Robert Mitchum may have been a little long in the tooth to play Philip Marlowe, and the film itself is no hipster revisionist tale like Robert Altman did with The Long Goodbye just a few years earlier. Farewell, My Lovely is a straight throwback to the classic days of Bogart, Powell, and Montgomery. Mitchum, of course, starred in many classic noirs: Out of the Past, Angel Face, The Racket and Where Danger Lives are just a few. This was Mitchum’s first time portraying the P.I. In 1978, Mitchum would again play Marlowe in the Michael Winner remake of The Big Sleep. That film was a bit of a misfire. While not as bad as its reputation, let’s just say Bogart and Howard Hawks have nothing to worry about. Continue reading
Raw Deal was Anthony Mann’s second film with John Alton as cinematographer. It was a cinematic marriage that produced some of the finest low budget film noirs in cinema. Both Mann and Alton did excellent work with others, but together their sensibilities were simpatico. It was like they each knew what the other wanted. A short film, only 79 minutes, it’s packed with action, characterization, stylish dramatic dark lighting and expressive camera angles that tell as much about the story as the dialogue and plot reveal. Continue reading
In John Ford’s 1962 late career masterpiece, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” there’s a line quoted by the town’s newspaper editor, Maxwell Scott, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And that’s just what John Ford was best at, recording the west not as it was, but as more of a mystical fable of how we want the west to be best remembered. Ford and his screenwriters play loose with the facts, still it is one of the most visually stunning of westerns, a black and white canvas of the west as it never existed, but we all wish it had.
Earp’s career has been idolized, revised and sanitized many times over. He was only a lawman for about eight years, and in Tombstone, it was Wyatt’s brother Virgil who was the Marshal with Wyatt and Virgil his deputies.(1) Not to bore you dear reader with the facts, but neither Doc Holliday nor Pop Clanton died during the short thirty second battle. Wyatt actually met Doc Holliday in Dodge City back in 1876 five years before the O.K. Corral shootings. When they left for Tombstone, John “Doc” Holliday followed. If you want a somewhat more realistic, though still not totally accurate, version of what happened back in 1881 at the O.K. Corral and its aftermath, check out John Sturges “Hour of the Gun.” Oh yeah, a couple of other things, when Wyatt visits the grave of the youngest Earp, James who was killed by the Clanton’s early in the film, his tombstone reads he died in 1882 instead of ’81 when the shootout occurred. And as for Clementine Carter, well she is a purely fictional character. Continue reading
Sam Fuller’s first directorial effort was “I Shot Jesse James”, a fictional account of the outlaw life of Robert Ford. The film insinuates that Ford and Jesse were good friends for a long time, which they were not. Bob’s brother Charley was a member of the gang prior to Bob joining. As a young man, Bob admired Jesse and his criminal exploits, however by the end of 1881, the James gang had disintegrated, Frank James retired from a life of crime and many other members’ were dead, in prison, or they just took off fearing the law was closing in on them. Jessie had planned to retire from the life himself but wanted to do one more robbery. He was living in St Joseph Mo. with his wife and family under the name of Robert Howard. The Ford Brothers were also living in St Joseph under the assumed name of Johnson, posing as relatives of the Howard’s. Jesse’s last robbery was to be of the Platte City Bank. Unknown to Jesse, the Ford Brothers had agreed to accept a $10,000 reward for killing Jesse that was being offered by the Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden. Ford was given ten days to kill Jesse and, in addition, would receive a full pardon. As portrayed in most films on Jesse James, Ford shot Jesse while he had his back turned standing on a stool straightening out a wall hanging. “I Shot Jesse James” uses some real life characters but pretty much fictionalizes how things really were. Preston Foster portrays a character named Kelley who becomes a sheriff and eventually shoots and kill Bob Ford. In real life, Kelley’s name was O’Kelley, and was an unsavory character and certainly never held a sheriff’s badge though he did kill Bob Ford. One day, using a shotgun he walked up to Ford and said “Hello Bob”, as Ford turned, he shot him. No one is sure why exactly he killed Ford though it has been said that Soapy Smith, another criminal may have convinced him he would be famous for killing Ford. In the film, Smith is portrayed as an old silver miner who takes Ford in with him and they strike it rich together. This is all pure fiction. Soapy was an organized gangster, a confidence man who ran saloons and built his own criminal empire.
All that said, Fuller gives us an alternate view of the Jesse James legend focusing on the “dirty little coward” Robert Ford. Fuller’s dark vision of Ford’s life is that of a man haunted by demons after the assassination. He is hunted by gunslingers who want be the man who kills the man who killed Jesse James. He fines himself haunted for his cowardly deed and is even unable to reenact the assassination on stage for money. He loses the girl that he loves who is repulsed by him since he killed Jesse in such a cowardly way. One of the most interesting scenes takes place in a bar when a troubadour enters singing “The Ballad of Jesse James” which includes the words “but that dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard has laid poor Jesse in his grave.” Unbeknown to him, Robert Ford is standing at the bar. When he recognizes Ford, he stops singing but Ford demands that he continues, listening to the words describing him as a traitor and a coward.
John Ireland, at thirty-five is a bit old to have played Robert Ford who was only twenty when he killed Jesse and thirty when he was murdered himself. The character of Kelley, portrayed by Preston Foster, is not clearly defined, and seems to appear wherever Ford travels. As mentioned, the film takes a different slant on the Jesse James legend. Where most films focus on Jesse, here the focus is on the aftermath of the shooting. Definitely, worth a look as long as you are not looking for a history lesson.