Blogathons, Romance, Western

The Second Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon: Dodge City (1939)

Olivia and Errol BlogathonPhyllis Loves Classic Movies and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are co-hosting this special blogathon. This one is all about the actress Olivia de Havilland, and the actor Errol Flynn. Be sure to visit Phyllis and Crystal’s sites to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn were one of the most popular film couples of classic era Hollywood. The pair starred together in eight films. I’ve decided to write about Dodge City (1939); this early Technicolor Western is my favourite out of all of their films. 

Why do I love this film so much? Well, firstly, I really love the changing relationship between their characters in this one. The relationship has a rocky start, but soon neither can deny their growing mutual love. As the film goes on their affection for one another becomes harder to deny.

Both Olivia and Errol really make you believe the feelings their characters develop for one another. They are so tender in their shared scenes together and I love watching their relationship progress. They had a chemistry that is so obvious and makes it easy to believe their characters are falling for one another.

Secondly, I enjoy it very much because I think it’s a very exciting Western. This shows us that people lived and died by the gun back then. You had to be careful of what you said or did incase someone took offence and took a shot at you.

I love the scene in the barber shop, where Wade (Errol Flynn) is cool in the face of intimidation from the local bad guy and his henchman; he calmly stands up and puts on his gun belt (just incase he should have need of it later)and stands his ground. It also shows that life was tough back then and that death was always waiting just around the corner.

I also like how the film shows us the old west changing. The opening scene is very interesting to me as it literally shows the old west being taken over by the new. A train speeds through the open country causing animals to run in terror from the noise. A stagecoach tries to outride the train and fails to match the speed of the locomotive. The trains speed surpasses that of the horse and carriage. In just a short time after this the west of the cowboy would vanish; open country would soon be gone as more towns and cities were built. An entire way of life would soon change forever.

This is a film screaming out to seen on the big screen. There are many shots of vast open country. Plenty of scenes are also made extremely vibrant due to the marvel that was Technicolor. Everything about this film is on a big scale.

The film begins with Dodge City being settled, and with the railroad gaining popularity. It is hoped that this will be an extremely civilised place, somewhere to be proud of and hold up as an example to others.  Moving forward a few years, we see that Dodge City has become the town we know it as today; it has become a place where morals and ethics are none existent, and killing is as common as talking.

Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn) is a cowboy who helped set up the railroad into Dodge City. Wade soon finds himself facing antagonism and hatred from various people. He leads a cattle drive that is also doubling as a protective escort for several settlers.

Two of these settlers are the young Abbie Irving (Olvia de Havilland)and her brother (William Lundigan). When Abbie’s brother gets drunk and starts firing his gun, the cattle get frightened and Wade tells the younger man to stop; this conversation unfortunately only serves to wind the younger man up and he keeps right on firing. This time the cattle stampede and he is killed. Abbie blames Wade for her brothers death.

Wade takes up the job of Dodge City sheriff and faces danger from the local big shot, Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot)and his bloodthirsty henchman, Yancey (Victor Jory). Things are further complicated when Abbie comes back into Wades life and her own life becomes endangered. Slowly she cannot deny her growing feelings for him, even though she is still torn apart by her brothers death. Will Wade clean up Dodge City? Can he protect Abbie? Will Wade and Abbie be able to have a happy relationship? Watch this film to find out.

Olivia is utterly luminous in this film, her character is so innocent and pure. Abbie struggles with her love for Wade, she can’t deny her feelings but she tries not to admit them. Abbie can’t get over the tragedy she blames Wade for causing. Olivia tells us much with her eyes in this film; a besotted look here and there indicates her growing attraction to Wade, her eyes sparkle with the amusement that perhaps doesn’t show on her lips etc. This is one of my favourite films that Olivia ever starred in, she brings so much to each scene.

Errol is at his athletic, heroic and charming best here. He makes Wade a man who knows how to defend himself, but who prefers words as weapons instead of guns; he will and can use them if necessary, but often he doesn’t need to as he can defuse a situation in another way.

There’s fine support from Bruce Cabot as a man who won’t get his hands dirty, but is more than happy to order deaths a plenty. Surrett isn’t a man you want to cross, and he is accustomed to getting his own way. Wade isn’t afraid of him, and that makes him angry.

Victor Jory steals every scene he is in, as the vicious, trigger happy Yancey.

Alan Hale is hysterical as Wade’s outgoing, fun loving best friend, Rusty. The scene where Rusty gives in to his desire to join in a barroom brawl, is one of the best remembered scenes in the film.

A young Ann Sheridan has a small role as a sexy saloon singer.

There’s also a welcome appearance from Henry Travers who plays Abbie’s uncle, Dr. Irving.

My favourite scenes are the following. Wade falling down (much to Abbie’s amusement)in the newspaper office. Surrett arriving at the barber shop for a bath, only to find Rusty in there and Wade telling Surrett that he can’t use the bath until Rusty has finished. Wade and Abbie’s first kiss while they are on horseback. The opening sequence. The barroom brawl. Wade telling Abbie that she is stubborn.

As an added bonus, the following are the five films in which I think Olivia and Errol gave their best performances.

Olivia

     1- The Snake Pit

         2- The Dark Mirror

3- The Heiress

                                4- Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte

               5- Gone With The Wind

     Errol

        1- Edge of Darkness

2- Santa Fe Trail

                           3- The Adventures of Robin Hood

4- Dodge City 

5- Captain Blood

I still need to see Errol in The Dawn Patrol, which I understand is one of his best performances.

Today sees Olivia celebrating her 101st birthday! Happy birthday Olivia, and thank you for so many wonderful film performances. I hope you have a lovely day on this milestone birthday.

I’d love to read your thoughts on Dodge City. Please leave your comments below. I also welcome any comments about that amazing chemistry between Errol and Olivia. What a pair! I never get tired of watching them.

 

 

 

Page To Screen, Western

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 4: True Grit(1969)

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Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend so far. Today, I want us to saddle up for adventure, action, tears and laughter with this 1969 Western.

The film is based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. True Grit is directed by Henry Hathaway, featuring music by Elmer Bernstein.

The film stars John Wayne as the tough, cantankerous, one eyed Marshal, Rooster Cogburn. The Marshal is hired by Mattie Ross(Kim Darby)to track down Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey)her fathers murderer.

The pair are joined by Texas Ranger, La Boeuf(Glenn Campbell) who is also after Chaney for killing a Senator. This trio are all different from each other and disagree more than they agree. As they spend time together they form a bond, with Mattie in particular finding a place in Cogburn’s heart.

At first you think the title refers to Cogburn, but as the film goes on we realise it is Mattie who is full of grit and determination.

Robert Duvall, Jeff Corey, Strother Martin and a young Dennis Hopper, all provide solid support and make quite an impression in their respective roles.

Wayne won his only Oscar for his performance here. At the awards ceremony he joked that he should have put on an eye patch sooner. It’s easy to just say he won this as compensation for never having won an award before, but I really think his performance here actually deserved it.

Wayne makes Rooster a force to be reckoned with, tough and unrelenting. You know you don’t want to cross this man. He gives him heart, and we catch fleeting glimpses of compassion and tenderness beneath that tough exterior.

My favourite scenes are the following. Mattie in her hotel room holding her fathers watch and crying, Rooster telling Mattie about his life as they sit on top of the hill in the dark, all the comic scenes between Mattie and the horse dealer(Strother Martin, stealing every scene he is in) Mattie’s river crossing, the snake pit rescue, and the reins between the teeth shootout.

The music stays in your head, as do several scenes such as the final shootout, Mattie finding Chaney by the river, the shootout inside the hut and the snake pit scene. There is some stunning scenery to behold too.

I like the remake quite a bit, but this one will always be my favourite version. I also think this version makes the characters realistic, people look dirty, tired, edgy, and the film also shows how dark and violent this time period was. The film is dark, but has some very tender scenes too, such as the funeral parlour scene, Mattie and Rooster’s heart to heart conversation, how Rooster gently tends to an injured Mattie, and her distress at what happens to her beloved horse.

Darby is perhaps too old to be playing a teenager, but she gives Mattie so much strength, courage and heart that you believe her in the role. I also think she conveys the reality that young people back then had no choice but to grow up quick, they became adults before their time.

I don’t think Campbell is as bad in his role as some people have made out over the years. I think he’s quite funny in places too.

Any other fans of this? If you’ve never seen it, I hope you check it out sometime.

Page To Screen, Western

The Searchers (1956)

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I consider this to be the greatest film John Ford ever directed, and that is saying something because he made so many fine films during his long career.

The visuals in this are stunning, from that opening shot of the door in monument valley, to the burning home(surely an inspiration for George Lucas when he made Star Wars? I’m thinking of the scene where Luke returns home to see his aunt and uncles home ablaze),to that close up of Wayne’s face looking in horror/disgust at a group of emotionally damaged white women rescued from American Indians.

The film is based on the 1954 novel by Alan Le May, which I’ve yet to read; apparently the ending of the novel is much bleaker than what we get in the film.

Ethan Edwards(John Wayne)returns home to Texas, after fighting in the civil war. He goes to his brother Aaron’s house(Walter Coy)and we pick up instantly(without any dialogue to tell us)that Ethan and his sister in law Martha(Dorothy Jordan)are in love, and they have been for some time.

Whilst Ethan is away one day with some neighbours, a Comanche raiding party led by Chief Scar(Henry Brandon)attacks the Edwards home, burn it to ground, kill Aaron, Martha and their son, and kidnap their two daughters, Lucy(Pippa Scott)and Debbie(Lana Wood). Ethan sets out to find his nieces with the help of part Indian Martin Pawley(Jeffrey Hunter)who was raised by Aaron and Martha as their son. Also along for the trek are the loveable Mose Harper(Hank Worden),fearless Reverend Clayton(Ward Bond)and Lucy’s boyfriend, Brad(Harry Carey Jr). Will they find the girls?

Many viewers call Ethan racist because of his attitude towards the Native American Indians he encounters, while it may seem so to us today, I do think it’s a bit more complicated than that. During the scene where Martha tells Debbie to hide in the family graveyard during the raid, make sure you pause the DVD just before she sits in front of a headstone; these graves are her grandparents(Ethan and Aaron’s parents)and under the name, birth/death dates etc it says that they were killed by Comanche’s. It took me a few viewings to pick up on this detail, but that now makes me think that is why Ethan hates them, he doesn’t hate them for who they are but for what they did; I think he would be just as hateful towards anyone who had done that to his family. It adds another layer to this film and to his character.

I have also always thought that Ethan and Scar may have had dealings before, the way they look at one another when they meet, and how Ethan’s hatred seems to lift after his confrontation with him; have always led me to believe Ethan hated him for what he had done to his family and perhaps for something else he had done(listen to what he tells Martin about the woman’s hair in his tent, how could Ethan know that unless he had been present?)

I love how so much of the violence and horror in this is suggested. The horror Ethan finds at his destroyed home, and the state of his families bodies don’t need to be seen because we can imagine all too well what has been done to them, and the reaction of Wayne and Hunter in this scene shows us how horrible the situation is. When we find out what happened to Lucy, again we don’t need to see that and the way Wayne describes what he found, and his haunted look tell us everything, two very powerful examples of how suggestion can be even more disturbing and effective as showing us in graphic detail.

The heart of the film lies in the desperate attempts to find Debbie(played as an adult by Natalie Wood) Martin fears for her, as he is starting to believe Ethan may kill her if he finds her because she will be so changed. But Ethan is unpredictable and perhaps Martin need not worry so much.

The entire cast are superb, Vera Miles provides good support as a strong daughter of the west who loves Martin. Wayne delivers a fine performance as a complex, bitter man who is needed to confront violence with violence, but has no place in the civilised world/society that remain after such acts have been finished, hence that famous final shot of the door closing on him.)

My favourite scenes are the following. The river shootout. Laurie puring water all over Martin. Ethan being asked what he had found back in the canyon, we see he is traumatised and we can guess what he found. The raid on the ranch. Ethan coming back to find the ranch ablaze. Ethan chasing Debbie.

A thrilling psychological Western, featuring stunning visuals and a magnificent score by Max Steiner.

I’d love to know what you think of this film. Please leave your comments below.