Badass bounty hunter Henry Fonda (same year as 12 Angry Men) rolls into town and meets the unqualified local sheriff Anthony Perkins (three years pre-Psycho) who wants to do the right thing and arrest local bad guy Neville Brand (lead of Riot in Cell Block 11) even though it’ll probably get him killed. Meanwhile, Fonda is renting a room from a woman (Betsy Palmer, the killer in Friday the 13th) who has been exiled from town because of her half-breed son (Michel Ray, who would become an Olympic skiier and a beer billionaire). And Lee Van Cleef and his brother are going around murdering people. Fonda, an ex-lawman, says repeatedly that he’s done being a lawman, nuh-uh, never again, so we just know he’ll become acting sheriff and take care of things.
The writers lost the oscar to Designing Woman, but this was a very good Mann western to file with all the others.
Henry Fonda, Mrs. Voorhees and the young owner of Heineken:
Thanks to a well-placed mirror, we can see the bar fight and Perkins’ reaction:
I’ve probably seen this before, but most memory of it was long-gone. Entirely set in jury room, deliberating a murder charge for an 18-year-old accused of stabbing his father. Evidence sounded convincing enough to everyone in the jury except Henry Fonda, who calmly (not angrily – there are really only two or three angry men) expresses doubt in one detail at a time, gradually tearing apart the prosecution’s case and his fellow jurors’ prejudices.
TV director Lumet taking the original TV screenplay into theaters with Jean Vigo’s former cinematographer Boris Kaufman (Dziga Vertov’s brother). In order of their innocence vote: Juror #8 Fonda was in The Tin Star and The Wrong Man around the same time. #9 (old man with a cold): Joseph Sweeney, mostly did TV. #5 (nervous, says he grew up poor): The Odd Couple star Jack Klugman. #11 (watch maker, foreigner): George Voskovec of a version of Uncle Vany which nobody has seen. #2 (soft-spoken, glasses): John Fiedler, voice of Pooh’s friend Piglet. #6 (painter): Edward Binns, also of murder-trial films Compulsion and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. #7 (striped suit, didn’t want to be late for a ball game but it gets rained-out anyway): Jack Warden of Heaven Can Wait and All The President’s Men. #12 (you don’t hear from him much): Robert Webber of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. #1 (the foreman): Martin Balsam, detective in Psycho, Col. Cathcart in Catch-22. #10 (older racist angry guy): Ed Begley of Sweet Bird of Youth and Billion Dollar Brain. #4 (glasses): early TV star E.G. Marshall, later of the other one-man Creepshow segment, the guy with a cockroach phobia. #3 (lead angry man): Lee J. Cobb, lead baddie in Man of the West.
Cobb vs. Fonda:
Won the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Fest but the oscars preferred Bridge on the River Kwai.
A very good Wyatt Earp/Doc Holiday movie. Earp (Henry Fonda) is retired from the legendary fastest-gun-in-the-west lawman business, running cattle with his brothers, until his cattle is stolen and his youngest brother killed near Tombstone. Forms a tentative partnership with sickly, drunken badass Doc (Victor Mature) to take out the Clanton clan run by Walter Brennan (a real asshole, far from his lovable drunk character in To Have and Have Not). Schoolteacher Clementine comes to town looking for old flame Doc but finds him a changed man shacking up with his new love Chihuahua (my favorite character: Linda Darnell, conductor’s wife in Unfaithfully Yours) and while she’s hanging around town, Earp falls for her. Leads inexorably to a gunfight at the OK Corral, Doc and all the Clantons getting shot down. Much, much better than I’d expected from the title. I’m getting to like this John Ford fellow. Katy liked it, too.
Katy said it didn’t feel very JohnFordian, but it did to me, because two thirds of my previous John Ford experience consisted of Judge Priest and The Sun Shines Bright. Takes place in a small town in the south – there’s mob violence and a courtroom climax, and along the way we hear “Dixie” more than once. Sounds extremely Fordian to me. In fact I’m thinking Atlanta-born writer Lamar Trotti, who also cowrote Judge Priest, could stand to vary his game.
Two simple men and their simple mother (Alice Brady, the mom in My Man Godfrey, in her final film) were enjoying simple pleasures in town when they got in a fight with a blowhard and he ended up dead. Blowhard’s buddy Ward Bond (John Wayne’s old friend in Rio Bravo) says they stabbed the blowhard, so off to jail they go. Fortunately, hat-wearing slave-freeing superhero Abe Lincoln (Henry Fonda with a fake nose, looking spookily Lincolnesque in the occasional profile shot) stops the angry lynch mob by picking on them one at a time (a la Sun Shines Bright) and agrees to defend the kids, in between watching his girlfriend (Pauline Moore) die and meeting a new girlfriend (Marjorie Weaver, the lady in The Cisco Kid And The Lady). It’s all based on a completely true story! Except that it was a blunt weapon, not a knife, and the accused men weren’t brothers, and one of them (the one not defended by Lincoln) was convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned for six years, and Lincoln got the other guy acquitted but there was no sneaky buddy to take the fall instead.
Movie slides along peacefully and slowly builds. Very pretty in parts. I’d need to read more or study further to figure why this was one of Sergei Eisenstein’s favorite films… missing something, as usual.
Not as interesting as Sam Fuller’s later I Shot Jesse James, but a lot better than I’d expected. Maybe I can enjoy a Western more than I’d thought. Some story differences, too… for instance, Fuller’s movie has Bob Ford re-enacting the murder as a play pretty much the same way it happened, while Lang’s has the Fords camping it up onstage and acting the heroes. Don’t know which really happened, but each version was well-suited to its own movie.
Henry Fonda is James, hears news of Jesse’s death and sets out with young Jackie Cooper (not Jackie Coogan) to get Bob Ford (a nervous bearded John Carradine) and brother Charlie.
Not technically the last Fritz Lang film I have to see, but the last one available until Human Desire shows up on cable again. That’s 36 down, 1 to go! Guess I’ve been trying to watch all of Lang’s movies since college, so seven years. At around five per year, it didn’t go nearly as fast as my Sam Fuller quest. Even if I didn’t pick up on the geometric patterns hidden within Lang’s mise-en-scene that auteurists wet themselves over, it was neat to see forty years of cinema from one director’s perspective. He covered 1920 to 1960, the period I know least about, and Sam Fuller was 1950 to 1990. And they both made so many movies… gives me a convenient handle on chronology. Oh, 1953, that was the year Pickup On South Street and The Big Heat came out. Anyway, on now to Bunuel, Rivette, Marker and Resnais for a western european perspective.