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Archive for October 15th, 2013

Warlock1

by Samuel Wilson

Oakley Hall’s 1958 novel Warlock was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize and promptly picked up for adaptation by Twentieth-Century Fox. Robert Alan Arthur wrote the screenplay and Edward Dmytryk, who had helmed the solid Broken Lance in 1954, directed the film. If Warlock is the most underrated western of the genre’s golden age, it may be because two films aren’t enough to build a cult around Dmytryk as a genre specialist. When we think of Fifties westerns we think of the directors: Ford (who actually didn’t make many that decade), Mann, Boetticher, Daves. Dmytryk may not belong in their company as a director of westerns, but his film belongs in the company of their films.

Novel and film alike are revisionist westerns. Warlock is a critical riff on the Tombstone legend with all the names changed. Consciously or not, Dmytryk symbolized his film’s revisionist intentions by casting Henry Fonda, an actor who had played Wyatt Earp in Ford’s My Darling Clementine, as the novel’s counterpart to Earp, Clay Blaisdell. The citizens’ committee of Warlock, a Utah mining town, summons Blaisdell to become their marshal and tame the local cowboys who work for Abe McQuown (Tom Drake) and make short work of sheriffs. With Blaisdell comes Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn), a deadly dandy with a limp who’ll take over one of the local saloons.  Blaisdell thinks about the future and courts a local lady, Jesse Marlow (Dolores Michaels). But the pasts of Blaisdell and Morgan haunt them in the form of the vengeful Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone), and Morgan is quickly eager (with very good reason) to move on. In time, the townsfolk wonder whether the cure was worse than the disease. (more…)

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