Monday, February 23, 2009

The Man From Laramie (1955)

The Man From Laramie

Director: Anthony Mann
USA 1955
104 min

He came a thousand miles to kill a man he'd never seen!

That's the tagline to the movie poster above, which explains the plot in broad outline.
Will Lockhart (James Stewart) arrives in Coronado, a little western town, to unload some supplies he's delivered to storekeeper Barbara Waggoman (the pretty girl-next-door Cathy O'Donnell). But delivering supplies is not Lockharts real intention - he is going to find the man who sold the Apaches the guns that killed his brother. And that man is going to pay in blood.

Will Lockhart and his eccentric partner Charles O'Leary (Wallace Ford).

But Lockhart seems to tumble across all other trouble there is - first he is blamed for trying to steal salt from the Alec Waggoman's estate (the cattle baron played by Donald Crisp), gets his mules shot and his wagons burnt down from his spoiled son Dave (Alex Nicol), and later on finds himself accused of killing the latter.
It all becomes a kerfuffle, and it gets no easier when he gets work on the Waggoman rival's ranch, the Half Moon owned by the strong and harsh woman Kate Canady (Aline MacMahon).

And, of course, a little love story takes place between engaged Barbara Waggoman and Will Lockhart, but a very subtle one. In fact it's a surprisingly non-cheesy one.

Scene: Will Lockhart arrives at scene of his brother's death.

This is a surprisingly "un-westerny" western. The plot is deeper than just a man starting gunfight to avenge someone, and the film is really absorbing. The characters are also well-made:

Will Lockhart: The man who seeks an unknown man to avenge his brother. (Alas, a classis main character in a western.
Alec Waggoman: The cattle baron who built his empire, the Barb, with his own hands, but when getting older realizes that he has to appoint an heir.
Dave Waggoman: Alec's only son, but too spoiled and ill-tempered to entrust the ranch.
Vic Hansbro: Working for Alec and keeping an eye on Dave so he doesn't get into trouble. Wants to take over the ranch he feels he deserves.
Barbara Waggoman: Engaged to Vic, and cousin to Dave and niece to Alec.
Kate Canady: Alec's rival and lost love. Owns a ranch called the Half Moon. A woman who has earned her wisdom from live herself.
Charles O'Leary: Will Lockharts partner in chrime. Appears here and there.

As you can see, this set-up promises a lot of drama and complication, not to say tension.
The Man From Laramie is a great and entertaining western I'm sure you'd like to see. Even if you don't like westerns, see it for James Stewart!


Alec Waggoman: I'm Alec Waggoman of the Barb. What's the reason for this?
Will Lockhart: Ask your son!
Alec Waggoman: I'm asking you.
Will Lockhart: All right, go out to the salt lagoons, and you'll see twelve dead mules and three burnt wagons. They belong to me!
Alec Waggoman: Nobody asked you to come here.
Will Lockhart: Well, I'm here, Mr. Waggoman, and I'm gonna stay here and this town better get used to the idea!

Will Lockhart: This is the most unfriendly country I've ever been in. Why is everybody so touchy?
Barbara Waggoman: It's a one man country and Alec Waggoman's the man.

Will Lockhart: [having a wound dressed] Have you done this before?
Kate Canady: I've patched up bullet holes in places I wouldn't like to mention.

Will Lockhart: You're nice to look at.
Barbara Waggoman: But I'm not even pretty!
Will Lockhart: Well, I guess I have seen prettier girls in dance halls, but... you're sort of beautiful, I should say.
Barbara Waggoman: That's the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me!

Will Lockhart: Where'd an Indian get a rifle like that?
Frank Darrah: He don't say. I don't ask.

Theme song: Jimmy Young with The Man From Laramie, 1955.


R. D. Finch said...

Lolita, I find "The Man from Laramie" one of the very best of the Mann-Stewart collaborations, a close second only to "The Naked Spur." Stewart is so great as the man pursuing revenge at any cost. What a powerful scene when he is beaten and humiliated by the young Waggomann. Old pros Arthur Kennedy, Aline MacMahon, and Donald Crisp lend wonderful support. And the photography by Charles Lang, with its dry earth tones, adds so much to the movie. When Stewart goes to MacMahon's ranch, it almost seems like an oasis in the desert. My one complaint is that the portrayal of the psycho son by Alex Nicol seems a bit unsubtle; a little more restraint would have made it even scarier. But all in all, one of the best Westerns of the 50's. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

Lolita said...

R. D. Finch:
Well, I quite agree with you on the Dave Waggoman-subject. I just wanted to strangle the man with my bare hands, rather than being afraid of him.
And yes, really beautiful photography!
Thanks for your support!