Short Takes: The Hard Way (1943) and The Westerner (1940)

 

The Hard Way – Vincent Sherman (***1/2) – The Hard Way is centered by a strong iron clad performance by Ida Lupino who won the New York Film Critics Award for her role as the determined, tough, hard driven older sister willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to ensure her sister’s rise to the top of Broadway’s bright lights.  Lupino’s character is tagged as evil but is she really? The sisters were raised in a small polluted industrial town, both women looking to get out using any means necessary to accomplish their goal. The kid sister, played by Joan Leslie has talent and gets a few “breaks”, mostly amoral breaks promoted by big sister Lupino. When little sister is part of the chorus of a Broadway show Lupino gets the bitter star, played by Gladys George, drunk enough that she storms out of the rehearsal, Lupino then pushes her sister on the producers giving her the opportunity of a life time. It works and she becomes a star! Directed by Vincent Sherman with male supporting roles provided by Dennis Morgan and an excellent Jack Carson. Behind the scene credits also include cinematography by James Wong Howe and montage by future director Don Siegel. Leslie’s performance is debatably the weak link here. Her song and dance number that represents her big break is actually pretty bad making it hard to swallow that it was this routine that impressed the director and producers of the play to give her the lead.

The Westerner (William Wyler) ***1/2 Except for an overly sentimental ending this western duel between Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan holds up very well. Brennan gives one of his best performances as Judge Roy Bean, a law unto himself with a big weakness for the beautiful actress Lily Langtry whom he would never meet. Brennan deservedly won one of his three Best Supporting Actor awards for his role. While on the surface it seems that Brennan steals the movie, Cooper’s subtle performance adds much to the proceedings though it is a secondary part. Cooper is a wandering cowboy who stops in the town of Vinegroon where the only law west of the Pecos is the hanging Judge Roy Bean. Cooper as Cole Hardin, is quickly put on trial for horse thief but manages to save himself through a series of long comical tales about knowing Lily Langtry the actress with whom the Judge is in love from afar. The meat of the film is the relationship between the Judge and Hardin. Whenever the film moves on to other storylines such as the growing war between the homesteaders and cattlemen and a bland love story between Hardin and homesteader Jane Mathews (Doris Davenport) the film slides in clichés ridden tedium.

According to author Jeff Myers (Gray Cooper: American Hero) at the Dallas premiere Coop rode down Main Street during a parade fully dressed in a cowboy outfit on  horseback.  This film also marked the film debuts of Dana Andrews and Forest Tucker.

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7 comments on “Short Takes: The Hard Way (1943) and The Westerner (1940)

  1. […] The Westerner (William Wyler) ***1/2 Except for a maudlin ending this western duel between Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan holds up very well. Brennan gives one of his best performances as Judge Roy Bean, a law unto himself with a big weakness for the beautiful actress Lily Langtry. A review up at 24 frames. […]

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  2. Judy says:

    These both sound like films I really need to see, especially The Hard Way – I will keep my eyes open for them! I’d been thinking of watching the Paul Newman ‘Judge Roy Bean’ film, but didn’t realise this William Wyler film was a take on the same character. I’m definitely intrigued.

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    • John Greco says:

      Since watching THE WESTERNER I too am looking to take a look at the Newman/Huston version which I saw many years ago when it was first released.

      THE HARD WAY I think you will enjoy. Thanks again!

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  3. Sam Juliano says:

    Brennan is superlative in THE WESTERNER John, but you’ve noted as much, and yes, one could quibble with the film’s conclusion with good reason. But all all in all I must say your summary judgement is dead-on, as it is is for the first film in this two-part review. Lupino and James Wong Howe are the contributors of note. Very compact and well-written capsules here.

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    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Sam, I never enjoyed Walter Brennan as much as I did here and like i mentioned to Judy I am now i nthe mood to watch Huston’s “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” which I have not seen since it first was released.

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  4. […] Short Takes: The Hard Way (1943) and The Westerner (1940) (twentyfourframes.wordpress.com) […]

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  5. […] Short Takes: The Hard Way (1943) and The Westerner (1940) (twentyfourframes.wordpress.com) […]

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