January 2010


In 1952 Stanley Kramer debuted Grace Kelly in his production of High Noon which also starred the great Gary Cooper. Cooper’s career had slowed a bit until his dramatic turn as Marshal Kane.

High Noon depicts bright Sunday morning that is interrupted by a gang of mercenaries who coming riding into town.

Instead of riding off with his new bride Amy (Kelly), Marshal Kane stays behind to defend the town  until the new marshal arrives.

Kane defends a town of cowards from Frank Miller who has come back to challenge him. After outright asking for deputies in the local watering hole, Kane finds that much of the town is reluctant to help him. Even his current deputy Harvey (Lloyd Bridges) quits on him.

Ben Miller had already arrived in town, and his brother Frank, who Kane had arrested before, was scheduled to arrive in town at, you guessed it, high noon.

Bridges gives a great performance as the tortured deputy and friend of Kane. He is threatened by Kane and is angry that he didn’t fight for him to be the new marshal. Harvey’s anger finally boils over and they fight in the stables as Harvey tries to get Kane to leave.

The story comes to a climax as the whole town waits for the clock to strike 12. The director and producers of High Noon did a great job of laying on the tension with dramatic closeups of the main characters.

And then you hear the train whistle. Frank Miller departs from the train.

Amy and Helen Ramirez, who was a previous lover to Kane and Frank Miller, board the now outgoing train to safety.

Kane walks down the street to face the men alone. When Amy hears shots being fired she gets off the train just before it leaves the station. She sees a dead man lying the in street but is relieved to see it is not her husband. She ends up joining the fight, shooting one of the gang members herself. But Miller then uses her to lure Kane out in the street. Thinking quickly, she distracts Miller and Kane is able to kill him.

The embrace of the still-very-newlyweds is touching. Before climbing in the wagon to leave the town for good, Kane takes off his star and throws it in the dirt at the feet of the ungrateful townspeople who had gathered.

I was fortunate enough to also watch additional commentary on High Noon with Leonard Maltin. Maltin describes High Noon as a morality play that just happens to be a western.

For any Western genre fan this is a must. It may seem a bit slow at first, but stick with it. It only gets better as the story develops.

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Just wanted to say a quick Happy Birthday to the late Paul Newman. Nominated for 10 Oscars (winning for The Color of Money), Newman shared his talent and ability with us for several decades.

I recently watched for the first time one of Newman’s best movies, The Sting. I hope to post my thoughts about it in the coming day or two.

I am finally catching up this blog and getting around to discussing some of the great films I got to watch over the Christmas holidays.

I’m beginning with my favorite: Anatomy of a Murder. This 1959 mystery/courtroom drama/ stars Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and George C. Scott. This film was nominated for Best Picture in ’59, but lost out to Ben-Hur.

Anatomy tells the tale of attorney Paul Biegler (Stewart) who takes the case of Lt. Manion, a man accused of murdering bartender Barney Quill. Biegler’s challenge is to prove that Manion was temporarily insane when he murdered Quill because he had just learned that Quill raped his wife, Laura.

Biegler’s knows he will have another challenge convincing the jury that Laura Manion (Remick) was raped. Manion did not have the best reputation around the base and there was no proof of the rape other than her testimony. Biegler and his legal sidekick McCarthy must find witnesses and evidence to support their story before the assistant attorney general Dancer (played excellently by Scott) does the same to convict Lt. Manion.

Biegler is able to find a psychologist to support his temporary insanity defense, but the still lack evidence to support the rape portion of their case.

It may be easy to guess that Stewart’s character prevails in the end,  but I do not want to necessarily give the ending away altogether. There is so much more to say about this great film and this is one I believe that once you watch it once you will want to see it again and again.

This is one of the best dramas of the time and is full of suspense and moral questions. Anatomy also pairs two of the best actors of  the generation in Stewart and Scott.  Remick also gives a great performance as the sometimes vulnerable, sometimes provocative military wife.

Again, there is much more I can say about this great film that I am leaving out. Here are a few clips (keep a look-out for a certain musician!):

I usually hate when classic movies are remade. Hate. These classic films are great the way they are and do not need to be told again. But on the slim occasion that a cast and director come together and do a great classic film justice, I do take notice.

Such is the case with the 2007 remake of the 1957 western classic 3:10 to Yuma.

The plot is rather simple. Glenn Ford is the charismatic outlaw Ben Wade who has been captured by local authorities in a small town. Van Heflin is Dan Evans, a struggling rancher who takes on the challenge along with the marshal and deputies to get Wade out of town and onto the 3:10 train to Yuma prison before Wade’s gang can catch up and rescue him.  Evans is selfish is his motives though; Mr. Butterfield, owner of the stage coaches that keep getting robbed by Wade and his gang, offers to pay Evans the then-large sum of $200 to help out.

Ford and Heflin really are paired well in this film. As you watch, you see that, for a rougish outlaw, Wade is quite the charmer. His ultimate downfall is the pretty bartender, played in 1957 by Felicia Farr. After robbing the Butterfield stage, Wade’s gang ride into the nearest town for a drink. They plan to meet up in Mexico to split up their loot. Wade stays behind for awhile to consort with the bartender. The marshal and his men catch Wade as he is leaving. They realize that they have to get Wade out of town quickly before his gang can regroup.

The marshal, Evans, and the other men in charge of keeping Wade prisoner make it to Contention, but the gang is not far behind them. They make threats to destroy the whole town if Wade is not released. As they wait for the clock to strike 3:00, tensions mount and the men keeping Wade one by one decide they have a better chance of remaining alive if they back out. Mr. Butterfield, who has been along for the ride, even offers Evans the money he promised if he would go home.

Along the way, the character of Dan Evans starts to develop a stubborn optimism. Even when all the odds are against him, he still believes he can get Wade to the station. It may be because he is also desperate to prove his worth. In the beginning, it is all about the money he needs to keep his ranch alive. But after awhile, duty overrides common sense.

One of my favorite lines from the first version is when the marshal is asking for volunteers to bring Wade in. One of the men asks “volunteers for what?” And the marshal replies that he’s not saying what for.

3:10 is a solid classic with some of the best of the western genre. I was glad to see that the recent version used much of the same dialogue and classic lines from the original. The great one-liners helped shape the Wade character and made moviegoers want to root for him and his cocky attitude.

The 2007 remake really does represent the original well. In James Mangold’s updated version, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale star as Wade and Evans respectively. They both bring a little color to the characters formerly portrayed.

Although Ford’s Wade may not be as flashy and colorful as Crowe’s, Ford still brought a charm and devil-may-care attitude to character. He made Wade his own outlaw first.  But I will say that I liked Crowe’s portrayal as well; he is naturally charismatic and makes it easy to believe that his men follow him. Bale adds an extra dimension of desperation to Evan’s character. He is willing to do something risky to save his ranch and his family, but at the end he wants to do what is right to prove that he can.

For the most part the plot flow remains the same. The time Wade and Evans spend in the hotel room in Contention waiting on the train to arrive is longer in the original. The have more dialouge then than in the later version. Their relationship develops more on the road to Contention in the Bale/Crowe version.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the very end. I hesitate to give it all away. Let’s just say that both ways Wade makes it onto the train to Yuma prison; one time with Evans and the other time without.

One thing that is markedly better about the remake is the additional screen time for Wade’s second Charlie, played  in ’07 by Ben Foster. Foster’s character is really one you love to hate. His outlaw is mean and ruthless and is a great secondary character.

Both of these films are great additions to the western genre and the ’07 version’s costumes and scenery are fantastic. The roles may have been unusual for the non-Americans Crowe and Bale, but they adapted to the characters very well.

Well, clearly I enjoyed both of these films. Here are some photos and clips for you to watch and compare on your own. I would truly encourage you to take the time to give both a viewing.

P.S. The remake has one of the coolest posters ever>

Sorry I’ve been slack lately on posting…I promise I will get back to it soon! For now enjoy these vintage Bogie photos courtesy of Film Noir Photos

http://filmnoirphotos.blogspot.com/2010/01/out-on-town-bogie.html