Ruby Gentry

Incompatibility, or the absence of harmony, is what Ruby Gentry (1952) is all about. It’s a tale of love and ambition, and the friction generated by attempting to marry those two emotional opponents. Underpinning all that is the downbeat assertion that it is futile for one to try to escape the bonds of the past, that the future has already been mapped by circumstance or one’s  forebears, or perhaps some unseen guiding hand. This fatalistic view, one approaching the idea of predestination, tilts the movie in the direction of film noir; I think it is deserving of the noir label although I do acknowledge that there are those who will claim it is debatable whether it really belongs in that nebulous category.

Dr Saul Manfred (Barney Phillips) is the man from whose  point of view the story is seen. He’s our narrator, a kind of everyman guide taking us through the varied and tangled relationships at the heart of the affair rather than one of those pompously stentorian “voices of authority” that sometimes lecture the audience at the beginning of a film noir. His is a much more thoughtful and sensitive description of events and people, a reflection of the character himself and also of the personal stake he had in its development, at least at the start. He tells of Ruby (Jennifer Jones), and it’s one of those classic parables detailing the rise and fall not only of the title  character but of all those who were part of her life, and indeed one might even say of the rise and fall of the stuffy and socially suffocating community they all inhabit. Ruby is introduced as a swampland tomboy, an impoverished temptress in tight sweaters and torn jeans, as skillful with a rifle as she is careless with the hearts she captures. Simultaneously skittish and coquettish, she has spent time fostered in the well-to-do household of local big shot Jim Gentry (Karl Malden) and it’s whispered among the more mean-spirited in town that she has acquired ideas above her station. This is clear from her romance with Boake Tackman (Charlton Heston), a returning jock from a patrician background and a head full of big plans. The rigid social order is disapproving and Tackman hasn’t the moral courage to rise above this, so Ruby is drawn back into the world of the recently widowed Jim Gentry. Thus a complex web of ambition and desire is spun around a set of people who all think they know what they want but have no clear idea of how to get it, or to hold onto what they do manage to grab.

King Vidor’s  direction (working from a script by Silvia Richards) is beautifully controlled, pacy and rarely extravagant yet lush in its depiction of the steamy swamp where the climactic scene is played out and also in the richly detailed interiors, especially the house occupied by Ruby and her family. He uses space well to convey mood, the joyous and liberating race along the beach and through the surf in Tackman’s car perfectly captures the early exuberance of Ruby and her love, and then the cramped room which she shares with Jim and the doctor for the failed party after her marriage encapsulates the narrow and restrictive world she finds herself in. In the creation and presentation of these varied moods Russell Harlan’s cinematography is all one could ask for and no less than one would expect from such an artist in the manipulation of light. Ultimately, the movie works as a condemnation of unfettered ambition, where each of the main characters systematically destroys everything they care for in the pursuit of the unattainable. It is this, alongside the sour judgemental snobbery of a blinkered society, which stymies the only pure feelings on show – love is either thwarted or left unfulfilled and atrophied.

Jennifer Jones as the title character does succeed in drawing in the viewer, her allure is clear from her first appearance and the reunion with Heston on the porch in the dark and by torchlight gives a foretaste of the tumultuous nature of their relationship. Her efforts to fuse her love and her hunger to climb the social ladder is apparent from early on and the slow realization that she can only achieve the latter at the expense of the former is painful to see but convincingly portrayed by Jones. In the final analysis, hers is not an attractive character, the vindictiveness (though understandable) adds coldness and her attempts time and again to net Heston detract from her somewhat.

That latter aspect is amplified when it comes to the marriage to Malden’s besotted millionaire. His motives are the most straightforward and honest of the lead trio and he consequently earns a good deal of sympathy. There is a terrifically affecting moment when he catches his wife out in a foolish betrayal and you can see not only his world crumbling before his eyes but his assessment of himself as a man undergoing a reevaluation as he gazes in frank despondence into the mirror behind the bar of the country club. Heston simply oozes machismo, that powerful screen presence clear from even this relatively early stage in his career. For all the swaggering bravado though his Boake Tackman is a moral coward, a “back-door man” hiding behind his family’s position and reputation. Also deserving of mention is some fine work from Tom Tully, Barney Phillips and, in a disturbingly fanatical turn as the scripture-quoting brother, James Anderson.

Ruby Gentry has had a Blu-ray release in the US from Kino and there are a range of DVDs out there as well. I still have my old UK disc put out by Fremantle many years ago and it presents the movie most satisfactorily, although there are no supplements whatsoever offered. The movie has a strong emotional hook and Vidor’s assured direction, as well as Harlan’s cinematography and Heinz Roemheld’s score, combines effectively with some excellent performances. This may not be a picture you come away from with a particularly positive glow but it does have some depth and the final image, and message, may not be quite as downbeat as it first appears.

120 thoughts on “Ruby Gentry

      • Again, your commentary on “Ruby Gentry” is both substantive and eloquent. Your analysis of the film has penetrating insights into the main characters that I hadn’t thought of before. And you made me realize that I had failed to properly appreciate the masterful work done by King Vidor. Of course, I was always mesmerized by that opening shot of Ruby and by Heinz Roemheld’s haunting harmonica refrain. It dawned on me that Roemheld also used the harmonica in the soundtrack of “The Tall T” to great effect.

        The love triangle between Jones, Heston, and Malden reminds me of the triangle in “Duel in the Sun” between Jones, Peck, and Charles Bickford. I think it’s just a coincidence that Vidor directed both movies. I should say that he *tried* to direct “Duel in the Sun” (along with about six other directors including David O. Selznick). It looks like Vidor had more freedom directing “Ruby Gentry”.

        I always liked Ray Charles’ rendition of “Ruby” (1960).

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    • Thanks, but it is melodrama, It’s a blend of noir and melodrama, and I think those two styles of filmmaking complement each other quite well. Actually, I’m pleased you brought the point up, or phrased your comment in such a way as to put it in focus, Sergio. This is a good illustration of why many would argue Film Noir isn’t really a genre at all but a style which appears within a range of genres and ultimately transcends them.
      Anyway, do give it a chance if have the opportunity.

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        • I reckon that’s a fair assessment. I have one of Crawford’s underrated or less celebrated than it ought to be anyway in mind for a future piece, time and other variables permitting of course, as it happens.

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  1. This weekend’s films are…..
    1- THE STORY OF DR WASSEL 1944
    2- DAY OF THE BAD MAN 1958
    3- SMASHING THE RACKETS 1938
    4- NICK CARTER, MASTER DETECTIVE 1939
    5- SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE 1944
    Gord

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    • Gord, I am glad you carried this comment over again into the new thread. I look forward, as always, to hearing your take on the weekend’s films viewed, in particular “SMASHING THE RACKETS” and “DAY OF THE BADMAN”. The latter presumably recorded off TV and showing 4X3 and not its proper cinemascope, a copy of which seems possibly lost now sadly. That is how I first saw it in 1958 on the big screen on its release. It is one of a handful of good westerns where the ‘scope print is still unavailable to us.

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  2. Excellent piece of writing, Colin! You should be making a second living at this as you have an excellent grasp of both English language (expected), a winning way with the use of it and also superb ability to dissect the stories, motives etc. (Don’t mean to embarrass you but I have thought this more than once).

    If asked, I would have said this was a film I had never seen yet, on checking my records, I find I most certainly have. Suspect though it may have been 30 or 40 years ago! I am intrigued by what you write. Heston, at this early stage of his career, seemed very often to play characters that were very physical and also quite arrogant, not hugely likeable. Always huge screen magnetism of course.

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    • Yes, that’s a good point about the nature of some of Heston”s early roles, although I still have a few of those I need to catch up with. I think that self-assured air could be either mistaken for or channeled into arrogance quite easily, and while it does demand one’s attention I agree that the result isn’t always especially attractive or likeable. He kept that throughout his career but he seems to have learnt, and/or perhaps the directors he worked with learnt, to temper that with other qualities which added more layers and therefore more humanity and sympathy to subsequent characterizations.

      Thank you too for the kind words!

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      • The physicality stayed with Heston throughout but the sharp edges were softened, as you allude, Colin, and his performance in a later film like “BEN HUR” is very sympathetic.

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  3. Oh my, Ruby Gentry. I guess my take is a bit different than yours. I have my doubts if Vidor was quite sure in his mind as to what kind of movie he wanted to make. Serious (melo)drama or heavy-breather.

    To describe at least parts of the movie, I don’t think we quite get around that dreaded word (again)…camp. I remember we had a discussion about it a while ago, with you and Blake objecting to the negative connotations this term evokes. I understand that.

    But despite the underlying serious themes of the movie – predestination, small town prejudice, class conceit – I find it a bit hard to overlook the overheated, nostril-flaring performances by Heston and Jones. I’m a fan of both actors, I love Chuck to death, one of the sexiest men ever; and Jennifer Jones at least was perfectly capable of giving very nuanced and restrained performances. Here both actors clearly display a tendency towards ham. Neither of them have their hormones in the least bit under control and it’s all hugely enjoyable.

    As I’ve stated before, I don’t consider the term camp an insult. Obviously not every melodrama has to be automatically campy, however Ruby Gentry applies the soap suds quite liberally. But I don’t hold it against the film.
    Melodrama thrives on larger-than-life emotions and that is certainly more effective and entertaining than realism.

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    • Yes, I remember that discussion over the use of the word “camp” – seems ages ago now.
      Your last sentence here – Melodrama thrives on larger-than-life emotions and that is certainly more effective and entertaining than realism. – is something I’d agree with. However, I don’t see how that has to be at odds with what we see in the movie. Jones and Heston do ramp up the passion, but isn’t it that passion which drives the characters? Right from their first scene together this is made abundantly clear, they are caught up in a “grand passion” and such a concept will always demand the accompanying joys, sorrows, sufferings and tragedies to be heightened. I’m not sure how that can be underplayed without robbing it of much of its meaning.
      And I think the same goes for Vidor. I never had the sense that he’s taking the story anything less than seriously. We’re back to this business of “camp” again but I get none of the knowing postmodernism that I feel the term implies.

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  4. I do not necessarily agree with you, but it all has elements of validity and I just love the way you said it. Tough and true the way Margot Shelby would be commenting on old movies instead of destroying men. Great stuff.

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  5. Hi, Colin – an exceptional review: so thoughtful and beautifully expressed. I’ve re-read it a couple of times, just to savour your analysis. I’ve always had a soft spot for Heston – although I deplore his role on the NRA – since many years ago reading a volume of his diaries. I learned so much from that volume about the craft of acting and film making. (Your reviews and the comments on RTHC always remind me, though, that I still don’t know a whole lot about cinema). Anyway, your reviews continue to delight me and prompt orders to movie retailers!

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    • Thanks very much, Steve. By the way though, I don’t set myself up as someone who knows a great deal about cinema. I’m learning all the time too and this place is an opportunity for me to both make observations and pick up something new.

      I don’t really want to go too far into Heston’s life beyond the movies – and that applies to many other performers regardless of their positions, beliefs or whatever – as there is always the risk of conversations drifting into the type of rabbit hole discussions that leave nobody happy. What I would say about Heston is that he appears to have been a man whose life displayed a good deal of complexity and contradiction. Then again, this is probably true of most of us. Perhaps part of Heston’s skill as an actor was his ability to tap these varied aspects of his own character when required.

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  6. Nicely put, Colin, re his life outside the movies. My view is that, because someone admires an actor or a director’s work, that does not mean they are endorsing the performer’s political views or their behaviour off screen. I know other people disagree with this view and would not, for example, watch or rewatch any of Woody Allen’s or Roman Polanski’s films.

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    • I agree, Steve. Why do an actor’s political beliefs need to colour our view of them as an actor or refuse to watch their films. Btw, as I understand it, Woody Allen was fully investigated for the charges levelled at him by his ex-partner but nothing untoward could be found against him. And yet…..mud sticks and a number of actors who have done well out of appearing in his films now disown him.
      I seek out Woody Allen films because I consider him a good film-maker.

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  7. This weekend’s films are…..
    1- THE STORY OF DR WASSEL 1944 For sure this was not what I was expecting from a C.B. film. WW2 film with Gary Cooper playing the title character. A first time watch for me so i’ll need some time to digest this one.
    .
    2- DAY OF THE BAD MAN 1958 This also was a first time watch. A decent duster with the always reliable Fred MacMurray in the lead. Nice support from the likes of Robert Middleton, Marie Windsor, Lee Van Cleef, John Ericson and others keep this one moving along. Small town Judge ends up taking on a family of nasty types trying to spring one of their own from a hanging.

    3- SMASHING THE RACKETS 1938 First time watch yet again. Chester Morris headlines in this Lew Landers 69 min quickie. Morris is a hero G-Man who joins the D.A.s office to help go after some big fish rackets types led by Bruce Cabot. Fast and to the point.

    4- NICK CARTER, MASTER DETECTIVE 1939 The first of the three NICK CARTER detective films starring Walter Pidgeon. Pidgeon is called in to help catch a group a gang of saboteurs and shadowy foreign agents at a defense plant. Watchable but not really anything new here story wise. The director though is always worth the time, Jacques Tourneur. This is also a first time watch like all here.

    5- SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE 1944 Robert Walker headlines in this WW2 service comedy. Nice support from Keenan Wynn, Chill Wills, Donald Curtis and the pretty Donna Reed. Walker plays one of those nice guys who is always getting in trouble. While there are no big belly laughs, the film is charming and has one smiling throughout.

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  8. All
    I found a nice looking print of 1948s FURY AT FURNACE CREEK on the net. I know that several here have mentioned it in past threads, so I was wondering if it is worth a watch?
    Thanks, Gordon

    i

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  9. Absolutely right, Scott. Fury is also a remake of John Ford’s film, Four Men and a Prayer, a British adventure that essentially begins in India and covers quite a few exotic posts, with a grand cast headed by Richard Greene, Loretta Young, George Sanders, David Niven, C.Aubrey Smith, and about to become a flavor of the day due to the release of an outstanding silent film collection, Reginald Denny. And if you look for Barry Fitzgerald, who won’t be hard to spot. And for whatever it is worth, and it used to have value back in the day, four Academy award Winners in the cast. Count Ford and add six to that number.

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    • I’ve never even heard of Four Men and a Prayer. Just found it on ok.ru.
      It’s always nice when you think you know an actor’s or a director’s filmography and then stumble on something you didn’t know even existed.

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  10. Our great TV channel, Talking Pictures, is showing another rare Republic Studios film (John K, you out there??), “FLIGHT NURSE” (1953) starring Joan Leslie and Forrest Tucker. My recorder will be set. Anyone familiar with this film??
    Also showing (on a different channel) “CONQUEST OF COCHISE” also 1953, which I have never seen. On top of that, TCM has been showing several Johnny Mack Brown films of late and Talking Pictures is showing Roy Rogers in “SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS” shortly. Can’t say western fans are ignored!

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  11. Hi Jerry,
    Yes FLIGHT NURSE is very good and I will be tuning in. I DO wish TPTV would show more Republic Westerns. FLIGHT NURSE is chock full of anti Red propaganda,
    but less so than SABRE JET which almost makes THE GREEN BERETS look like a pacifist flick!
    I still like SABRE JET and I enjoy the cast Robert Stack,Coleen Gray,Richard Arlen and Julie Bishop. Sadly, SABRE JET no longer exists in it’s color version.
    Robert Stack is at his best as the flight commander who has to send his men on increasingly dangerous missions. I like the way the film deals with the women who wait for their men to hopefully return..
    As the decade progressed these Korean War films became more introspective,the Red bashing was toned down somewhat. A very good example is TARGET ZERO and as such is highly recommended-a most capable cast I might add. Allan Dwan returned to Korea with HOLD BACK THE NIGHT and was his final film with John Payne again the film is very good but sadly, unlike TARGET ZERO, is not available on DVD.

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  12. BTW Jerry,I think you will enjoy CONQUEST OF COCHISE one of the better and certainly more ambitious Sam Katzman William Castle films. The scenery is nice and the aspect of interracial relationships was quiet progressive for the era and indeed for a Sam Katzman film. There are some fairly graphic torture scenes which pre figure what was to follow from Castle. CONQUEST OF COCHISE can be picked up quiet cheaply as a Sony MOD DVD (remember them?) you may wish to indulge
    after watching the film but then again perhaps not,at any rate it’s always nice to have another title checked off the list.

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  13. Thanks for the useful feedback, chums. I haven’t seen “SABRE JET” either but you’ve certainly got my attention! Pity a colour print is no longer in existence.

    Talking of films about the Red Scare, I have this week watched a Republic from 1949 called “THE RED MENACE”. The rather lurid title gives the game away. Leonard Maltin is very scathing and dismissive, as though the threat from Communism was all in our imagination! A tad corny perhaps but I found the film really quite enjoyable. Obviously my viewing taste is on a decidedly lower plane than Mr. M.

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  14. Thanks people for the comments on FURY AT FURNACE CREEK. I’ll watch it this weekend. FOUR MEN AND A PRAYER I caught about 10-12 years ago. Not bad at all if you ask me, and I can see why it would make a good basis for a western. Thanks for the heads up on FLIGHT NURSE which I quickly found on You-Tube. Same thing with SABRE JET and CONQUEST OF COCHISE. At this rate I can fill up this weekend’s film dance card in a hurry. As for HOLD BACK THE NIGHT, I really like this Dwan film, which is imo one of the best Korean War films.
    Gord.

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  15. SABRE JET was shot in a process callled
    Color Corporation Of America which took the place
    of Supercinecolor for a very brief period.
    Sadly most of the films shot in that process no longer exist
    in color the process seems to have been a fast fader.
    SABRE JET and the very “campy” CAPTAIN KIDD &
    THE SLAVE GIRL are only available in black & white.
    OVERLAND PACIFIC seems to have survived in very
    washed out color.
    THE YELLOW TOMAHAWK is again only available in
    black & white but Bob Furnamek states that a color neg still
    exists but I cannot see Kino Lorber shelling out for the lab bill
    to produce a color version.
    I’d love to see a color version of SABRE JET as it’s more
    female centric than most war films and speaking of female centric
    films,Jerry have you got round to watching THE STORY OF MOLLY X
    yet?
    If more people actually purchased genre movies with second string
    stars then I guess companies like Kino Lorber would release more of
    them and even be prepared to pay the lab bill for THE YELLOW
    TOMAHAWK.
    Kino have no problem releasing Westerns with A Listers like
    Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster but there again there’s always
    a market for those guys.
    As I read comments on RTHC everyone seems to be watching films
    on line these days,I feel that I’m in a minority as I still avidly support
    companies releasing genre movies.
    I missed the boat with Twilight Time’s THE RIVER’S EDGE because
    of the ever sinking pound after the Brexit debacle but luckily, successfully
    bid for a sealed copy on ebay.
    I consider THE RIVER’S EDGE the last truly great Allan Dwan picture
    and cannot wait to see it in high def.
    The “Red Bashing” in SABRE JET may have come from the producer’s
    agenda one Carl Krueger who’s only other film credit was the non political
    COMANCHE,certainly director Louis King’s films are generally free of
    political statements. Mr King was a Christian Scientist but rarely let
    religion creep into his work apart from the thriller HUNTED MEN.

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  16. I might add that the excellent Korean War film
    TARGET ZERO is available to watch on-line in pretty
    good quality.
    Interesting script by Sam Rolfe (THE NAKED SPUR)
    Another entry for your weekend dance card Gordon!

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    • We are a pair of fogies, John – like you, I much prefer to have hard copy.

      I haven’t yet got round to “THE STORY OF MOLLY X” as my ‘to watch’ pile has grown considerably in recent months. I will get to it very soon though.

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  17. You guys here amaze me with the western titles you throw out all the time. That they are new to me would be an understatement. Noir is my area and I make no claim to being an expert there. I just love it when I read here about western films I can add to my must find list.
    Cheers
    Gord

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  18. This weekend’s films ….
    1- PHANTOM RAIDERS 1940
    2- SKY MURDER 1940
    3- LOVE ME TENDER 1956
    4- FURY AT FURNACE CREEK 1948
    5- THE PRAIRIE PIRATE 1925 A Harry Carey silent

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    • I’ve learned a lot from you, Gord, on little-known ‘noir’ titles and it has really spiked my interest to find and watch them.
      Some interesting titles for your upcoming weekend’s dance-card. “LOVE ME TENDER” is quite a good straight western starring Richard Egan. Of course the film’s fame came from the first screen appearance of The Pelvis and its title song. He acquits himself rather well.

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      • Jerry
        That is why we are all here I guess. We want to learn about something new that we have never seen before. Goodness knows I cannot say enough about what I’m taking in from RTHC. I like “THE STORY OF MOLLY X” as well. The one and only time I saw LOVE ME TENDER was in 1962 or 63. Time to give it another go around. I still have hundreds and hundreds of noir I can spring on you including a herd of Universal stuff. You are digging into noir and I am hitting the range on the western frontier. What is on your viewing list for the weekend?

        Everyone have a great weekend!
        Gordon

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        • Hi Gord
          I have watched many types of films all my life but the two genres that ‘do it’ for me have always been westerns and crime/noir. I am pretty familiar with very many of the best-known films noir and love ’em. But it is the little-known crime/noirs from, especially, Republic, Monogram, Lippert, U.I., that you and John K have led me to look deeper into, and I’m really enjoying myself!!

          This weekend? Hmm….
          1. “ALL I DESIRE” (1953)
          2. “GANGS OF NEW YORK” (1938)
          3. “THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS” (1944)
          4. “THE FAMILY SECRET” (1951)

          Yes, I also hope everyone has a great weekend (viewing or otherwise!)
          Jerry

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  19. John, your prompting yesterday brought my copy of “THE STORY OF MOLLY X” (1949) floating to the top of the pile and I just watched it. The writer/director Crane Wilbur had a very successful run of films in which he wrote the story, and sometimes the screenplay, and several of them are among my favourite movies of the type.
    I found MOLLY X to boast the expected production values that we associate with U.I. films generally and a good cast. A classic story of eventual redemption of the main character, played very well by June Havoc. I seem to remember it was your positive comments about this film a while back that prompted me to send for a copy. My kind of film!

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  20. Colin’s review of “Ruby Gentry” has turned my attention to some of Heston’s earlier work. I had already seen “Dark City” a few weeks ago. The other night I rewatched “Arrowhead” (1953) directed by Charles Marquis Warren and featuring Jack Palance, Katy Jurado, Brian Keith, and Milburn Stone. It was largely shot on location in Bracketville in SW Texas. Heston plays Chief of Scouts Ed Bannon who was raised by the Apaches and who has a smoldering hatred towards them. Heston has never displayed more swaggering machismo than he does in “Arrowhead”. Bannon proves to be 100% percent right in everything is says about the duplicity and savagery of the Apaches while those seeking peace and reconciliation are always wrong in their judgments. On face value, this film is not sympathetic to the plight of the Native Americans and presents a totally different viewpoint than “Broken Arrow” of “Devil’s Doorway” do. There is no self-discovey or redemption in Bannon at the end. He makes Ethan Edwards look like Mother Teresa. I’m not sure why the film was made unless it was meant to be a critique of the unrelenting ruthlessness that defeated the American Indian. One critic suggested that it was an anti-communist film with the Apaches as the commies. Unless you’re a Western film historian, I don’t recommend it.

    Next early Heston film on the docket is “The President’s Lady” with Heston as Andrew Jackson and Susan Hayward as his wife (I watched the first half about the youger Jackson and it’s not bad).

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      • I think Ethan is a hugely complex character and it’s his own gradual awareness of that complexity and his coming to terms both with all the raging emotions within himself and the world around him that makes his story so compelling. It’s that journey towards redemption and the consequent acknowledgement of his flaws that follow on from this which adds power to the resolution. That final shot remains iconic for so many reasons.
        The problem with Arrowhead is that all that is missing.

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        • Arrowhead is simply not as good a film as anything by Ford. In The Searchers, we are challenged to understand how great Ethan is as a man, not by words, but deeds. His brother, sister-in-law and a niece have all been murdered and the younger child, kidnapped. He avenged the dead, and brought the prisoner home safely. What more could anyone do? Often, Ethan’s hostility to his enemy is challenged, well he was right on in all. This seems to be a favorite theme of John Ford, addressed clearly in Fort Apache and more deliberately in Liberty Valance. Nothing to do with sociology; leave that for Broken Arrow.

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          • Of course it’s not the film of Ford’s, few movies are if were going to be honest about it.
            I can’t agree though with the assertion that The Searchers is a black and white affair, or that Ethan is meant to be viewed as a straightforward or uncomplicated hero. Scar is essentially a mirror image of Ethan and the confrontation that must come is as much a internal battle for Ethan as an external one. In short, the enemy is himself, and what’s more is he recognizes this truth too. The search isn’t only for Debbie, it’s Ethan’s quest for his own soul and spiritual salvation.
            The Searchers is one of the great movies, one of the great American pieces of art in fact, and I’m convinced in my own heart that Ford understood this as he was making it. It’s nuanced and multi-layered, a mine of morality carrying a rich vein that can be returned to often. If we try to reduce it to a simplistic white hat/black hat narrative, then we’re doing a tremendous disservice to a major work of art, in my opinion anyway, Barry.

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            • I am not reducing the film nor making it anything other than war. No salutation or consideration for the enemy. The f fantasy of First War pilots saluting one another equates easily with prizefighters shaking hands just prior to knocking an opponent’s head off. Or duellists and their fake courtesies. You destroy the enemy up until surrender, after that, peace and quiet may be possible. A true-life metaphor, we bombed the hell out of German and Japan, 75 years later, they are loyal democratic allies.

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              • Personally, I’d never have thought of The Searchers as a war film, which is not a comment on the war film genre, by the way.
                The film takes place in the aftermath of the Civil War, contains violent sequences and, as is the case with all drama, is driven by conflict.

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                • But it is a war film, without a formal declaration, in the same sense that Canyon Passage is about war. My question is, do you prefer Ethan Edwards to Logan Stuart’s leadership? My preference is Ethan.

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                    • Of course, you are correct. Logan is a fool, the town has been destroyed and many lovable characters murdered who refuses to take action against Honey Bragg, by killing him, and at the end is still defending that incredible murderous idiot George Camrose. Not on Ethan’s watch would be a good if not safe bet.

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          • Barry,

            Again, there are few films that I love as much as “The Searchers” and I love Ethan as a character. That said, there are clear signs at the beginning of the film that Ethan has problems with Indians. In the first scene where Martin Pawley appears, Ethan is cold toward him, saying “a fella could mistake you for a half-breed”. Ethan also shoots out the eyes of a dead Comanche prompting Ward Bond to say, “What good did that do you?” And don’t forget that after it becomes apparent to Ethan that Debbie is “sleeping with a buck” that his motive for finding Debbie changes from rescuing her to killing her. Many have noted that one of the motifs in “The Searchers” is miscengnation. Ethan’s change of heart or his redemption comes near the end when he sweeps Debbie up in his arms and says, “Let’s go home, Debbie”. This is a Fordian moment of grace wherein Ethan from his hate. It is beautifully framed and filmed.

            I am not comparing “Arrowhead” to “The Searchers”. That would be like comparing “Fifty Shades of Gray” to “Anna Karenina”. I used hyperbole (invoking Mother Teresa) to show how implacable was the hate and racism of Charlton Heston’s Ed Bannion compared to Ethan’s change of heart.

            Liked by 2 people

      • Barry,

        I think Ethan Edwards is one of the great characters in the history of cinema and that John Wayne’s portrayal of him is brilliant. I have seen the film many times over the decades and consider it an unqualified masterpiece.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. My previous post received a “your comment is awaiting confirmation” message. I’ve never received this message on RTHC before. I went to Word Press and the comment isn’t there either. Is this an RTHC feature or a WP feature. Are certain words verboten? (although I never use profanity or racial slurs).

    Like

    • Don’t worry, Frank. That can happen from time to time if there are glitches in WordPress. Actually, this time there was an error in the email address you submitted – it’s never displayed but it seems WordPress uses it to ascertain if someone has commented before as I have the filter set in such a way that anyone commenting for the first time has to be moderated. The error created the impression you were a first time visitor.

      Like

  22. Continuing my foray into early Charlton Heston Films, I just re-watched “The President’s Lady” (1953) which is directed by Harry Levin (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”) and which is based upon the Irving Stone novel of the same name. Heston plays Andrew Jackson and Susan Hayward is Rachel Donelson, the woman he falls in love with. Rachel is stuck in a bad marriage and leaves her husband to live with her mother. Andrew and Rachel receive news that her husband has filed for divorce and so they get married. They learn two years later that the divorce wasn’t finalized at the time they were married, and, at Rachel’s wish, they are married again. Still, Rachel’s character is smeared over the years and at one point Jackson kills a man in a duel who has dishonored her name. Much of the movie revolves around their early years and their affection for each other is innocent and touching. The last half of the movie telescopes Jackson’s increasing rise to fame that eventually sees him becoming President. Both Hayward and Heston are excellent and it’s nice to see the early Heston playing a character who, while ruthless in defending his wife, is capable of great tenderness. Alfred Newman delivers a fine score. As far as I can tell the story doesn’t significantly depart from actual events. It’s a nice movie that I think people will enjoy. I then tried to watch Heston in “Pony Express” (1953) but some early silliness bordering on slapstick turned me off, so I gave up on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have never seen The President’s Lady but what you’ve written here has me keen to do something about that. Thanks for sharing those thoughts.

      Pony Express is a movie I know I didn’t think much of when I last saw it but I’d struggle to articulate the reasons why. I’ve had it in mind for some time to give it another chance, but I keep putting it off or finding it slips down my list of priorities.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A technical observation — I almost never get a response when I click on the “Like” button” at the RTHC site. However, if I go into WordPress.Com, and access RTHC from there, I find that the “Like” button works every time.

        Like

      • It’s funny but PONY EXPRESS is one of the
        very few Charlton Heston films that I really like.
        As history total nonsense but for a rousing action
        Western hard to beat with some great set pieces.
        Heston and Forest Tucker make a great team,
        Rhonda Fleming and Jan Sterling very easy on the eye
        Good fast moving fun.

        Liked by 2 people

      • In response to Colin, Barry and John K……..Firstly, I went ahead and took in ARROWHEAD. I’m in total agreement with Barry. The historical foundation of the source material kept me very interested throughout the proceedings. I thought Heston’s no nonsense dialogue hit home.

        Secondly, was PONY EXPRESS. The historical backdrop of the Pony Express seemed to hold up fairly well, but beyond that I found it disappointing. Even with legendary names like Cody (Heston) and Hickok (Tucker) the proceedings failed to bring it above ordinary standard fare. As a side note……in 1861 Bill Cody was only 15 years of age. Hickok was 24.

        Thirdly, to round out my Heston Western movie experience was THREE VIOLENT PEOPLE (1957). Now this is a film I really liked. An adult western one can sink their teeth in. An intelligent script that brings one into the lives of each character. Co-starring with Heston are Anne Baxter, Gilbert Roland and Tom Tryon. If you’re a Roland fan he is excellent in buttressing Heston’s character. Definitely worth the time in taking this one in.

        I guess I should mention my take on “Ruby Gentry”. Well…..just a big steamy soap opera with the kind of individuals one can’t help but dislike. In the end……I guess that’s what makes it so entertaining.

        Liked by 2 people

          • I definitely think you should see (and maybe write about) “THREE VIOLENT PEOPLE”, Colin. I find it enjoyable if not likeable, if that makes any kind of sense.

            Like

          • Since we’re talking early Charlton Heston and since I was bitten twice in the last month by large black ants (incredibly painful!) I have to mention “The Naked Jungle” (1954) directed by Byron Haskin and produced by George Pal (“The Time Machine). Heston plays a cocoa plantation owner who’s dedicated all this energy to his work since he was a very young man. He’s now ready for a mate and sends his brother to the US to find a bride. A devastingly beautiful Eleanor Parker arrives. Though the sexual tension between Heston and Parker absolutely smolders, there’s a problem — his mail order bride has been married before. Heston says that he never acquires anything that isn’t brand new. Arrangements are made to send Parker back to the U.S. But before that happens strange signs have appeared — birds and monkeys have evacuated parts of the jungle. Could it be? Yes, its “marabunta”, army ants marching toward the plantation in a two mile wide column that’s 20 miles deep. You’ll have to watch the movie to see if Heston can defeat the ants and whether he can resolve his conflicted feelings toward the stunning Eleanor Parker

            Liked by 1 person

  23. This weekend’s films ….
    1- PHANTOM RAIDERS 1940 Second of the “Nick Carter” Detective films starring Walter Pidgeon and Donald Meek. In this one we are in Panama, where Pidgeon is trying to solve the destruction of several cargo ships. Is it an insurance scam, a Nazi plot or both? You will need to watch to find out. Again directed by J. Tourneur. Not bad imo.

    2- SKY MURDER 1940 Third of the “Nick Carter” films. In this George Seitz directed film Pidgeon is after a group of Nazi spies. Nothing new here to see and is the weakest of series.. Donald Meek steals the show.

    3- LOVE ME TENDER 1956 Had not seen this since the early 60’s. A watchable western set just after the Civil War. The cast includes Richard Egan, Elvis, William Campbell, Neville Brand, Bruce Bennett, James Drury, Robert Middleton and the beautiful Debra Paget. Ex- Confederate types vs union types at odds over stolen Union payroll.

    4- FURY AT FURNACE CREEK 1948 Not sure how I never saw this one over the years? Was it never shown on television? Anyways, as pointed out here by Barry Lane, it is a well played western remake of John Ford’s FOUR MEN AND A PRAYER 1938. We have a pair of brothers trying to clear their father’s name over the massacre of troops and a wagon train. The brothers are played by V. Mature and Glenn Langan. Good support is supplied by Reg Gardiner, Colleen Gray, Roy Roberts, Fred Clark and Albert Dekker. Well worth the time investment.

    5- THE PRAIRIE PIRATE 1925 A Harry Carey silent. A film chock full of gun battles, horse chases, murders, damsels in distress, a hero and a multitude of villains. Harry Carey is out for revenge on the bandit types who killed his sister. Carey becomes a hold-up man himself to try and get info on the unknown bandit leader. He also has time to rescue a woman from a forced wedding. Boy does this pack a lot into a 60 minute runtime. It is my first Carey silent film. I liked it.

    Gord

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Coming up on various cable outlets here the next two weeks is,
    THE DECKS RAN RED 58 James Mason
    RIFIFI 55 Jules Dassin
    YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE 37 Fritz Lang
    CASQUE D’ OR Simone Signoret
    CLOAK AND DAGGER 46 Fritz Lang
    TIME WITHOUT PITY 57 Michael Redgrave
    THEY ALL COME OUT 39 First feature film for Jacques Tourneur
    VIOLENT PLAYGROUND 58 Stanley Baker
    THE RUNAWAY BUS 54 Frankie Howerd

    Time to set the machine to record.
    Gord

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some tempting material there. Dassin’s film is among the definitive heist movies, and that early Lang has some beautiful imagery. Dearden’s Violent Playground has much to recommend it too.
      The Decks Ran Red was mentioned in passing a while back and as it’s not one I’ve seen I welcome any and all opinions on it.

      Like

  25. Colin
    THE DECKS RAN RED and VIOLENT PLAYGROUND I have seen only on rather beat up vhs, so a nice print for a re-watch will be nice. CLOAK AND DAGGER, TIME WITHOUT PITY and THE RUNAWAY BUS I have all seen but a fresh viewing will not hurt.
    RIFIFI 55, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, CASQUE D’ OR and THEY ALL COME OUT are new for me.

    ,Gordon

    Like

    • I haven’t seen Casque D’Or myself.

      I recently picked up the new Eureka Blu-ray of Cloak and Dagger and a quick scan tells me it looks very pleasing. I haven’t watched it for years, and then not in optimal condition, and I felt it was lesser Lang. Of course that’s not to say it’s a poor film, just weaker when it’s lined up next to the director’s other work.

      Like

    • Gordon,

      Dassin’s “Rififi” is brilliant as is “Casque d’Or” by Jacques Becker. I cannot recommend enough two other Becker films that I like even more than “Casque d’Or” – “Touchez Pas au Grisbi”(1954) and “Le Trou” (1960). Even if one is not a fan of foreign films, I think he would find these films compelling. Director Jean-Pierre Melville has said of “Le Trou”, “A masterpiece…and I weigh my words carefully: the greatest French film of all time!” It’s the ultimate prison break movie rivaled only by Robert Bresson’s “A Man Escaped” (1956).

      I agree that “Cloak and Dagger” is far from being top-shelf Fritz Lang. However, I think the brutal fight scene between Gary Cooper and Marc Lawrence stands out as a highlight of the movie.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Le Trou – that keeps eluding me for some reason. It’s been enthusiastically recommended to me before – I think perhaps by Blake but I’m not certain of that – and I still haven’t gotten to it.
        I concur that Touchez Pas au Grisbi is well worth an hour and a half of anyone’s time.

        Like

    • Yes, that’s similar to my own feelings. Yet it’s possible the director’s name and reputation color expectations too. Had the movie been made by someone else, I have a hunch we might be more enthusiastic.

      Like

    • If I may jump in fellas…….I too, thought “Cloak and Dagger” could have been better. Or….I could just say, it could have been worse if it weren’t for Lilli Palmer. IMO, her character and onscreen presence gave the movie a sense of realism. Because of this film and when reminded of other espionage thrillers, it is Palmer that first comes to my mind…….she was ideal for these kind of roles.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Oddly enough my Mother took me to see CHECKPOINT
    in 1956. We never had a TV until 1958 and I was the last
    kid in the road to get one-I lived in a very long road.
    Friday night was movie night when I would go to the cinema
    with Mum.
    Naturally I enjoyed CHECKPOINT but Mum was rather taken with
    the support film CHRISTINE (aka Two Blue Eyes) a dubbed German
    film about a blind girl. When her sight is finally restored the film
    changes from black & white to color.
    VIOLENT PLAYGROUND also very good as is Losey’s excellent
    TIME WITHOUT PITY.
    Interesting to see Cushing just proir to becomming an all time Horror
    great.Another Hammer connection in TIME WITHOUT PITY is that
    Richard Wordsworth plays an anti death penalty politician.
    Another Hammer/Horror reference was that TIME WITHOUT PITY
    was Freddie Francis’ first gig as DOP ‘though,sadly he and Losey
    never got on,they never worked together again. Francis considered
    Losey “a right old misery,an unhappy person.”

    Like

    • Oh boy, 64 years just peeled away when John reminded me of the other film on the programme, “CHRISTINE”. I had forgotten all about it. John, thanks for the memory………

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Returning to ARROWHEAD and indeed THE SEARCHERS there was an interesting RAWHIDE episode where Woody Strode plays a version of the Heston character in ARROWHEAD. This was an Eastwood starring episode titled “Incident Of The Buffalo Soldier” and Woody even uses the same unfortunate term directed at Native Americans ….”dirt” I guess this would qualify as reverse racism. The episode was directed by Ted Post (HANG ‘EM HIGH, MAGNUM FORCE).
    I only discovered recently Tarantino’s intense dislike for John Ford who he considers not only racist but a white supremacist. This for me is disappointing especially as Hawks is Tarantino’s favorite director and I admire the way he champions people like Phil Karlson and William Witney. John Ford was aware of the racist tag while he was alive to which in defence he stated “How can I be racist when my best friend is a black man (Woody Strode)” It was Ford who provided the $2,000 so Woody could give his Mother a decent funeral. Later when Ford’s health was failing Woody was pretty desperate for any form of work he auditioned for a minor role in MAJOR DUNDEE but was told by the producer that he was “not black enough.” Woody explained after 300 years of forming relationships with whites and Indians it’s not surprising some of us are not as black as we used to be. As Woody headed for the door Peckinpah sneered “You’re a mongrel”
    Woody,ever the gentleman would only state that Peckinpah was a crude ignorant man. It was only when Woody started doing the Spaghetti’s that he suddenly
    started getting $36.000 pay packets.
    Finally, as much as I dislike certain elements of ARROWHEAD I would buy a Blu Ray edition in a heartbeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d almost forgotten those comments on Ford by Tarantino. They felt at the time ill-judged, indeed ill-informed, and essentially of the attention seeking variety. I’m not especially a fan of Tarantino’s work at the best of times; there’s a quality about it that I can only describe as jejune and I think that somewhat crass dismissal of Ford is an indication of the juvenile nature which is never far below the surface with him.

      Liked by 2 people

    • “Woody explained after 300 years of forming relationships with whites and Indians it’s not surprising some of us are not as black as we used to be. As Woody headed for the door Peckinpah sneered “You’re a mongrel”.”

      This comment by Woody really caught my attention. His ancestral relationships with whites was a given. However, including Indians got me wondering. According to Wikipedia his grandmother was a Black Cherokee and his grandfather was a Black Creek. I wonder if Peckinpah was aware of this?

      Liked by 1 person

  28. VERY interesting stuff there, John. I think we all know now that Ford could be pretty obnoxious on set (including to the Duke) but I will still always watch one of Ford’s films over a Tarantino any day.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Woody Strode is well thought of here in Calgary. He was a member of the Calgary Stampeders football team that won their first National “Grey Cup” championship in 1948.

    Gord

    Liked by 2 people

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