.
As this thread is amazingly still live I thought that I would expand on the late Sixties early
Seventies American culture that I mentioned earlier. All I can say Colin is that I promise that I
will show more restraint in the future.
The political scene may have been confusing at that time but the music was amazing.
The most amazing aspect to me was musicians from the world of folk and rock deciding to
record in conservative Nashville. Dylan of course got the ball rolling then other folkies followed
his lead.People from the folk world like Joan Baez,Ian & Sylvia,Eric Andersen,Country Joe
MacDonald,David Blue and others headed to Nashville often many of them made several return trips. Also rock bands like The Byrds,Beau Brummells, and Moby grape headed to Nashville as well.
The wonderful and mysterious Buffy Sainte Marie recorded her classic “Country Girl” album there.
The album did contain some of her powerful Native American protest ballads. I think Chet Atkins
at the time said “the guys in Nashville thought the Indians had been screwed too!”
The Nashville Cats found that on these sessions they were given more creative freedom,country
music at that time was becoming increasingly by the numbers.
On The Byrds classic SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO session veteran steel guitar player
Lloyd Green asked Roger McGuinn “where do you want me to fill in?….”everywhere” came the
reply. Phil Ochs on the other hand liked to record his country stuff on the West Coast with the
Bakersfield crew. Ochs once told a story I really liked. Ochs,Eric Andersen and Dylan were at
some venue in New York when Dylan spotted Marlon Brando sitting at the bar.
Dylan approached Brando saying “Hi Im Bob Dylan” Brando replied…”of course you are dear boy”
Ochs said this was the only time that he saw the famous Dylan “cool” crumble.
Round about this time Rolling Stone did a warts and all feature on famed Nashville producer
Billy Sherrill. They even went as far as repeating some of Billys appalling racist jokes.
To further highlight Billys right-wing creds they stated that Billy had seen all of Clint Eastwoods
I am sure Sherrill would have little time for the folk-rock invasion of Nashville;this was more the
domain of “progressive” producers like Bob Johnston ; Elliott Mazer and Charlie Daniels.
Merle Haggard also refused to produce Gram Parsons first album on a major label because he
felt that Parsons lacked the “salt of the earth mentality”
Very interesting times indeed.
No need to worry about “showing restraint” John. Go ahead and add anything you like, any time you like.
My father was and remains a huge fan of country music, so I grew up surrounded by the stuff. As such, all that background info about the folk/country scene of the 60s and 70s is most interesting.
Thanks Colin, I must say that I am humbled by your tolerance.
I only brought some of this stuff into the mix to reply to Blake’s comments on how Eastwood was
perceived by some; especially Rolling Stone Magazine which was the Bible of the Counter- Culture
at that time.
BTW, this has now become easily the most commented on post I’ve written on a single movie. Only the book review and the western stars list exceed it.
I loved Colin’s words on Robert Taylor and this fine film and have been very much enjoying the conversation. I came back to revisit the thread tonight and was amazed to see how it had grown in the last few days! I settled in to catch up and was quite humbled and honored to be reading along and discover the kind words said here about my blog — all the more so as I really respect and enjoy the vast movie knowledge shared by both Colin and John Knight.
Looking forward to watching and reviewing both the films John K mentioned above — but first I’ll be reviewing SHACK OUT ON 101. Where has that movie been all my life?! 🙂 I’d love to know what everyone here thinks of it — Colin, if you haven’t posted on it yet I hope you will in the future. It’s pretty goofy at times but deliciously so. I must have been smiling pretty much the entire time I watched the movie.
Back to the movie at hand. Colin, it’s been several years since I last saw SADDLE THE WIND. I had seen very little of Robert Taylor’s work at that point and your post has reminded me that it would be a great movie to revisit, especially as I will now be able to see it in the context of having seen many more Taylor films in the meantime. Ironically, however, I have yet to see DEVIL’S DOORWAY or THE LAST HUNT — the tough material has caused me to hesitate on those but I will definitely see them at some point. WESTWARD THE WOMEN, on the other hand, has become not just one of my favorite Westerns, but one of my favorite movies, period.
Best wishes and sincere thanks,
Firstly Laura, let me say that I sometimes think we ought to name check you more often. Not only do you post prolifically on what can only be termed an array of movies, but you do many of us a great service by drawing together many strands of the blogging world with your weekly round-ups.
I think it’s a great idea to go back and revisit movies when our awareness of their context has increased. Even if we enjoyed them first time around, the process of then fitting them into a larger overall pattern just adds to the pleasure. Both The Last Hunt and Devil’s Doorway are uncompromising films in their different ways, but they make for very rewarding viewing too. It’s been nice to see so many fans of Taylor’s work chipping in here, proof in itself of what a good performer he was.
“I think it’s a great idea to go back and revisit movies when our awareness of their context has increased.”
It really does add a new perspective! I’m looking forward to circling back to a couple Taylor movies I saw years ago — ROGUE COP and PARTY GIRL being two more titles. I’ve had PARTY GIRL sitting next to my TV since I read your review a while back — so many movies, so little time!
And thanks again so much for the kind words. You and John K pretty much made my Monday. 🙂
Special to John K — I’m halfway through CANYON RIVER and so far I’m really enjoying it. I’ve about given up looking at the Maltin book when it comes to Westerns, other than to be amazed at what he and his staff consider a 1-1/2 star movie.
Muriel mentions actors who are good horsemen — that’s one of the things I like about the Montgomery Westerns, he grew up on a ranch and looks great on a horse! I remember reading that two of the actors she mentions, Taylor and McCrea, were considered the best horsemen in Hollywood by stuntmen, along with Ben Johnson (of course!). When I visited the McCrea Ranch it was mentioned that McCrea cared for Taylor’s horse on the ranch when Taylor was serving during WWII, which I thought was a nice anecdote.
We’re very lucky at the moment to be able to easily access so many of Taylor’s films. For a long time it seemed that his work (outside of the handful of swashbucklers) only popped up on television intermittently.
His post-WWII work, especially in westerns and film noir, is full of gems and I’m delighted to be able to pick so many of his titles off my shelves these days and enjoy them whenever I feel like it. I think Rogue Cop is about the last major film that remains unavailable right now.
I found Unforgiven just another sordid violent movie. I don’t get the fuss over it. My favorite Robert Taylor westerns so far are “Ambush” and “The Last Hunt”. I like westerns where the actor is a good equestrian: e.g. Robert Taylor, Joel McCrea, Ronald Reagan (who learned how to ride in the US Cavalry!)
I thought AMBUSH was excellent, Muriel. Taylor came across in a very authentic way as a rugged Western hero. As I mentioned above, my favorite Taylor Western is WESTWARD THE WOMEN which I never miss a chance to recommend. 🙂
In reply to both of you, I like Ambush too. Taylor did sit a horse well and that does play a part in how comfortable actors look in western settings. Aside from that though, Taylor just seemed to grow into the genre.
And Laura, I’ll happily back you up on Westward the Women – a film every western fan ought to see.
A great review, Colin, and what a fascinating ensuing conversation! I own SADDLE THE WIND but have been postponing watching it…I confess that the “wayward younger brother” subplot is not my favorite and so I’ve likely been avoiding it for that reason. I do like what you say about Robert Taylor; like you, he has really grown in my estimation over the past few years. I’ve said this before, no doubt, but these later career performances of his are far more nuanced and skillful than he’s usually given credit for.
As far as Eastwood as a director goes, I find myself siding with Blake in preferring his earlier directorial efforts, especially HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, which edges past both THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES and UNFORGIVEN for me as his most interesting self-directed western. UNFORGIVEN is a really nice piece of work and when I first saw it I was definitely impressed, but like some others have commented here, the sheer hype and praise it received, with so many critics going on and on about how it was some sort of game changing, final statement on the western, soured me on it somewhat. I’m glad that now some of that fuss has died down and the film can be appreciated as merely the very good western and character piece it is, without all the other thematic and meta baggage it frankly doesn’t fully deserve.
To get back to Eastwood the director – for me, his recent films have been very “worthy” and handsomely-mounted, but not particularly suited to my tastes (with the exception of GRAN TORINO and to a lesser extent, MILLION DOLLAR BABY). I think he’s a talented guy to be sure, but wouldn’t personally put him in the front rank of directors myself. And for all his artistic leanings, he can still turn out a piece of hackwork from time to time (witness stuff like BLOOD WORK and the absolutely dire THE ROOKIE).
Thanks Jeff. The “wayward younger brother” element can seem a bit tired as it’s something that has been explored so many times in the movies. However, I wouldn’t let that put you off. For one thing, it’s handled very well in Saddle the Wind, and then there are so many other interesting aspects that are featured too.
Great to see another fan of Taylor singing his praises too!
After reading Colin’s review I rewatched SADDLE THE WIND. I always thought it was okay, but this time Rod Serling’s characters and conflict got to me. I appreciate the film more now. There is a world of emotional expression in Robert Taylor’s countenance. Internally this actor was on fire. He brings even the most unlikely storypoints down to earth and makes them plausible. Tonight we’re going to watch him in CATTLE KING from 1963.
I would urge Laura to give DEVIL’S DOORWAY a chance without delay. There’s no other film quite like it. It’s both a hardboiled noir and an elegiac western. It’s impossibly good.
I would agree with Muriel that people read too much into UNFORGIVEN. It’s biggest flaw is in the way it misconstrues Hollywood-created myths about the American West for historical facts. The idea of women prostitutes being equated with cattle by the law never happened in reality. Prostitution was legal and usually regulated, and almost always run by women, not men. There is no historical intelligence at work in UNFORGIVEN, although there is some poignant characterization. I think it would be a better film if it didn’t tell the same story twice. First English Bob arrives, gets beaten up and humiliated, then driven out of town signing a different tune. Then Will Munny and Ned arrive, get beaten up and humiliated, and driven out of town singing a different tune. The first subplot robs the main action of its tension, suspense and surprises. It recovers in the third act. I remember very well when the film was released Eastwood telling one of the nightly entertainment-news shows that he ordered English Bob written into the script at the last minute after witnessing the Rodney King beating on television. He wanted to make a statement about violence. Speaking objectively, he already had all the story he needed to make that statement and didn’t need to introduce a new character and subplot to do it. It also made the film too long and slows it down. Just think what a tighter more thrilling film UNFORGIVEN would if it stuck to the main action and the characters it started out with. As for the sleaze Muriel refers to — that’s just Clint.
I think THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is Eastwood’s best western, although I also like HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968) and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970). I prefer the two Italian spaghetti westerns that served as the source for HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) over HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and I prefer SHANE (1953) and HEAVEN WITH A GUN (1969) over the combined remake they inspired, PALE RIDER. I say that as someone who has never been much of a fan.
As for all this talk about the left wing and right wing take on westerns — horsepucky. I’m a liberal democrat, but I devote an entire room of my house to shelving westerns. I’d rather watch a John Wayne western than be a child again on Christmas morning.
Hello Richard. I’m pleased to hear this piece prompted you to revisit the film, and that goes double for the fact you came away with a revised opinion of the movie itself and Taylor in particular.
I know you’re much more into historical detail and the way it’s depicted on screen than I am, and it’s interesting to hear how you feel about its application in Unforgiven.
I’ve also come away with a revised opinion of Robert Parrish as a director. I’m going to gather those of his films I don’t have already and watch them in a disciplined way soon.
In addition to being an out-of-work production person I’m also a professional historian who lives and works in the west. I love westerns, but I separate them from history. I’m never disappointed when a western gets the facts wrong. Utilizing an 1893 Winchester in an 1881 story doesn’t make that much difference to an entertainment. Unless the mistakes are outrageously flamboyant like in the recent remake of THE ALAMO and in THE MISSING I take no notice. To expect historical intelligence in a western is to expect too much. What UNFORGIVEN loses in terms of common sense it gains in terms of dramatic impact. Dialogue like “We may be whores but by God we’re not horses!” is powerful stuff, don’t you agree.
I know that RETURN OF THE GUNFIGHTER (1967) falls outside the timeframe of your blog, but do give a watch anyhow, Colin. What Robert Taylor brings to this western isn’t on the page or in the direction.
I wouldn’t say 1967 is outside the time frame of this place – I seem to end up devoting a lot of space to the 50s but that’s not really a conscious decision on my part. Anyway, as I said, I’m getting more and more enjoyment from watching Taylor’s performances so that title is one I will look out for.
On the historical aspect, I fully agree that we should never let any inconsistencies (unless they’re huge and impossible to ignore) get in the way of our enjoyment of the drama. As long as a movie stays true to the spirit of the period I’m pretty much satisfied.
“Yes, filmmakers do seem, for the most part, willing and sometimes even
keen to point out how they were influenced by the work of predecessors.
Understandably enough I suppose, those in the business of promoting
movies can gloss over such facts in an effort to talk up the originality of
a film. However, when I see writers who are neither filmmakers nor
marketing people willfully ignoring or perhaps remaining blissfully ignorant
of the process that got us to the place we are now, I think some comment
needs to be made.”
Sounds like the beginning of an essay on westerns you should write, Colin, with examples given. Your observation about the impact of violence and taking life being made in SADDLE THE WIND long before UNFORGIVEN pays lip-service to the theme is a point well made and true. It may be true that every “new” idea in recent westerns derives from an earlier depiction. There is nothing in the remake of 3:10 TO YUMA that wasn’t done better in the original. I’m constantly discovering how mature, sophisticated, intelligent and well-informed classic westerns could be, even the B films, sometimes especially the B films. The genre was malleable, seemingly adaptable to any perspective in social causes or political beliefs. There were many fine dramatists at work in the genre. Hollywood didn’t discriminate against the genre the way it does now. It mystifies me how so many people today can glance at these old westerns and then turn away, utterly failing to perceive their inherent qualities.
The evolution of DVD and blu-ray has facilitated a renewed appreciation for the genre, for some of us.
I can’t really argue with any of that Richard. I guess you know that I’ve long been of the opinion that the western is a genre with tremendous depth. It’s no mere accident that it dominated studio output for so long; there was always scope for the exploration of a seemingly endless variety of themes. Whereas today filmmakers appear to see only the limitations of the genre, those working in the classic western era understood that such things were nothing more than trappings which could be manipulated to provide a dramatic backdrop for almost any story they felt inclined to tell. In fact I’d go further than that: the landscape, the expanding frontier, and the presence of a society and culture in its infancy constitutes an ideal stage upon which an enormous number of complex dramas can be played out.
Furthermore, since you briefly mentioned political and social causes, I think it’s also important to highlight the common misconceptions of the genre that appear to have grown in recent years. Whilst the western was certainly capable of allowing full expression to just about every creed, the finest examples we have were very rarely reactionary in nature. I think some of the strongest pictures – from the big budget prestige movies right through to the humble B pictures and programmers – took a progressive stance that offered viewers intelligent entertainment.
I agree too that DVD and Blu-ray, by making more material available and crucially in the correct aspect ratio, has helped draw more fans back into the genre. There’s some good writing and critical analysis of the western out there, focusing attention on it and helping restore its reputation. In my own small way I’d like to think that I’m contributing a little in that respect, and so it’s extremely rewarding for me to see a post like this drawing such a response and generating the debate, feedback and discussion that it has.
Does “horsepucky” mean the same as “road apples” it would appear that it does.
This right wing-left wing take on Westerns; could that refer to comments that I made earlier?
Possibly not; but I did mention how Wayne and Eastwood were given a hard time by the left
in the early Seventies. This had nothing to do with Westerns being either way; left or right.
I was merely commenting on how Eastwood was perceived, as far as I am concerned, by critics
in the USA at least.A lot of stuff I have read about Eastwood generating from the States has been really negative apart from obvious admirers like Richard Schickel. Blake Lucas seems to think that a lot of American writers compare him to the likes of Ford or Hawks……….he should know….he
lives there, I don’t.
I really don’t buy into all this stuff about “politics” in Westerns,they either entertain or they do not.
Having said that it is obvious the makers of REPRISAL! were attempting to make an anti-racist
Western and they were not the first. The fact is REPRISAL! is an excellent film if you “get” the
message or not. That’s as far as it goes politics wise in Westerns. for me at least.
It’s interesting that so many of us think THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is Eastwood’s best Western
actually I find his Westerns are rather like good wine, they improve with age!
Have never been able to love HANG EM HIGH too much but watched the Blu of JOE KIDD last
night ( one I have not seen for ages) and thought hey…there’s some really great stuff in this film.
I was underwhelmed when I saw it originally saw it at the cinema but last night I thought that it is
really good latter day Sturges. PALE RIDER (which some wags have re-titled “High Shanes Drifter)
is also one that I am looking forward to watching on Blu-ray. Always had a soft spot for that one
despite its obvious flaws. Would you believe that I have never seen TWO MULES……..since I saw
it at the cinema at the time of its initial release.Eastwood was so “hot” at the time they showed the
film on the giant curved Cinerama screen in the cinema in Soho that was geared up for those
things. I was underwhelmed by that one too;I thought that darn Eastwood he’s destroyed my hero
Don Siegel. Time to revisit that one on Blu-ray too……….wonder if the “wine” thing still holds?
I am not as I mentioned before a rabid Eastwood fan but he has grown on me over the years
especially with a couple of the later films that I mentioned earlier. The Blu-ray of HIGH PLAINS
DRIFTER is knock your socks off stunning BTW. Finally regarding UNFORGIVEN, its not a
director’s fault if people/writers over-hype their film.
To end Richard W, I too really like RETURN OF THE GUNFIGHTER and HEAVEN WITH
A GUN. The former is a strong latter day Taylor Western and he is aces in it. The latter is
arguably the best of Ford’s later Westerns miles better than the likes of THE LAST CHALLENGE, A TIME FOR KILLING and SANTEE those three for die hard Ford fans only.I would like to catch DAY OF THE EVIL GUN in widescreen at some point; its just a shame that Ford and Arthur Kennedy never saddled up together ten years earlier.
John, I know your comments were directed primarily at Richard but I’d just like to pick up on two points you mentioned.
I also found Hang ‘Em High to be the least of Eastwood’s westerns. He wasn’t the director on this one of course but the whole movie just failed to gel properly for me. It’s been a while since I watched it now yet I still remember getting too much of a TV movie vibe off it, possibly that’s due to Ted Post’s extensive work on television. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that Variety dismissed the movie at the time as: “a poor American-made imitation of a poor Italian-made imitation of an American-made western.”
Day of the Evil Gun is a film that I found extremely disappointing. The premise was interesting enough and Ford & Kennedy sound like a good pairing on paper. Again though, the whole thing just falls flat on its face in my opinion.
I have limited time right now but just want to clarify that my discussion of Eastwood’s Westerns only involved his four as a director. The ones in which he is only an actor tend to be less except for the Leones, which get better through the three after an unpromising start. I would say that of all Westerns Eastwood is in, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY remains my second favorite after UNFORGIVEN. But very honestly, though I once cared a lot about that $ trilogy, I’m not drawn back to it anymore and much prefer ONCE UPON IN THE WEST and DUCK, YOU SUCKER among Leone’s movies, not to mention ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, another masterpiece.
My experience with Clint Eastwood is exactly the opposite of John Knight. I used to love him and especially his on screen persona. I believed him in a director in earlier years. But on both counts I have become very disenamored through the years. I do like BRONCO BILLY and HONKYTONK MAN among the earlier ones, along with THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and Siegel’s DIRTY HARRY (which I can’t say I deeply love but it’s excellent and Eastwood’s own performance is especially impressive), that’s four I’d keep along with UNFORGIVEN, which seems to gather everything I like about him as actor and director.
I do think I sounded harder on THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES than I meant to be. I’m still working on it–and I think it’s a good movie overall, but this is one of those ones where I can say I appreciate it but I respect it more than I really like it, and tried to intimate some of the reasons though I wasn’t trying to make any strong critical argument about it.
Yes, I think Eastwood’s westerns as an actor, as opposed to those as actor/director, are a different matter. I like the Dollars trilogy well enough, but I’ve also come to be much more appreciative of Leone’s later films.
I already mentioned my thoughts on Hang ‘Em High and, although I haven’t seen it in a good few years, I found Joe Kidd pretty disappointing. In the context of the excellent and powerful work Sturges had done in the past, the film feels like an even bigger let down. And then when I think that Elmore Leonard wrote the script, well…
I remember enjoying Two Mules for Sister Sara a great deal when I first saw it. I watched it again last year and, while I still had fun with it, I was slightly less impressed by it.
Does “horsepucky” mean the same as
“road apples” it would appear that it does.”
“…I did mention how Wayne and Eastwood were
given a hard time by the left in the early Seventies.
This had nothing to do with Westerns being either
way; left or right.”
No one took much notice of Eastwood’s politics in the 1970s. Some critics mentioned the “fascism” of the Dirty Harry films, but they didn’t ascribe that to the actor. Eastwood’s wooden-headed performances weren’t criticized, either. They still aren’t. No one looks too closely at Eastwood the actor nor holds him accountable like they do other actors. People just accept Eastwood, for some reason. He was a camera-adept actor in the 1960s and 1970s, but nobody cared that emotionally his range was virtually zero because his charisma was overwhelming. People respond to his charisma, not his acting. He was critic proof. His range grew, slowly, and his ultra-conservative political views manifested more recently.
With John Wayne it’s a different story. By the 1960s liberals and the nation’s young hated his guts and ridiculed him at personal appearances. His support of the McCarthy hearings and the Vietnam war caught up with him. I remember sitting in the back-seat of my parents car at the drive-in while kids with signs protested a screening of THE GREEN BERETS (1968). Every objectionable element in that film was absorbed and improved upon in THE DEER HUNTER ten years later, and nobody protested. Times had changed. Wayne was also widely accused of racism toward the Indians, which wasn’t true, in view of the fact that different native tribes had inducted him as an honorable member in recognition of charitable services he had performed and support he had given over the years, a fact he never alluded to in his own defense. The native tribes were also big movie buffs and big John Wayne fans. Wayne’s love for America and his patriotism were true, however. He did not serve in WW2 because his family was living in abject poverty. He decided to keep working while his stardom was on the rise. He found other ways to serve the Armed Forces, and the Armed Forces made him into something of a mascot. He certainly inspired a lot of people to serve and keep on keepin’ on as the saying goes.
Today, the decision-makers at the studios and networks hate westerns. It’s hard to explain this in a small box. It would take a book. A producer with a western project isn’t even allowed in the door. They are mostly women who view the western as an oppressive and male-dominated genre that reflects outmoded ideas. I was working for a production company with a TNT contract when a new manager took over. She declared that her arrival meant the end of male-dominated programming, meaning no more westerns, of which there were several in development and a handful waiting for a starting date. She terminated them and threw us out. Likewise, agencies have to been known to tell their clients — actors and directors alike — if they commit to a western to seek representation elsewhere. I speak from personal experience. If a big star like Kevin Costner or Brad Pitt manage to ramrod a western through all the hurdles, the studios do their best to sabotage it at the distribution end. The objection to westerns are political and based on fundamental misconceptions. For all its liberalism and talk about diversity, Hollywood is a very prejudiced place.
“…Blake Lucas seems to think that a lot of American
writers compare him to the likes of Ford or Hawks…
…….he should know….he lives there, I don’t.”
I live there, too, and I assure you Clint Eastwood’s films don’t have the intellectual range or emotional depth of a Ford or Hawks film, and certainly not the dramatic skills. I like the no-nonsense way in which Eastwood works, however, filming straightforward stories with small crews on short schedules. He’s a good professional director. But the artistry of Ford and Hawks isn’t there.
“I really don’t buy into all this stuff about “politics” in
Westerns,they either entertain or they do not.”
Many westerns were politically driven right from the very beginning in silent days. The Iron Horse (1924), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Devils’s Doorway (1950), High Noon (1952), Little Big Man (1970), Ulzana’s Raid (1972) to name only a handful. It’s no different today. The recent remake of The Alamo (2003) sinks under the weight of contemporary politics imposed on the past, The Missing (2005) applies a militant feminist agenda that deconstructs the male role out of existence. Both films are ludicrous and bad, bad history. They aren’t entertaining, either, although they look wonderful.
“Having said that it is obvious the makers of
REPRISAL! were attempting to make an
anti-racist Western and they were not the first.
The fact is REPRISAL! is an excellent film if
you “get” the message or not.”
“That’s as far as it goes politics wise in Westerns.
for me at least.”
disagree. People who write scripts and tell stories visually are not automatons. Filmmakers are creative people and they generally have a lot on their minds. Whether they are dealing with political issues or with personal demons, it comes out in their work. Anyone who claims there are no politics in westerns is not reading the subtext or recognizing the larger context in which the story is being told. Everyone recognized the larger context in which THE SEARCHERS unfolded in 1956; today it is lost, because that generation, with its awareness of the American west of their grandparents, has passed.
“It’s interesting that so many of us think
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is
Eastwood’s best Western”
That could be because of the source. Forest Carter’s two novels about Josey Wales are authentic and classics of the genre, much beloved by Americans especially in the southern and western states. Clint’s film isn’t a very good adaptation, I’m afraid. Mostly he blows it. But enough of the stories survive in the film to give it strength and individuality. In other words Eastwood is telling Carter’s story, or trying to. Of course it’s Clint’s stardom that makes the film a success, but I don’t credit Clint with being ready yet to handle the content of those books. Do read them:
“…To end Richard W, I too really like
RETURN OF THE GUNFIGHTER
and HEAVEN WITH A GUN. The
former is a strong latter day Taylor
Western and he is aces in it.
The latter is arguably the best of Ford’s
later Westerns miles better than the likes
of THE LAST CHALLENGE, A TIME FOR
KILLING and SANTEE those three for die
hard Ford fans only.I would like to catch
DAY OF THE EVIL GUN in widescreen at
some point; its just a shame that Ford and
Arthur Kennedy never saddled up together
ten years earlier.”
Die-hard Glenn Ford here. I’d rather watch Glenn Ford than Clint Eastwood. Ford made more westerns and better westerns than Clint. And Ford is a better actor. If you look at the body of Glenn Ford’s work in films in general I think you’ll agree the western brought out the best in him. The western frees him. He specialized in playing disgruntled and driven characters. His work in the genre is vastly under-rated. He gave one of the greatest performance of his life as Tom Sunday in the mini-series THE SACKETTS (1979). If some of his westerns were less than great, his performances were always committed and persuasive.
Many thanks for your epic reply Richard on what is now an epic thread.
Lots of really interesting and enlightening things you said especially in the John Wayne section.
I may think about this a bit more and return at some point but for now just a few things.
Lots of people have seen all sorts of “political” implications in Allan Dwan’s wonderful SILVER LODE
but that does not stop it being a cracking film. The much later Kirk Douglas project POSSE
was described by one esteemed UK critic as a “Watergate” Western. That’s another film that I
need to revisit. I would hate you to think that I consider writers to be “automatons” I am all for a bit
of subversion in any genre.
Yep! I would describe myself as a die hard Glenn Ford fan too, that’s why I have made sure that I
tracked down all of his Westerns…..have not seen BORDER SHOOTOUT and am not sure I want to from what I have heard about it. Yes, I agree that he made more great Westerns than Eastwood. I enjoyed DAY OF THE EVIL GUN when I saw it on the big screen at the cinema and
I will at some point track down the DVD. HEAVEN WITH A GUN I still think is the best of his later
Westerns; it’s odd but the then trendy nudity and graphic violence tend to date the film now.
You mentioned CATTLE KING….I wonder what you thought about a large portion of the film
being concerned with President Chester Arthur being involved with Wyoming range wars.
It certainly slowed down the action for me, is there any historical truth there?
Having said all that I still enjoyed the film just for Taylor’s involvement and the lovely autumnal
It is sort of ironic that had Colin not brought Eastwood into the original mix this thread would probably be only half its length. I still think that FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is a monumental piece of work and many years hence will be regarded as a true classic, I will not be around then
so its neither here or there really. Mentioned previously how much I admire WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART and I seem to be isolated on that one too.
At least Richard we totally agree on THE ALAMO (2003) and THE MISSING….horrible films.
I think that you made a comment on Toby’s blog the other day about Olive Films reluctance to release THE LAST COMMAND. I keep going on about Olive Films’ reluctance to release all the great Republic Westerns that they could if they so wish. As I have said many time before I would love to see some of those Republic As starring the likes of Rod Cameron, William Elliott, Sterling Hayden, John Payne, Forrest Tucker and so on get released on DVD. Rod Cameron now there’s a real underrated Western star. For me,el stupido, Limey Cameron is about as close to a true
traditional Westerner as it gets. Say what you will about Eastwood, but start knocking Rod and you’re in tall timber brother!
I haven’t seen this one, but did see and very much admire The Wonderful Country recently, so would be interested to catch up with more of Parrish’s work. Will look out for it. I was also pleased to see Laura mention Wellman’s ‘Westward the Woman’, a great underrated film.
Since The Wonderful Country worked for you Judy I think you might get something from this movie too. It may not be quite of the standard of The Wonderful Country but it’s no more than a notch below in my opinion. I’d love to think that Parrish’s best work might be due a reappraisal because there’s much to admire.
It’s also good to see that Wellman’s Westward the Women seems to have won over more new fans. It is a great movie and celebrates the importance of women in the genre, going some way towards proving that the classic western wasn’t simply the macho stereotype that it’s sometimes portrayed as.
Those who appreciate WESTWARD THE WOMEN should check out Richard Pearce’s HEARTLAND (1979), a reality-western devoid of mythology with a strong female lead:
I think very highly of it, myself.
Thanks for the link and recommendation Richard – it’s a new title to me.
Disney’s TONKA (1958) is surprisingly tough and adult, another first-rate western that should be better known:
That’s a movie I’d never heard of Richard but it seems to be quite well regarded. I’m going to have to check it out.
Thanks a lot for bringing it to my attention.
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I really like this film. The only bump on the road for me is John Cassavetes, who just cannot keep himself from glaring at everyone in the cast, as he does some minor chewing of scenery. Taylor is spot on and Charles McGraw supplies just the right amount of mean needed. Director Robert Parrish shows he had a firm hand on western stories.
All in all a top duster!
For a man with a relatively modest number of directing credits, the quality of his work in the 50s is hugely impressive for me.
You just did one of his films if I recall right, FIRE DOWN BELOW FROM 57. One of his earlier films, ASSIGNMENT : PARIS from 1952 is coming up next week here on cable.
Yes, and I’ve also featured Rough Shoot and The Wonderful Country in the past.