Archive for November 20th, 2013

by Ed Howard
Another filmmaker with a distinctly moral perspective in his films was Anthony Mann, the premier stylist of the American Western. The Naked Spur is the third entry in Mann’s run of Westerns starring James Stewart, probably the best run of Westerns ever to come out of Hollywood. Mann’s hard-edged look at the American frontier, and his unconventional conception of the Western “hero” — the quotes were often required for Mann’s leads — found their perfect realization in Stewart. In Mann’s films, he inevitably positioned Stewart’s character as a morally ambiguous, distanced figure acting out of self-interest rather than any moral imperative. Here, Stewart plays a former rancher who was betrayed by his girlfriend and lost his land. In order to get it back, he becomes a bounty hunter, tracking down a murderous local outlaw (Robert Ryan) in order to bring him in for a reward. Along the way, Stewart unwillingly takes on two partners, an amiable old gold-seeker (Millard Mitchell), and a corrupt ex-cavalryman (Ralph Meeker). When the trio manage to capture Ryan (and his companion, Janet Leigh), the outlaw begins playing them off each other, awakening instincts for greed, lust, and hatred in the three men. (more…)

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