Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Nevada Smith

If you’ve read Harold Robbins’ novel THE CARPETBAGGERS (which I have) or seen the movie version (done that, too), you know there’s a supporting character called Nevada Smith who’s an actor in early Western movies. From the little bit of back-story Robbins provided for that character, scripter John Michael Hayes and director Henry Hathaway came up with NEVADA SMITH, a film that fleshes out all that background.

Steve McQueen plays Max Sand, a young man whose parents are murdered viciously by three outlaws (Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy, and Martin Landau). He sets out to track them down and get revenge, and along the way he falls in with a gunsmith (Brian Keith) who becomes his surrogate father. Revenge Westerns are usually pretty straightforward, and that’s the case here. NEVADA SMITH works for a variety of reasons, though, chief among them McQueen in the title role. (His character adopts the name Nevada Smith as an alias fairly late in the film, if you were wondering.) The rest of the cast is first-rate, though, including those already mentioned as well as Suzanne Pleshette, Janet Margolin, Pat Hingle, Paul Fix, John Doucette, Sandy Kenyon, and Stanley Adams. Henry Hathaway was a good solid director who knew his way around a Western, the photography by Lucien Ballard is spectacular, and the score by Alfred Newman is excellent. NEVADA SMITH is also a good example of how movies were getting grittier in the mid-Sixties. There’s a considerable amount of sex and some graphic violence. Put everything together and you’ve got a big, entertaining Western that strives for epic status and doesn’t quite make it, but not for lack of trying.

6 comments:

Rick said...

Enjoyed the book, The Carpetbaggers, as well as the movie and Nevada Smith from said book. That book was one of my favorites back then along with both movies. Thanks for the memory.

wayne d. dundee said...

aThe Nevada Smith back story was the best part of The Carpetbaggers book (well, apart from the sex scenes maybe). The movie was pretty good, although I agree it fell just a little flat ... But McQueen is always watchable.

Ron Scheer said...

Great cast. Fine review. Have wanted to see this one for a while. But "Long Wait" at netflix.

WRITING FOR THE BRAND said...

I like both the book and the movie. The only thing I really didn't like about the movie was Steve McQueen being so old for the role. In the book, isn't he maybe seventeen or so? McQueen must have been at least 30, and in some scenes he looks a little ridiculous. Still a good one I watch whenever it's on. Loved the book especially.

Pete

Cap'n Bob said...

Saw/read both. I thought the movie didn't hold together as wellas it ought, but the knife fight was exciting, as was the topless Indian maiden. I read a lot of Harold Robbins books when I was young, come to think of it, and enjoyed their pace and, for their time, sexy content.

RJR said...

This makes a good double feature with Hannie Caulder, the female version, with Raquel Welch in the McQueen role and Robert Culp in the Brian Keith role.

RJR