|Directed by||Rudolph Maté|
The Violent Men is a 1955 CinemaScope Western film drama directed by Rudolph Maté, based on the novel Smoky Valley by Donald Hamilton, and starring Glenn Ford, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. The storyline involves a bickering married couple at odds with cattlemen in their small town. The supporting cast features Brian Keith and Dianne Foster.
Parrish (Ford), a Union Army ex-officer, plans to sell his land to Anchor Ranch and move east with his fiancee, Caroline (May Wynn), but the low price offered by Anchor’s crippled owner, Lew Wilkison (Robinson), and the outfit’s bully-boy tactics make him think again. When one of Parrish’s hands is murdered, he decides to stay and fight, utilizing his war experience.
Not all is well at Anchor with the owner’s wife, Martha (Stanwyck), carrying on with his brother, Cole (Brian Keith), who also has a Mexican moll in town. Parrish eventually gets the upper hand, and when the Wilkisons’ daughter, Judith (Dianne Foster), comes to understand what her family is like and what Parrish has been up against, she realizes they can join forces as peaceful neighbors and perhaps more.
A More than Average Western Film
The Violent Men is a good western. Perhaps the story is not an original one -big ranch owner dedicated to run out small competitors out of a valley he needs for his increasing cattle- but the film has many ingredients that raises its level and makes it worth seeing.
The cast is a highlight. There’s the reliable Glenn Ford (John Parrish) as a former army officer and now one of the small ranchers, who tries to stay out of troubles until he is pushed to hard. Edward Robinson (Lew Wilkinson) is as good as always as the crippled big man and Barbara Stanwyck (Martha) plays his treacherous wife in one of her usual mean woman roles she deals with easily (others were in “Double Indemnity” and “Blowing Wild). Brian Keith (Cole) does it perfectly as Robinson’s gunman brother, an ambitious man trying to take over his brother’s big ranch no matter what. Regular 50’s westerns villain Richard Jaeckel (Wade Mattlock) is there too and ends as usual (no surprise there). Dianne Foster (Judith Wilkinson) plays Robinson’s daughter who does not approve his father, mother and uncle’s way of handling things with their neighbors.
Rudolph Mate brings a standard but acceptable direction, perhaps helped by beautiful and wide open scenery and a fine and appropriate music score helps too.
The inevitable final showdown between Ford and Keith is one of the best in western movies. Each man in his own dueling style (notice Ford’s shooting with his straight arm and aiming at its target in the military way) settle their differences then and once and for all.
This is for sure one of Glenn Ford’s best western appearances, second only to the classic “3:10 to Yuma” he made two years later. It’s probably the cast that puts the film as an “A” rate and, as for me, it enters the top 10 list of the genre.
Enduring Fifties Western.
Author: jpdoherty from Ireland
18 January 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another cracker of a fifties western is Columbia Picture’s THE VIOLENT MEN (aka “Rough Company”). Produced by Louis J. Rachmil for the studio in 1955 this enjoyable oater regrettably seems somewhat forgotten in these days of sparse western productions. It is a pity really for it is quite an absorbing colourful western tale directed with a genuine flair by Rudolph Mate and boasting an all star cast in Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck and Brian Keith. With splendid production values it even has a score by the legendary Max Steiner who was borrowed from Warner Brothers. This was the second score the formidable composer wrote for a Columbia picture after his great success the previous year with “The Caine Mutiny” (1954). From a novel by Donald Hamilton THE VIOLENT MEN was well written for the screen by Harry Kleiner and beautifully photographed in Cinemascope and colour by W.H. Green and Burnett Guffey.
A recuperating Civil War veteran John Parrish (Glenn Ford)- along with some other small ranchers – is running his holding in a valley dominated by the powerful Anchor Ranch owned by big land baron the crippled Lee Wilkinson (Edward G. Robinson) and his unfaithful wife Martha (Barbara Stanwyck). But Wilkinson wants all the ranches in the valley to be Anchor owned and his younger gunslinging brother Cole (Brian Keith) is riding roughshod over them and burning them out when they refuse to be bought. Wilkinson offers to buy out the Parrish place and when he refuses and one of his hands is killed by some Anchor riders he decides to fight Wilkinson. Before long a full scale range war begins culminating in the Anchor stock being stampeded, the Anchor ranch set alight and finally Parrish taking on Cole in an exciting fast draw shootout.
THE VIOLENT MEN is an action packed and handsome looking western. Performances are fine from all concerned. Ford is his usual likable unforced self, presenting his affable cowboy image with that familiar attractive casualness. He was only two years away from his greatest western role in “3.Ten To Yuma” (1957). Good too is Barbara Stanwyck as Wilkinson’s scheming cheating wife. A part the actress played many times before in her busy career. But miscast is Edward G. Robinson! The great pint sized actor simply doesn’t suit the part of the big rancher in a western. Watching him here you can’t help but wonder if he was only brought on board the production to replace someone like Lee J. Cobb or Albert Dekker or perhaps Raymond Massey.
Holding the whole thing together is the splendid music of Max Steiner. As the credits unfold a jagged staccato statement from the orchestra is heard to emphasize the film’s title before segueing into an attractive broad loping western melody. Later in a resplendent sequence this lovely theme is heard in full bloom when we see Ford riding (with characteristic crooked elbows) across some spectacular locations at Lone Pine and The Alabama Hills with what looks like Mount Whitney in the background. A captivating example of the beautiful combination of film and music. Steiner’s score was conducted by Columbia Picture’s conductor in residence Morris Stoloff. A rare occasion when the composer’s music was conducted by someone else.
THE VIOLENT MEN is an enjoyable and memorable motion picture and a fine addition to the list of splendid westerns that were thankfully brought to us in the fifties.