First You Must Last

hemingway-boyhood-home-color2Ernest Hemingway’s boyhood home in Oak Park, Ill. “Il faut, d’abord, durer.” – (“First of all, one must endure.”) – A saying of Hemingway, from a letter.


Don’t Cry For Me, Billy

Cliff Potts plays opposite his wife in the film. She runs around naked in most of the film when not covered by a blanket and his shirt.

Cliff Potts plays opposite his wife in the film. She runs around naked in most of the movie when not covered by a blanket or his  shirt.

This is an independent Western shot in the early 70s with two worthy performances by Cliff Potts, who is terrifically good in this movie but whose career never reached the heights he seemed capable of, and Harry Dean Stanton. It was produced by Elliot Kastner, who did some interesting independent films. He produced Tom McGuane’s modern revisionist Western, Rancho Deluxe, and the hilarious classic, Missouri Breaks (great dialogue).

The story is stark, the dialogue is scarce, but good, and the villains are a troop of US Army cavalry who hunt down an Indian girl and rape her. Earlier, Potts’ character befriends the girl and they fell in love. After witnessing the rape, he sets out to revenge her death. He’s a convincing gunslinger who meets the fate of a lot of gunslingers: he’s shot in the back. Harry Dean appears in key scenes at the beginning and end. Good performances by James Gannon (who stared in several Sam Shepard plays) and others. It was a time when a lot of talent was underused in Hollywood, and this film shows what can be done on a small budget when in the hands of good filmmakers.

Some critics faulted the filmmakers for not having a “payoff” for viewers at the end. The girl is raped, dies, and the hero is shot dead. That’s real storytelling. The film fails because you want a happy ending? Spare me…

 

 


Anthony Quinn Does A Brando in ‘The Man From Del Rio’

images-1Anthony Quinn gives a powerful star turn in this 1956 Western Movie, The Man From Del Rio, using many of the tricks and mannerisms of Marlon Brando. The 1956 film was made after Quinn’s roles in Viva Zapata and La Strada. It’s a conventional  Western genre movie, essentially a shoot-’em-up, borrowing from High Noon and other Western formulas, but it’s good to see Quinn inhabit the role. His  performance is unwavering with his trademark sensitive-machisimo contrasted with the female lead, Katy Jurado, his perfect match, who  always brought sensitivity and fire to her performances. Each cast member adds power to the story. Peter Whitney is the villain, Douglas Spencer is the spineless sheriff, and the town drunk is Whit Bissell. It was directed by Harry Horner with a screenplay by Richard Carr. An interesting note, Katy Jurado was born into a very wealthy Mexican family who once owned much of the land that is now Texas. She had a long affair with Brando after he made Viva Zapata.