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Archive for the ‘Andy Devine’ Category

Canyon Passage

05 May

Canyon Passage. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. Gold-rush Western. A successful entrepreneur defends his friend against all odds. 92 minutes Color 1946.

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What a gorgeous picture! It is the result of the Technicolor process which was tricky to film with and required the services of  Natalie Kalmus who ran the always-rented cumbersome Technicolor camera. But the results are phenomenal here, rich, deep, and satisfying. The outdoor sequences are done in the Gold Country of the California Sierras, in view of lakes and rivers and forests of supernal beauty. And the film itself unfolds with all this casually moved through, in unemphatic episodes, which seem barely to constitute a story but hold one’s attention for that very reason. Its woodland mountain setting is going to prohibit the big action scenes of open-plains Westerns, and in this it’s going to be similar to Allan Dwan’s later film Tennessee’s Partner with John Payne and Ronald Reagan, that is to say, it’s going to be a homo-bonding story. In this, the far more interesting one, the male romance is between Dana Andrews and Brian Donlevy. Donlevy is a funny actor, short, build square, with a large handsome head and a big masculinity to throw around, he nonetheless is curiously sympathetic as the banker who steals deposits. His morning ritual upon arriving on the set: 1) insert dentures; 2) don hairpiece; 3) strap on corset; 4) lace up “elevator” shoes. This may have given him the stuffed look he always possessed, that of a little lunk who did not move well, but moved impressively, and it also probably formally framed a character who is going to be weak and yet sympathetic. One of the great shots in the movie is taken from below in profile, his left eye gleaming with doubt as to whether he should go and murder someone. In both pictures, that someone is a drunken prospector. Another similarity circles around two females and the hero’s resistance to marriage. In both instances, the females are red heads, here Susan Hayward in her leading lady days. She has marvelous carriage and a bold attitude in every scene, which makes her monotonously redoubtable, but effective. The star is Dana Andrews who moves through the picture, here, as always, retaining his secrets. His naturalness on screen is remarkable. The quietude he carries and the interesting timbre of his voice when he speaks and the mobility of his face when he responds make him a fine film actor, one of a few who look okay in suit-roles, as here, where he plays a merchant prince in the making. Andy Devine and his actual sons are in the picture as is a young, sexy actor doing good work, Lloyd Bridges, but the astonishing performance is that of Ward Bond as the bully ogre. What with his pre-fab performances in John Ford films, we never imagine he could act, but see him here (and also in On Dangerous Ground), and you will be moved and amazed by the way he seizes the opportunities provided by the script — which is a really quite good and eccentric one. In brief: a richly visual, beautifully directed, and unusual Western entertainment.

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When The Daltons Rode

30 Mar

When The Daltons Rode – Directed by George Marshall. Comedy Western. Will our hero remain faithful to his friends, the wronged Dalton boys, or will he not?  81 minutes Black and White 1940

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And rode and rode and rode.  This is one of George Marshall’s comedy/romance/westerns, a genre at which he was a master. Destry Rides Again and Texas are two notable examples of his craft and sense of fun. Here the fun is supplied by the jalopy-voiced Edgar Buchanan once again and the heaviness once again by George Bancroft. The inestimable castrati-voiced Andy Devine gives us a wonderful town silly to whom all the females in the movie are drawn. He himself is stretched between his love of food, his love of the Dalton boys, and his love of these giggling females. Marshall’s style is in full play here: during a daring escape from a lunch counter, Brian Donlevy steals a pie, and during the ensuing daring stage-coach chase, he gives it to Andy Devine, the driver, to eat, but after one bite, it is shaken from Devine’s hand, and he nearly goes overboard after it. Marshall had a genius for comic set-ups; it is one of his most endearing gifts. But watch how brilliantly he stages crowds in violent motion, and groups in mayhem. The stars are bashed around like mad. The gunfights and chases are remarkable for their conviction. Also take in, if you like, the range of stunts performed here. The gang actually does jump from a cliff onto the top of a moving train. No joke, that. Randolph Scott is the lead as a man caught up in the bandit gang, as he also is in The Stranger Wore A Gun. He exhibits a fine sense of humor, just right for Marshall’s shenanigans and set in perfect balance by the script, which, as is usual in Marshall films, is better than you might expect. It gives forceful and realistic love scenes for him to play with the elegant Kay Francis, who herself is a game gal in a dustup. Mary Gordon does the minute Irish mom of the Dalton boys to a T. The picture has brilliant passages of horses in motion, and color does not interfere here with the beautiful spectacle of black and white photography. Marshall’s cast is deep on talent: Broderick Crawford is super as Kay Francis’s love interest and pal of Scott. This is a film the whole family can watch together with pleasure.

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