Rawhide (1951) Henry Hathaway

Rawhide3 Though written by Dudley Nichols, Rawhide is no Stagecoach. Still, the film is interesting despite the fact it never manages to rise above the norm. The setting is a stagecoach relay station in the middle of nowhere. Tyrone Power is Tom Owens, the son of the station’s owner, who has come west to take over the family business with old timer Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan) teaching him the ropes. When the stage pulls in one day, among the passengers on board are Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward) and her very young niece. Soon after, a Calvary patrol stops by warning everyone that four men have recently broken out of the state prison and are in the area. Due to the potential danger, and company regulations, the stage driver refuses to take Vinnie and the child any further. They are forced to remain at the relay station which turns out to be more of a danger than had she been allowed to continue on her journey with the stage. 11506 - RawhideYoung Tom is a green horn to western ways, still learning the rough life style of the land. He still even shaves and bathes every day! Vinnie is not happy about being left behind and tension mounts between the two. Things escalate to a dangerous level when the four convicts arrive with the intent of holding up at the depot until morning when the next stage will arrive purported to be carrying a gold shipment. Old timer Sam is quickly killed off by one the outlaws. Tom is spared only because they need him for when the stage arrives in the morning. The outlaws, headed up by Zimmerman, Hugh Marlowe showing he has some real acting chops, comes across as a more educated and cultured figure than you would expect an outlaw to be. Also in the gang is the sexually obsessed Tevis, played by Jack Elam, who constantly is looking to take over the gang from Zimmerman. The two lesser members are Gratz (George Tobias) and Yancey (Dean Jagger). Rawhide-29199_2While there are adversarial differences between Owens and Vinnie in the beginning, they come to realize in order  to survive they are better off working together. They pretend to be married and for much of the film are held hostage and locked in a room. The four convicts at first act like a team but as tensions mount their group begins to disintegrate with in-fighting between Zimmerman and Tevis. This reversal in team play paves the way toward the killers doom as they turn more and more against each other. For Tyrone Power this was one of the few westerns in his career, most famously he made Jesse James (Fritz Lang), and he handles himself well except for the fact that at thirty seven years of age he is too old for the part. His character, Tom Owens, and Susan Hayward’s Vinnie Holt are at first confrontational but they come to respect each other and depend on each other for self preservation. Hayward is always at her best when she is a strong independent woman as she is here. However, at first glance, with her tough demeanor, we are almost forced to believe Vinnie is a woman of questionable virtue, after all, she was a dance hall girl. We soon learn otherwise. Yes, Vinnie is strong willed, she’s independent, very protective of her young niece Callie and a good woman. Hayward’s Vinnie is probably the most three dimensional character in the film.  The real acting highlight though belongs to Jack Elam as Tevis whose character is filled with lust for Vinnie and hungry for power. He practically steals the film. Elam6Rawhide was directed by Twentieth Century Fox stalwart Henry Hathaway. Hathaway was no nonsense studio director who years later was responsible for blackballing Dennis Hopper in Hollywood. Hathaway was a solid director though he lacked the complexity of the greatest directors. Some of his films had a certain appeal that resulted in a few gems like Kiss of Death, Niagara, Call Northside 777 and The Dark Corner. However, for every one of these good films there were average films like The Sons of Katie Elder or worst works like The Racers, You’re in the Navy Now and From Hell to Texas.

 

This article is part of the Power-Mad Blogathon, a celebration of Tyrone Power’s 100th birthday. For more contributions check out the POWER MAD icon on the sidebar.

 

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20 comments on “Rawhide (1951) Henry Hathaway

  1. No-name says:

    Reblogged this on Ek Boond Ishq Unofficial.

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  2. I agree that it’s no STAGECOACH, but honestly, STAGECOACH is not STAGECOACH. It’s a great film, but (in my op) highly over-rated. RAWHIDE, on the other hand, is (in the same humble op) one of the more under-rated westerns featuring a major star that I can think of…and I’m not talking Jack Elam! 🙂

    What an excellent choice for the Blogathon; I think i’ll have to put this one on this afternoon…my day off. 🙂

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    • John Greco says:

      Clayton, thank for topping by. For me, STAGECOACH is one of the great westerns along with THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, THE SEARCHERS, RIO BRAVO and HIGH NOON to name a few. Power was a major movie star true but he spent too much time in too many swashbuckling roles (in my humble opinion). I wish he did more films like NIGHTMARE ALLEY, JOHNNY APOLLO and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. In this film, for me, Elam and Hayward are the acting highlights.

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  3. Patti says:

    John, thanks for this terrific addition to the blogathon. With so many of Power’s swashbucklers being represented, we really needed to have some of his Westerns too. Your piece helped to “round out” the blogathon. Thanks.

    Despite not being much of an appreciator of Westerns a couple years ago, I gave this film a shot, solely because of the 2 stars–besides loving Tyrone Power, I adore Susan Hayward (she’s my #2 gal, behind only Bette Davis). I liked it enough (as a non-appreciator of Westerns) to DVR it when TCM aired it several months later. (Or maybe it was Fox who aired it.) For me to DVR a Western is quite saying something.

    I agree with you that Jack Elam was terrific.

    On my viewing schedule sometime this week is Untamed—another pairing of Power and Hayward. I’ve never seen it before, and I have high hopes for it.

    Again, thanks for participating in the blogathon.

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    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Patti Jack Elam really helped this film. Overall, it’s a minor film in the Power filmography, entertaining but routine. Hayward is good also. I have not seen UNTAMED and will have to look out for it.

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  4. suspira44 says:

    Patti, I’m afraid Untamed will be a disappointment. Power only did it to finish his contract.

    I like Rawhide well enough, but it points out Zanuck’s absolute refusal to see Power as a man over thirty. Power said that Zanuck would never let him age in a movie — he wouldn’t let him age in real life either. If the poor man had stayed any longer with Fox, he would have been sword fights while on life support. That being said, it’s a good cast and a good movie, and I enjoyed it.

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  5. The Lady Eve says:

    John, For starters, somehow I have only seen about the last half-hour or so of this film, so don’t know much about it except that, from what I saw, Jack Elam was chewing the scenery with gusto. Enjoyed your review without having seen the entire film, though.

    I’m completely with you on Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, my favorite westerns of all time. TCM actually showed them back-to-back last month, what a treat.

    I think Tyrone Power would agree with you that he should’ve done more films like Nightmare Alley, Witness for the Prosecution (and Abandon Ship!). He’d hoped that Johnny Apollo would pave his way to such films. But Zanuck/Fox felt differently (he was under contract to Fox for most of his career) believing they would make more money by keeping him typecast in heroic roles. Power and Billy Wilder became friends on Witness for the Prosecution and talked about future projects. I like to think that had Ty lived, Wilder would’ve tapped him for the role of Mr. Sheldrake (the Fred MacMurray role) in The Apartment. He would’ve been perfect for it.

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    • John Greco says:

      Yeah, I think I read the same thing about Zanuck not wanting to mess with TP’s image since it made money. He would have been interesting in the role of Sheldrake though I have to admit just hearing the name Sheldrake makes me think Fred MacMurray. I am not familiar with ABANDON SHIP! but I just looked it up on IMDB and it looks interesting. Will have to check it out.

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      • The Lady Eve says:

        I should add that I think Fred MacMurray was an excellent Jeff Sheldrake, on of his best roles. That said, the part would have been perfect for Tyrone Power at that point in his career.

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  6. Sam Juliano says:

    John, this film DID inspire the later long-running television series that launched in 1959, right? I am having a difficult time remembering the film, though I did once see it, and I had also watched some re-runs of the television show over the years. Agreed with some others here that it is no STAGECOACH remotely, though what western is? As always you bring your superlative documentation and insights into this superlative blogothon entry and have me wanting to re-visit! Yes, another example Power’s diversity.

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    • John Greco says:

      I don’ think there is any connection Sam between this movie and the Eastwood TV show.The show was about a trail boss and a cattle drive. Totally different story.

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  7. John, it may be no Stagecoach, but Rawhide’s unique in its own way for its preoccupation with dysfunction. On top of Power’s steadfastly ineffectual hero was have perhaps the most hopelessly incompatible outlaw gang in all westerns, with pure chaos at its heart in the form of Jack Elam. The moment when Marlowe slaps the glass out of his hand and Hathaway holds the close-up on Elam’s face is terrifying; right there you feel all bets are off for the rest of the picture. Elam seems capable of anything, and just about lives up to expectations.It’s the best moment in a badly underrated picture.

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    • John Greco says:

      Samuel, that scene jus might be the highlight of the film. Elam is a loose cannon who can go off at any minute. As you say, he “seems capable of anything.” I love his performance in this film. You’re right about the gang being “hopelessly incompatible.” Thanks!

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  8. Kevin Deany says:

    I’m a sucker for dramas set in confined setttings, so I’ve always enjoyed RAWHIDE. You have these characters confined to this little stagecoach station, while all around them is this spectacular scenery. A very intersting contrast. A neat little film that does is job in a very satisfactory, all in under 90 minutes.

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    • John Greco says:

      Kevin, you may like the film more than I did but I do agree the confined setting does add a nice mood to it all.

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  9. joelnox says:

    This is basically an economy western with A level talent, something not uncommon in the studio era. Hathaway keeps the focus tight which adds the story a great deal plus the film has a gritty, sun bleached look so credit should also go to the cinematographer. I’ve always liked Power without being an huge fan, I watched this initially for Susan Hayward who I am a big fan of. They have a terrific flinty chemistry and pull you into the film.

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    • John Greco says:

      Joelnox, Power’s career was on the slide when this film was made. Not saying the film is bad, it’s not, it has some good things going on but it remains a minor film. Along with Jack Elam, I found Susan Hayward’s performance interesting She is an actress who I have recently come to admire more and more in films like I WANT TO LIVE, THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME and THE LUSTY MEN.

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  10. Dude! I saw this years and years ago! I totally didn’t realize that was Tyrone Power. That means Rawhide was my first Tyrone movie — huh! I was really creeped out by Jack Elam in this (I was probably 12 or 13 when I saw it), but now I’ll have to revisit it.

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