Man of the West
|Man of the West|
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Walter Mirisch|
|Written by||Will C. Brown (novel)
Reginald Rose (screenplay)
Lee J. Cobb
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Editing by||Victor Heerman
Richard V. Heerman
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||October 1, 1958|
|Running time||100 min.|
Man of the West is a 1958 western film starring Gary Cooper and directed by Anthony Mann in his last film in the genre. The screenplay, written by Reginald Rose, is based on the novel The Border Jumpers by Will C. Brown.
On the train platform, Sam Beasley (Arthur O'Connell) speaks with Link briefly, rousing the suspicions of the town marshal, Sam being a known con man. When the marshal comments that Link looks familiar, Link gives him a false name.
Aboard the train, Sam impulsively joins Link, learns of his mission in Fort Worth and claims he can be of help. Sam introduces him to the Crosscut saloon singer, Billie Ellis (Julie London), insisting she could make an ideal teacher.
Their conversation is overheard by Alcutt, a shady-looking passenger. When the train stops to pick up wood for additional fuel, male passengers help load the train but Alcutt remains on board, feigning sleep. He signals three other men, Coaley Tobin (Jack Lord), Trout (Royal Dano) and Ponch (Robert J. Wilke), who then try to rob the train.
Link tries to intervene and is knocked unconscious. The holdup is prevented by a guard who orders the train to pull away. Alcutt does, however, take Link's bag containing Good Hope's money. He is wounded as the robbers flee.
Link revives to discover that he, Sam and Billie have been left behind, many miles from the nearest town. Link leads them on foot to a ramshackle farm, admitting that he lived there years earlier. While the others wait in the barn, Link enters the run-down house and finds the train robbers hiding inside.
Coaley is suspicious of Link's claim that he and the others simply want to rest for the night. The men are interrupted by the appearance of aging outlaw Dock Tobin (Lee J. Cobb), who is startled to see Link, his nephew, whom he raised as a killer and thief and who abandoned him more than a dozen years earlier to go straight. Tobin laments that nothing has been the same since Link's departure and introduces him to the roughnecks he now commands, including Link's own cousin, Coaley.
Disturbed by the revelation of Link's true identity, Coaley demonstrates his toughness by killing Alcutt, who is near death from his wound. Realizing the danger of his situation, Link brings in Sam and Billie from the barn and lies to Tobin, telling him that he intentionally sought out his uncle after being left by the train.
Tobin reveals his long-held ambition to rob the bank in the town of Lassoo and asserts that Link's return to the gang makes that possible. Link agrees to participate in the holdup to protect Billie. After declaring that she is his woman, Link has a knife held to his throat while Coaley drunkenly insists that she strip. Tobin waits until she is nearly undressed before he laughingly sends Link and Billie to sleep in the barn.
Claude Tobin (John Dehner), another cousin, arrives and is displeased at finding Link there. Dock rejects the suggestion of Claude and Coaley to kill Link and the others. They depart on the four-day ride to Lassoo.
Link goads the brutal Coaley into a fistfight and beats him severely, then forcibly strips him of his clothes, as revenge for what Coaley did to Billie. Deeply humiliated, Coaley attempts to shoot Link, but Sam intercedes and is killed instead. Tobin then shoots Coaley for disobeying him.
Billie laments that she has finally found a man worth loving, but can never have him. Link has a wife and children in Good Hope.
With the town Lassoo in sight, Link volunteers for the holdup job. Tobin insists that he be accompanied by the mute Trout. Lassoo is a ghost town, its bank deserted except for a frightened old Mexican woman, whom Trout shoots in a panic. Link proceeds to kill Trout. He then awaits the arrival of Claude and Ponch. In a drawn-out gun battle, Link kills Ponch first, then eventually and with some regret, Claude.
Returning to camp, Link discovers to his horror that Billie has been raped and beaten. He goes in search of Dock Tobin, who is on a cliff nearby. Link calls out to Tobin that he, like Lassoo, is a ghost and finished. He shoots Tobin and reclaims the bag of Good Hope's money.
Riding back to civilization, Billie declares that she will resume her singing career, knowing that Link intends to return to his home and family.
When first released, the film was largely ignored by American critics, though renowned French critic Jean-Luc Godard regarded it as the best one released that year. In the decades since the film's release, it has garnered a cult following as well as considerably greater acclaim. Some, such as The Guardian's Derek Malcolm consider the film Mann's best and a landmark in the western genre's canon. Malcolm included the film in his 2000 list The Century of Film.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 169
- Looking at Hollywood: Stewart Granger to Star in Movie Version of 'Man of the West' Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 24 May 1956: c2.
- Malcolm, Derek (23 March 2000). "Anthony Mann: Man of the West". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
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