Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Far Country


THE FAR COUNTRY is another Western collaboration between star James Stewart and director Anthony Mann, and it's a good one. Stewart, playing the same sort of hardboiled character that he does in his other films for Mann, is a cowboy taking a herd of cattle to Alaska for the Klondike gold rush. He runs into all sorts of trouble along the way, most notably a corrupt lawman played by John McEntire. The character seems to be based on the real-life criminal Soapy Smith, who ruled Skagway, Alaska during the late 1890s.

Stewart's sidekicks are the always watchable Walter Brennan and Jay C. Flippen. McEntire's chief henchman is a young, slender, and very sinister Jack Elam, one of my favorite character actors. (You've all heard the "Who's Jack Elam?" story, I assume?) Henry Morgan is also one of the villains, which is a little hard to accept after watching him play nice guys in dozens of movies and TV shows all the way back to a forgotten series called PETE AND GLADYS. There's a mild romantic triangle involving Stewart with beautiful saloon owner Ruth Roman and tomboyish Corinne Calvet. The location photography is beautiful, and the screenplay by Borden Chase clips right along at a good pace and climaxes with a good shootout between Stewart and McEntire that I actually remembered from the last time I saw this movie more than forty years ago.

Stewart seems to be struggling a little with his own affable nature in this one. He was always capable of reaching into some dark corners, most notably in his films directed by Frank Capra (there's at least one shot in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE that's as noir as anything ever put on screen), but there are a few moments in THE FAR COUNTRY that seem almost like Elwood P. Dowd became a cowboy.

Despite that—or hell, maybe because of it—I like this movie quite a bit. It's nothing special, just a good solid hour and a half of Western entertainment. Just the ticket sometimes.

9 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Although the title sounds familiar, I don't think I have ever seen this one. Maybe it's just similar to THE BIG COUNTRY titlewise.

Rick said...

PETE AND GLADYS was a spinoff from DECEMBER BRIDE. Pete was in that one and always spoke about his wife, Gladys, who was never shown until the spinoff.
Sorry, I got caught up on old time memories. I'll go back now to the remainder of the entry. Thank you.

Oscar said...

Ruth Roman was my love idol for a while - way back then.

Cap'n Bob said...

Dang, Rick, you stole my PETE AND GLADYS thunder. IIRC, Cara Williams played Gladys.

Neil Waring said...

Saw this one a just few days ago.
Jimmy Stewart is one of my all time favorites. This is a very good movie.

Roger Allen said...

there's at least one shot in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE that's as noir as anything ever put on screen

David Thomson's wonderful novel Suspects- a meditation and medley of noir elements- was inspired by how close It's a Wonderful Life comes to being a noir film.

James Reasoner said...

That novel sounds great. I just ordered a copy. Thanks for the tip.

Rick Ollerman said...

Stark House is releasing another 2-in-1 volume of Don Elliott books later in the year....

James Reasoner said...

That's excellent news, Rick.