MAN OF THE WEST (1958)
Man of the West is a 1958 western film 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.
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.?
Excerpt of the movie:
Gary Cooper ?... Link Jones
Julie London ?... Billie Ellis
Lee J. Cobb ?... Dock Tobin
Arthur O'Connell ...?Sam Beasley
Jack Lord ? ... Coaley
John Dehner ?... Claude
Royal Dano ?... Trout
Robert J. Wilke ?...?Ponch (as Robert Wilke)
Written?by?Will C. Brown (novel) /?Reginald Rose (screenplay)
Editing?by Victor Heerman / Richard V. Heerman
Release date(s) October 1, 1958
Running time?100 min.
Link Jones (Gary Cooper) rides into the small town of Crosscut. He sees a beautiful woman (Julie London) leaving the local saloon; they are taking down the sign advertising her as a singer. He gets a meal, and then hires someone to take care of his horse for a few days. He says he's Link Jones from Good Hope, which is five days' ride west. Then he drops his money bag, and we see he is nervous about the money. Then he washes up and changes his clothes, and after thinking it over, puts his money bag and his gun in his satchel.
Link heads to the train station and buys a ticket to Fort Worth. There he sees that Billie Ellis (London) is also boarding the train, and he meets Sam Beasley (Arthur O'Connell), a loquacious gambler. The local sheriff seems to recognize Link and asks his name. Link gives a different name, and says his home town is Saw Mill. The sheriff asks if he knows Dock Tobin, and Link denies it.
On the train, Beasley is friendly and talkative, and gets Link to tell him that he is traveling to Fort Worth to hire a schoolteacher. Talking loudly, Beasley observes that you would have to pay someone a year's salary in advance in order to get them to travel so far to such a remote place, and Link says, yes, he has the townspeople's money. A shady character (Jack Lord) observes it all.
The train stops to load wood, and asks all able-bodied men to help. The train guard assures Link he'll watch his bag. But it's an ambush; four men lay in wait for the train, and the shady character is part of the gang. Separated from his gun, Link gets knocked out, and the shady guy takes his satchel off the train. The train guard manages to fight off the bandits, wounding one of them, and the train takes off.
When Link comes to he realizes he's been left behind, and soon he finds that Miss Ellis and Mr. Beasley are in the same predicament. They begin to walk, Link telling them the nearest town is about a hundred miles away.
Link leads the trio to a farmhouse, and says he lived there once, long ago. He sends his companions to wait in the barn, while he cautiously approaches the house. But the would-be train robbers are waiting in the dark, guns drawn, and Link is caught. The situation is tense, when from the back room comes an old man (Lee J. Cobb) who introduces himself as Link's uncle Dock Tobin. Dock reminisces about what a great gang he had when Link was his right hand, and how enraged he was when Link left him, all the while, Link is at gunpoint. He says he wants to rejoin Dock, but guns remain pointed at him.
Meanwhile, the wounded robber is dying. Dock insists one of his men put him out of his misery, and at last, the shady character, whose name is Coaley, shoots him.
With the tension still high, they agree that Link will stay, and Link brings in his friends from the barn. Immediately, Beasely is put to work digging a grave. Dock asks if Billie is Link's woman, and to protect her, he says yes.Then Link is sent to bring out the body, but Billie Ellis begins screaming. Link runs back to find that Coaley has her at gunpoint, demanding she undress for the pleasure of them all. When Link tries to intervene, Coaley holds a knife to his throat, drawing blood. Billie removes her shoes, stockings, blouse, skirt, and undershirt, and is wearing only her undergarments when Dock ends the show and allows Link to take Billie to sleep in the barn.
In the barn, Link helps Billie get into bed, where she sobs and sobs while he tries to comfort her. It is here that Billie begins to fall for Link, who is distraught because he has lost all the townspeople's money. He has a wife and two children (ages 8 and 10) at home and he speaks of them with deep affection. Billie says his wife is a very lucky woman.
In the morning, Claude (John Dehner) arrives. Coaley and Claude are brothers and Link's first cousins.
Dock wants to rob a bank in Lasso, a bank he says is loaded with money. Now that Link is with them again, he's sure they can pull off the job. They ride off with wagons towards Lasso.
When they stop for a break, a "friendly" bit of wrestling turns into a murderous fight between Coaley and Link. Coaley fights dirty in every possible way, but Link gets the upper hand. He can't bring himself to kill, but Link strips Coaley in the same order he forced Billie to strip, and leaves him humiliated. He draws his gone, and ignores Dock's order to stop. Beasely leaps forward to try to stop him and is shot dead.
Link tells Billie that the folks in Good Hope know all about his murderous past, and he's "broken his back" working to establish himself with them as a decent man. Now, among this gang, he feels he wants to kill them, but he knows if he does he's no different from them.
Dock's plan is to send one man into Lasso to case the bank. If the man feels they can take the bank, he will wait in town, if not, he will ride back. The rest of the gang is to wait four hours, and if the man doesn't ride back, they will ride into Lasso to meet him, find out how many guns await them and get the layout from their scout, and proceed to get rich. Link convinces Dock that he's the only man who can be the scout: Claude is a known face in these parts, Trout (Royal Dano) is mute, and Ponch (Robert J. Wilke) is too stupid. (Coaley seems to have been left behind after the fight, although this isn't clearly established.) Dock reluctantly agrees but sends Trout along with him.
When they arrive, they find that Lasso is a ghost town, and a scared Mexican woman lives in the former bank. She holds a gun on the two men, terrified, but while Link tries to reassure her, Trout shoots and kills her. Enraged, Link kills Trout with the dead woman's gun. She has no ammunition, so Link gets Trout's gun and gunbelt and waits. He also searches Trout, but doesn't find his money.
Claude and Ponch ride into Lasso. A tense, exciting battle follows; Link kills both men and is wounded in the left arm. Again, he searches for the money. As he is leaving, a Mexican man rides up and Link just says "I'm sorry." As Link rides off, we hear his grief as he finds his beloved Juanita dead.
Back at camp, Link finds Billie stripped and weeping. It appears she has been molested or worse by Dock. Link goes after Dock, wanting to take him in alive, but he is forced to return Dock's fire and kills him. His search at last is fruitful, and Link gratefully pockets the money from Good Hope.
As they ride together away from the awful scene, Billie thinks that Link will be treated as a hero. She says she regrets nothing, because she's never loved before, and although she knows that Link cannot return her love, to have the feeling is worth it.?
Man of the West Trailer: