Gary Cooper’s character Marshal Will Kane gets married Grace Kelly’s character, Amy. Before they leave town, Kane learns a man he’d arrested and who was up for execution has been pardoned and is now out to take his vengeance on Will. As Kane tries to recruit deputies to fight Frank Miller and his gang once they reach town, he is rejected by everyone and ends up having to face the gang alone.
Gary Cooper was 51 when this movie was filmed, and he commands every scene he’s in. It’s fitting that he won the Oscar for Best Actor for this film. His other Oscar came from Sergeant York, another film I’ll watch at some point for this project.
It’s interesting watching Lloyd Bridges as the Deputy Marshal. This is a sharp contrast from what I know Lloyd Bridges for (Hot Shots!, Airplane, etc.) The others were from much later in his career, this was probably a job to continue to establish himself.
The dynamic between Kane and Ramirez, his ex-flame, brings more realism than idealism that you get with Grace Kelly’s character, Amy.
I did a quick IMDB check on Grace Kelly, and this role seems to be one of her first of major merit, and still early on in her career, just two years after her first credits appear. She has a youth and innocence that comes with, well, her youth. The tender and at times naive character she plays gives balance and humanity, something for Kane to fight for and a future outside of law enforcement. Her background also gives good context as to why she is a Quaker, opposes fighting, and wants Kane to start a new life.
One of the sobering conversations had in this film takes place between Kane and Judge Percy Mettrick. In it Mettrick describes how an honest man who works as a marshal or sheriff and end up dieing alone or too early because of what they do for a living. This conversation encompassed a good deal of what the film deals with as Kane cannot find a single person to stand with him, even though he’s been the sheriff for many many years.
The realism of this film is probably what stands out most. An hour and a half long, this movie covers about an hour and a half’s time as Kane tries to recruit deputies and the gunfight at the end. This sets the movie apart because they don’t have a lot of the traditional elements of westerns: horse chases, multiple gunfights, etc. It deals much more with the emotional side.
John Wayne criticized this film because he thought it was an allegory for McCarthyism. It was rumored that Rio Bravo was made as a counter to this film. I think approaching the movie from the emotional side of things brings a different dynamic that sets the movie apart from others. The American Film Institute ranked this movie #27 on their 10th Anniversary Top 100 films of All-Time list. The distinction from traditional westerns probably contributes to this ranking.
My overall opinion is that this movie is a nice alternative to the traditional western, with above average acting and a convincing lead in Gary Cooper. I probably won’t watch it again, but I’m glad I’ve watched it once.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars