Posts Tagged ‘Edward G. Robinson’

My Classic Movie Pick: 1955 Western, The Violent Men

During Turner Classic Movies’s Summer Under the Stars in August of 2017, I dvred several movies starring Glenn Ford.  Ford was one of the 31 stars featured that month.  Ford made several westerns in his career and a new one to me was released  in 1955, The Violent Men.   The film is  dramatic with a capital D, set in the rugged west of New Mexico, with a lot of action and plot twists.

 

Columbia Pictures bought the rights of the novel, Smoky Valley, by Donald Hamilton and hired Harry Keiner to write the  screenplay.   Direction was by Rudolph Mate and the  producer was Lewis J.  Rachmil.  The soaring music was by Max Steiner and the film was made with cinemascope for a better look via the widescreen with the added splash of  technicolor.  This film sounds and looks great.   The cast is large, and there are two actresses in it I was not familiar with.  Glenn Ford, obviously the protagonist, plays John Parrish, a former Yankee soldier turned cattle rancher who after a 3 year try, has decided to take his fiancee Caroline(May Wynn-one of the actresses I wasn’t familiar with) back east with him, where they’ll marry and he’ll find something else to do for a living.

Moving east will take money and John tells Caroline, her father, and John’s ranch hands that he plans on selling his cattle ranch to area cattle baron Lew Wilkison(played by Edward G. Robinson-yes! the actor most associated with playing gangsters, is in a western!).  John does add a warning to his announcement, if Wilkison doesn’t offer him what his ranch is really worth, he’ll turn down the offer.  Caroline isn’t happy to hear this, as she wants to get east and urges John to take whatever offer he receives.  The ranch hands are outraged, and tell John that Wilkison has sent his henchmen out and about to harass the smaller ranchers in order to drive them away and they thought John was a better boss, a better man who wouldn’t cut and run.  John is left between a rock and a hard place, and goes off to see Wilkison.

Wilkison has an impressive spread, a small man in size but not in ego. Despite being crippled due to a range war that happened 12 years in the past, Lew Wilkison still inspires a sort of fear amongst the local folks.  Lew vowed to buy up all the land in a large area to please his wife, Martha,(Barbara Stanwyck) so that they would be the leading family in the New Mexico territory.  One would think if one were pursuing a family dynasty one would have a passel of heirs, but no, there is only one daughter, Judith(Dianne Foster-the other actress I wasn’t familiar with.)  Lew worships the ground Martha walks on yet daughter Judith hates her mother-that plot point isn’t given much explanation, but as the story moves forward, we’ll see reasons as to why Judith is right to be wary of her mother.  Lew’s younger brother, Cole(Brian Keith, with dark hair and mustache, not looking like Uncle Bill from Family Affair at all!) helps with running the ranch and reason one for Judith to hate mama: Martha and Cole are carrying on a torrid affair under Lew’s nose!!!  Cole, not a great guy, is two-timing Martha with a Mexican girl Elena(Lita Milan); the phrase that there is no honor among thieves comes to my mind.  A shout out to a young Richard Jaeckel is in order too, as he is his smarmy, snarling best as henchman #1 Wade Matlock, murdering the sheriff in cold blood, under orders from someone at Wilkison’s ranch, but Lew denies giving out any such order when John confronts him about this event.  John, refusing to be charmed by Martha, also refuses Lew’s weak offer for his ranch, and the Wilkison’s new motto(not Judith’s) is to drive John Parrish from the territory and all the rest of the small ranchers trying to hold on to their properties.

Lew and Martha Wilkison, power couple of New Mexico territory

Judith, who hates her mother, Martha

Martha with her lover, Cole

 

John casually confronting Matlock in the saloon.

Edward G. Robinson, the more I explore the films he was in, the more I am impressed with his acting abilities and his talent.  He wasn’t only good at playing an underworld gangster, he played a gentle father in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, a spoof of his gangster self in Larceny, Inc., a wise insurance inspector in Double Indemnity, and now as ranch baron Lew in The Violent Men.  If you aren’t familiar with all of his films, make that a goal for yourself in 2018!  I will give a tiny spoiler, at the film’s end, Lew accepts  a giant dose of mea culpa and it’s good to see that happen.

Barbara Stanwyck is good in this film, too.  I mentally noted that her character is sort of a western version of Lady Macbeth.  She is power behind her husband’s throne, yet conniving for her own power in several ways, leaving her husband oblivious to her machinations.  She will receive a shock in the film and her just desserts, two more tiny spoilers.

The film may pop up again on TCM this year, and it is available via the TCM Shop and at Amazon.  I’ll end the post with two great posters that advertised the film in Italy, back in 1955.  I find these two posters very artistic.  I also found a great shot of Ford and Robinson on the set, making me hope that there was a great sense of fun and camaraderie despite the film being  a dark drama.

 

Robinson and Ford on set

 

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My Classic Movie Pick: The Woman in the Window

Poor Edward G. Robinson.  He reached stardom playing evil gangsters, mob bosses, when in reality, he was a good stage actor who could play drama, comedy, and tried at various times in his Hollywood career to break out from the “gangster” label.  Fritz Lang, an Austrian-German director who had arrived in Hollywood in the 1930s to get away from the Nazi’s, who had banned one of his films in 1932, gave Robinson a chance to play a role that wasn’t a gangster part.  The film was 1944’s The Woman in the Window. The Woman in the Window Robinson plays middle-aged  Professor Richard Wanley, a professor of Psychology.  His wife and kids have recently gone on a vacation and he is alone at home.  He decides to hang out at his club one evening, spending time with some good friends at their Men’s Club: District Attorney Frank Lalor(Raymond Massey) and Dr. Barkstane(Edmond Breon).  As Professor Wanley walks to the club, he notices a painting of a beautiful, young woman in the window of a nearby shop.  He stops to admire the painting and when he meets his friends, they spend some time discussing the beautiful woman in the painting.   On his way home, Wanley again, stops to admire the painting and the subject of it appears hauntingly, her reflection in the window, catching Wanley off guard.

Prof. Wanley noticing the painting.

Prof. Wanley noticing the painting.

Prof. Wanley having fun with his pals at their  Club.

Prof. Wanley having fun with his pals at their Club.

The beautiful Alice Reed's reflection in the window.

The beautiful Alice Reed’s reflection in the window.

The beautiful, young woman is Alice Reed(Joan Bennett) and she knows that this middle-aged man is entranced by her beauty.  She decides to demurly take adavantage of Professor Wanly.  She invites him to have a drink with her at a local bar.  Then she invites him to her apartment for more drinks.  As Wanley admires more works of art in Alice’s apartment, an angry man bursts in accusing Alice of cheating on him and he tries to attack her.  Alice grabs a pair of scissors and tosses them to Wanley, who the angry man has turned his attack on and Wanley stabs the man in the back, killing him!  So much for a quiet evening of drinks, art, and talking!

Looking at paintings with Alice at her place.

Looking at paintings with Alice at her place.

Prof. Wanley being attacked by a very angry friend of Alice's!

Prof. Wanley being attacked by a very angry friend of Alice’s!

In shock after murdering a man.

In shock after murdering a man.

The mild-mannered professor is in a state of shock.  What should he do?  Here, he thought he’d just enjoy a nice evening with the beautiful woman in the painting and now a murder has happened, a murder he committed in self-defense, but a murder none-the less.  Robinson does a wonderful job portraying a middle-aged man, who despite having a wife and two children, a satisfying job, and good friends, is just a tad bit lonely.  He feels a tad bit vulnerable due to the fact that he is aging.

Joan Bennett is good as the femme fatale of this piece.  She is beautiful, she knows it, and she’s more than ready to make Professor Wanley her fall guy.  What her hard-boiled, hidden persona doesn’t expect is to develop true feelings for the professor.  I wouldn’t call it love, but she does care about him and starts to feel guilty for how she is manipulating him when the mastermind behind the money-making plot via blackmail, Heidt(Dan Duryea) enters the scene, demanding that they get more  money from the professor.

Heidt and Alice discussing getting $5000 from the Professor.

Heidt and Alice discussing getting $5000 from the Professor.

Duryea is so excellent as the real baddie of this film.  In real life, Dan Duryea was a very nice guy.   A married man with kids, acting was his talent and he supported his family with his skills.  For some reason, he made his mark as playing bad guys but instead of not taking those roles, he took them and ran with them.

Behind the scenes shot of Duryea and Robinson.

Behind the scenes shot of Duryea and Robinson.

The Woman in the Window airs from time to time on Turner Classic Movies and I’ve put the movie’s trailer here for viewing.  The film is available to buy through Amazon.  It was also available at one time on Netflix and may still be available.  Lastly, some kind soul has put the entire movie up on Youtube! For a great film noir with a twist of an ending, seek out The Woman in the Window.

TWITW ending hint