Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Flaming Star

Livia and I were both a little surprised to realize that neither of us had ever seen this 1960 movie, even though it was on TV many, many times while we were growing up. It's a Western, and Elvis Presley is in it (he even sings two songs), but it's not really what I think of as an Elvis Presley movie.

Not that I have anything against Elvis. I like a lot of his songs, and he made some decent movies, among them FOLLOW THAT DREAM (based on the novel PIONEER, GO HOME by Richard Powell) and KING CREOLE (which is loosely based on the Harold Robbins novel, A STONE FOR DANNY FISHER, a book I read in high school and liked a lot).

FLAMING STAR is another one based on a novel by a writer I like, Clair Huffaker, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nunnally Johnson. It's a settlers vs. Kiowas yarn set in Texas in 1878, with the added wrinkle that Elvis plays the half-breed son of a rancher and a Kiowa woman, which puts him in the middle of the two enemy forces. And he turns in a pretty good performance, too, which he was certainly capable of doing with the right script and director.

The director of this one is Don Siegel, so you know there are plenty of gritty, well-staged action scenes in the movie. This is a well-made film all around, with nice photography and a strong cast in addition to Elvis: Steve Forrest as the older brother, John McIntire and Dolores del Rio as the parents, Rodolpho Acosta as the Kiowa war chief, and a young Barbara Eden, absolutely gorgeous but with not much to do, although her role gets a little stronger in the second half of the movie.

Overall, this is a pretty bleak little film, with characters that aren't all that likable and no easy solutions to their problems. I didn't care much for the ending but was impressed by it anyway, and I'm glad I finally saw it.


Victorian Barbarian said...

This movie made a big impression on me when I first saw it on television in the sixties. I think it was my first exposure to the "sympathetic" Indian (except for Tonto on THE LONE RANGER.) I was disappointed in FOLLOW THAT DREAM because it was so different from PIONEER, GO HOME, which I had read before seeing the movie.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I remember really enjoying this one. Do you have any Clair Huffaker recommendations?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't think I have ever seen it either.

R.T. said...

It is mind-boggling to think about how many bad Elvis Presley movies were made; in fact, I cannot think of a good one.

James Reasoner said...

I saw FOLLOW THAT DREAM before I read Powell's novel, which I agree is the better of the two. They Elvised-up the story a lot for the movie, if that makes sense. The novel has a really nice voice to it. I ought to read more of Powell's work.

James Reasoner said...

My favorite Clair Huffaker novel is THE COWBOY AND THE COSSACK. That's a classic as far as I'm concerned. I recall his autobiographical novel ONE TIME I SAW MORNING COME HOME as being very good, too. All of his Westerns are worth reading. Many of them were made into movies with screenplays by him, including two of Audie Murphy's best, SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN and POSSE FROM HELL. He also wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite films, THE COMANCHEROS, from the novel by Paul I. Wellman, TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD, HELLFIGHTERS, THE WAR WAGON, and many others.

Anonymous said...

Huffaker's first novel, Badge for a Gunfighter, is fine, tightly written, hardboiled western.
First published by Crest, it has the classic Gold Medal virtues of sharp descriptive clarity, terse memorable dialogue, fast jolting action, and a palpable sense of deep emotions running strong in the characters, but never overplayed in the storytelling.
Pretty traditional in plot, but anyone who appreciates a lean, well-told western is pretty sure to dig it.

John Hocking

Jamdin said...

If you enjoyed Flaming Star, then you need to watch Love Me Tender and Charro. Both are also westerns and a little bleak too. I'm biased for I love all his movies including the two concert ones. Charro is remarkable for he sings no songs at all in the movie and has a beard. My favorite of the three is Flaming Star but the ending is sadder for me than Love Me Tender.

I guess Stay Away Joe could also be called a "modern" western since he stars as a Native American rodeo star.

Elvis also does a period piece with The Trouble with Girls (and How to Get Into It), which is set in 1927. It's based on the 1960 novel Chautauqua by Day Keene and Dwight Vincent Babcock.