I’m behind once again on posting. I’ve had the chance- ok so I’ve made time- to watch several great films over the past couple of weeks, but I have yet to get around to writing my thoughts about them.

While I have a moment, here is a couple of brief snippets of my thoughts of these films. Hopefully later I will get a chance to ramble on a little more.

First up: The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman, George C. Scott and Piper Laurie

Eddie lines up a shot

Fast Eddie (Newman) is a hotshot pool shark who bites off more than he can chew when he takes on the equally legendary Minnesota Fast (Jackie Gleason-yes, from The Honeymooners TV show). After losing to Fats, Eddie goes a quest of sorts to regain his confidence and money. He runs across Gordon (Scott), a greedy manager that wants to use Eddie to make money. Eddie agrees to go along with him for awhile, but risks losing much including his girlfriend (Laurie).

This is one of Newman’s great performances and Laurie gives an equally performance as the messed up girl that tries to help Eddie but is in serious need of help herself. George C. Scott is great as always; he is manipulative and plays on Eddie’s weaknesses.

Hustler was nominated for almost every Oscar there is, but only winning for Best Art Direction and Cinematography. For anyone who loves a great rise-from-the-despair-to-win story, this movie is for you.

Tom and Matt talk over the upcoming, grueling cattle drive

Red River (1948) with Montgomery Clift, John Wayne, Joanne Dru

Making his feature film debut (although The Search made it to theaters first) Montgomery Clift c0-stars as Matt Garth, the adopted son of John Wayne’s Thomas Dunson.

Dunson is forced to drive his cattle from Texas to Missouri when the Civil War robs the South of money and there is noone to buy his beef. This seems to be an impossible task to undertake, but Wayne knows it is this or go completely broke. Along the way, someone suggests taking the shorter route to Abilene where there is rumored to be a new railroad. Dunson is set in his ways and forces to men to continue on the predetermined route. Garth decides to take the cattle and the willing men and go to Abilene instead. Dunson’s pride takes a hit and he vows to catch up with Matt and kill him for undercutting him. Matt and the men do make it to Abilene and find the rumors of the railroad to be true. They sell the cattle and wait for Dunson to catch up to them.

Joanne Dru stars as Tess Millay, a woman in a wagon train that Garth and his men help rescue from the Indians. After their brief encounter, Garth and Millay fall in love, but Garth continues on to Abilene. Dunson later meets her and brings her with him to Abilene. When Dunson finally confronts Matt in the street, Tess is the one who breaks up their fight, telling them they are stupid for fighting because everyone can see how much they truly love each other.

This Howard Hawks-directed film is a masterpiece of the Western genre. Wayne delivers his usual gruff, strong character with a hard shell but soft insides. Clift is magnificent is his debut and the scenes in which he has with Dru pave the way for his future romantic leading man roles. He is as comfortable as Wayne in the Western garb and backdrop. He did not try to outdo Wayne, which cannot really be done. But instead he played Matt with an ease and confidence that translated onscreen perfectly.

The plot has enough comedic spark mixed in and it has a good flow. I enjoyed seeing Walter Brennan star as the grumpy old cook and Dunson’s good friend. Brennan also stars with Wayne in another great Western Rio Bravo Not to spoil the anticipation, here’s a clip of the ending (sorry it’s not the best quality):

More to come….hopefully in the near future!