ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951, USA) ***½
dist. RKO Radio Pictures; pr co. RKO Radio Pictures; d. Nicholas Ray; w. A.I. Bezzerides, Nicholas Ray (based on the novel “Mad with Much Heart” by Gerald Butler); pr. John Houseman; ph. George E. Diskant (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Bernard Herrmann; ed. Roland Gross; ad. Ralph Berger, Albert S. D’Agostino; rel. 12 December 1951 (USA), 14 November 1951 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 82m.
cast: Ida Lupino (Mary Malden), Robert Ryan (Jim Wilson), Ward Bond (Walter Brent), Charles Kemper (Pop Daly), Anthony Ross (Pete Santos), Ed Begley (Capt. Brawley), Ian Wolfe (Sheriff Carrey), Sumner Williams (Danny Malden), Gus Schilling (Lucky), Frank Ferguson (Willows), Cleo Moore (Myrna Bowers), Olive Carey (Mrs. Brent), Richard Irving (Bernie Tucker), Patricia Prest (Julie Brent).
Interesting and intense character drama sees Ryan play a rough city cop who is disciplined by his captain and sent upstate, to a snowy mountain town, to help the local sheriff solve a murder case. There he questions his own approach during a murder manhunt which brings him into contact with the fugitive’s blind sister, played by Lupino. The key theme is of redemption plays out a little awkwardly as what made Ryan the way he was in the big city is only hinted at and never fully explored. Ray directs his actors well and the film is constantly moving, with the director’s frequent use of the hand-held camera during action sequences adding a level of urgency. With the help of Diskant’s striking photography (particularly using the Colorado Rockies location) and Herrmann’s evocative score, Ray elevates the film above the level of its script, producing an often-engrossing tale. Lupino directed the film for several days when Nicholas Ray fell ill.
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (USA, 1946) *****
Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Release Date: 16 October 1946 (USA), November 1946 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 April–mid June 1946; Running Time: 97m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: U.
Director: John Ford; Writer: Samuel G. Engel, Winston Miller (based on a story by Sam Hellman and a book by Stuart N. Lake); Producer: Samuel G. Engel; Director of Photography: Joseph MacDonald; Music Composer: Cyril J. Mockridge; Film Editor: Dorothy Spencer; Art Director: James Basevi, Lyle R. Wheeler; Set Decorator: Thomas Little; Costumes: René Hubert; Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: Eugene Grossman, Roger Heman Sr.
Cast: Henry Fonda (Wyatt Earp), Linda Darnell (Chihuahua), Victor Mature (Doc Holliday), Cathy Downs (Clementine Carter), Walter Brennan (Old Man Clanton), Tim Holt (Virgil Earp), Ward Bond (Morgan Earp), Alan Mowbray (Granville Thorndyke), John Ireland (Billy Clanton), Roy Roberts (Mayor), Jane Darwell (Kate Nelson), Grant Withers (Ike Clanton), J. Farrell MacDonald (Mac the Barman), Russell Simpson (John Simpson).
Synopsis: Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan and Virgil ride into Tombstone and leave brother James in charge of their cattle herd. On their return, they find their cattle stolen and James dead. Wyatt takes on the job of town marshal, making his brothers deputies, and vows to stay in Tombstone until James’ killers are found. He soon runs into the brooding, coughing, hard-drinking Doc Holliday as well as the sullen and vicious Clanton clan.
Comment: The oft-told tale of the gunfight at the OK Corral was never better told than in John Ford’s moody classic. Fonda is superb as Wyatt Earp, whether getting across the lawman’s assuredness as a town marshal or his awkwardness with the opposite sex. Mature may seem at times a little overwrought as Doc Holliday, but his performance is also memorable nonetheless. Darnell also scores as the saloon girl who is Holliday’s woman. Downs actually plays the titles role as Holliday’s long last love from out East who has come to town to win him back. Brennan makes for an effective villain as the head of the Clanton clan Technical attributes are top-notch too. MacDonald’s high contrast black-and-white photography captures the mood perfectly – notably in the night-time scenes and during the stormy opening. Ford is at the top of his game directing his cast and crew to deliver a wonderful Western that certainly bears repeat viewings.
Notes: Songs include: “Ten Thousand Cattle,” traditional, arranged by Fred K. Huffer; “Oh, My Darling Clementine,” music and lyrics by Percy Montrose; and “The First Kiss Is Always the Best, from Under a Broad Sombrero,” composers undetermined. An alternate preview version of this film exists. It was about 8m longer with minor variations throughout and a slightly different ending. Both this archival 103m version and the 97m release version are included on the Fox DVD.
Rio Bravo (1959; USA; Technicolor; 141m) ***** d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Dimitri Tiomkin. Cast: John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, John Russell, Ricky Nelson, Claude Akins, Bob Steele, Myron Healey, Estelita Rodriguez, Malcolm Atterbury, Yakima Canutt, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Bing Russell. A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy. Superb entertainment with characters you can route for and a near perfect cast. The interplay and contrast between the characters is what makes this so enjoyable. Wayne is at his stoic best as the sheriff; Martin delivers his finest performance as the recovering drunk; Brennan cackles and grumbles his way through his most memorable role as Stumpy and Dickinson oozes appeal as the girl with a past who falls for Wayne. Even Nelson gets through a slightly stiff portrayal of a young gunslinger and has time to share a tune with Martin. Escapist cinema at its very finest. Based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell (Hawks’ daughter). In 2014, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. More or less remade as EL DORADO (1966) and elements were also adopted in RIO LOBO (1970). Inspiration for John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976). [PG]
Searchers, The (1956; USA; Technicolor; 119m) ***** d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Max Steiner. Cast: John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Vera Miles, John Qualen, Harry Carey Jr., Patrick Wayne, Henry Brandon, Antonio Moreno, Lana Wood, Olive Carey, Hank Worden, Pippa Scott, Ken Curtis. As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable. Wayne gives a career-best performance as embittered ex-soldier in this truly memorable Western that rightly belongs with the very best of the genre. Gorgeously photographed by Hoch with dramatic Steiner score. Wonderful support cast with Bond notable as Texas Ranger on trail of rampaging Commanches. Ford’s best work as director with bookend shots becoming part of movie legend. Lana Wood played young Debbie Edwards and Natalie Wood, who was Lana’s older sister by eight years, played teenaged Debbie Edwards. Film debut of Pippa Scott. Based on the novel by Alan LeMay. [PG]
Hondo (1953; USA; Warnercolor; 83m) **** d. John Farrow; w. James Edward Grant; ph. Robert Burks, Archie Stout; m. Hugo Friedhofer, Emil Newman. Cast: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate, Lee Aaker, James Arness, Paul Fix, Rodolfo Acosta, Leo Gordon, Tom Irish. An army despatch rider discovers a woman and her son living in the midst of warring Apaches, and he becomes their protector. Wayne in one of his best roles as drifter with Indian heritage. Page also impressive as the abandoned mother. Echoes of SHANE released a few months earlier. Great dialogue and well-choreographed action sequences add to impressive tale. Based on the story by Louis L’Amour. Film debut of Page. Originally filmed in 3-D. Followed by a TV series in 1967, two episodes of which were edited into the TV movie HONDO AND THE APACHES (1967). [PG]
Operation Pacific (1951; USA; B&W; 111m) ***½ d. George Waggner; w. George Waggner; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Alan Crosland Jr. Cast: John Wayne, Patricia Neal, Ward Bond, Scott Forbes, Martin Milner, Philip Carey, Milburn Stone, Paul Picerni, William Campbell, Kathryn Givney, Cliff Clark, Jack Pennick, Virginia Brissac, Lewis Martin, Sam Edwards. During WWII, a submarine’s second in command inherits the problem of torpedoes that don’t explode. When on shore, he is eager to win back his ex-wife. Well-made war film combines tense battle scenes with standard romantic interludes. The submarine action is well-staged allowing Wayne moments of heroics. The scenes on land are more formulaic as Neal and Wayne try to figure out their future. A colourised version was released on video. [PG]
3 Godfathers (1948; USA; Technicolor; 106m) **** d. John Ford; w. Laurence Stallings, Frank S. Nugent, Peter B. Kyne; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Richard Hageman. Cast: John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond, Mae Marsh, Jane Darwell, Ben Johnson, Mildred Natwick, Guy Kibbee, Dorothy Ford, Charles Halton, Hank Worden, Jack Pennick, Fred Libby, Michael Dugan. Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert. Superbly filmed story with obvious religious overtones, which only become heavy-handed in the story’s finale. Ford gets superb performances from his actors – notably as Wayne, Armendariz and Carey, Jr. are tracked across unforgiving terrain by Bond and his posse. Wonderful photography by Hoch. Ford had previously directed a silent film version of the same story, called MARKED MEN (1919) – no prints of this is known to be in existence. [PG]
Fort Apache (1948; USA; B&W; 125m) **** d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent; ph. Archie Stout; m. Richard Hageman. Cast: Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Ward Bond, John Agar, George O’Brien, Shirley Temple, Irene Rich, Victor McLaglen, Anna Lee, Pedro Armendariz, Dick Foran, Guy Kibbee, Grant Withers, Jack Pennick, Mae Marsh. At Fort Apache, an honourable and veteran war captain finds conflict when his regime is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel with no respect for the local Indian tribe. Fonda is excellent as proud, but flawed commander of cavalry regiment in tale inspired by the legend of General Custer. Wayne is also on top form as the captain whose experience is overlooked by the by-the-book approach of his superior. Extensive use of Monument Valley locations. Agar’s debut. Suggested by the story “Massacre” by James Warner Bellah. First of Ford’s loose cavalry trilogy followed by SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) and RIO GRANDE (1950). [U]
They Were Expendable (1945; USA; B&W; 135m) **** d. John Ford; w. Frank Wead, Jan Lustig; ph. Joseph H. August; m. Herbert Stothart. Cast: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson, Paul Langton, Leon Ames, Cameron Mitchell, Donald Curtis, Arthur Walsh, Jeff York, Jack Pennick, Murray Alper, Harry Tenbrook. A dramatised account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defence of the Philippines in World War II. Highly regarded war film is bolstered by great photography and well-shot action sequences. Story is really just a slice of life during the conflict in the western Pacific. Montgomery is excellent as PT-boat commander commanding respect from his crew. Love interest angle between Wayne and Reed is left unresolved, thereby avoiding Hollywood conventions and sentiment and adding to the realism. Montgomery was a real-life PT skipper in World War 2. Based on the book by William L. White. [PG]
Tall in the Saddle (1944; USA; B&W; 87m) ***½ d. Edwin L. Marin; w. Michael Hogan, Paul Fix, Gordon Ray Young; ph. Robert De Grasse; m. Roy Webb. Cast: John Wayne, George “Gabby” Hayes, Ward Bond, Ella Raines, Audrey Long, Elisabeth Risdon, Paul Fix, Raymond Hatton, Frank Puglia, George Chandler. When a stranger arrives in a western town he finds that the rancher who sent for him has been murdered. Fast-paced tale of deception with a love triangle thrown into the pot. Wayne is in his element as the stranger and Raines is feisty as a rancher’s hot-headed daughter. Hayes provides comic relief and whilst the story becomes more formulaic in its final act, it is never less than thoroughly enjoyable. This was the first Wayne film to be shown on American network television. Based on the novel by Gordon Ray Young. Also available in a computer colourised version. [U]