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Author Topic: The Moonlighter (1953)  (Read 978 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: May 17, 2012, 11:00:52 PM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046095/

The Moonlighter (1953) 6/10

Directed by Roy Rowland

Cast, courtesy of imdb


Barbara Stanwyck    ...   Rela
    Fred MacMurray    ...   Wes Anderson
    Ward Bond    ...   Cole Gardner
    William Ching    ...   Tom Anderson
    John Dierkes    ...   Sheriff Daws
    Morris Ankrum    ...   Alexander Prince
    Jack Elam    ...   Slim, Strawboss
    Charles Halton    ...   Clemmons Usqubaugh - Undertaker
    Norman Leavitt    ...   Tidy
    Sam Flint    ...   Mr. Mott, Bank President
    Myra Marsh    ...   Mrs. Anderson
    William Kerwin    ...   Tony
    Tom Keene    ...   Sheriff (as Richard Powers)

-------------------------------------------

 Wes Anderson (Fred MacMurray) is an outlaw being held in jail for rustling cattle.  A lynch mob breaks into the jail which is housing several prisoners, and accidentally hangs the wrong guy.
In the confusion following the lynching, Wes and the rest of the prisoners all escape the jail. (Only the sheriff & deputies knew what  Wes looked like, and they did not witness the hanging). So word is out that "Wes Anderson has been killed." Having everyone believe you are dead should be the best possible thing for an outlaw, but Wes is so horrified by the lynching of the innocent man that he swears to get revenge on the members of the lynch mob, and against lynchers in general. He becomes like an "avenging ghost" against lynchers. (There is a hilarious scene where Anderson shows up to what is being billed as "the funeral of Wes Anderson': I won't give anything away cuz it is a really great scene!) During one of his acts of revenge against the lynchers, wes is shot in the shoulder; in order to recuperate, he has to go back to his mother's house, where he hasn't been in 5 years.

All of this happens in the first 1/4 or 1/3 of the movie. So far, it's great.  (and btw, One of the leaders of the lynch mob is Jack Elam; he is so great, this is probably my favorite Elam performance [not counting OUATITW, of course!]). But at this point, once Wes heads home, the movie goes straight downhill.


Wes has a younger brother Tom (William Ching) who is a good guy, with a normal job as a bank teller, but who has always looked up to Wes. After Wes gets back to town, his old buddy Cole Gardner (ward Bond) shows up, and they plan a robbery of the bank; Tom, who has recently been fired from his job, decides to join them. To make matters more complicated, in the time Wes has been gone, Tom has taken up with Wes's girl Rela, (Barabra Stanwyk), and Tom and Rela are now engaged. While Rela still has deep feelings for Wes, she wants to live a normal life, so she has gotten engaged to the good brother, though she is concerned with how much Tom looks up to Wes. When Wes learns that Toma nd Rela are engaged, he is hurt but says he realizes that is for the best, as Tom is the good brother, and Wes is no good for her, being an outlaw etc. And Rela begs Wes to "PROMISE ME!... DO YOU PROMISE?... " that you won't let Tom become like you. But Tom has made up his mind to join Wes and Cole in the bank robbery, and Rela is upset that Wes has not kept his word to make sure that Tom does not follow Wes's life. Once Rela realizes that Tom has made up his mind to join Wes in the bank robbery, she is furious that Wes won't keep his word to make sure Tom stays good, and decides that if they do this robbery, she is gonna go after Wes and "bring him in."

As you can tell, this movie does not missed out on a single possible cliche': the bad younger brother with the good younger brother who admires him; the girl who has a deep passion for the older brother but realizes she can't live a life on the run, so she gets engaged to the good brother, despite knowing she can never love him like she loves the older brother; complete with the "PROMISE ME" moment and the "I'm gonna bring you in" moment.

So I will leave you at the big day, when Wes, Cole, and Tom prepare for the bank robbery, and Rela has told Tom that if they go through with it, she is gonna bring him in. I won't discuss any more of the story than I already have (for a movie that is only 77 minutes long, I've already gotten you through most of it  Wink But hey, that is the way most "reviews" are: they tell you 3/4 of the plot, but if they tell you anything more than that, only then do they give a "spoiler alert," and do it with a straight face!)

---------------------------------------

So this movie is terrific until the point when Wes decides he is going to head home; from that moment on, I am unaware of a single western cliche's that the screenwriter has missed. (At least give him credit for completeness  Wink) Funny thing is, once he heads home, there is a whole new plot; that part about getting revenge on lynchers is forgotten about, (except for one minor pathetic attempt at a tie-in: Wes's excuse for returning to a life of crime is that he can't live in civilized society cuz with the lynchings,  he has seen how evil human beings are. Puhleez.

So this movie is basically like two tv episodes: a really good single episode, and then a bad double episode.

Pretty much the only enjoyable moment in the latter part of the movie involves the bank robbers using a new invention as part of their getaway: the gasoline-powered horseless carriage. But even that is beyond hilarious: they keep their horses outside town, and use the car to..... get to their horses quicker. Are you kidding me?  Grin Grin Grin

The one reason that this is certainly watchable is Fred MacMurray; he has these great facial expressions, with his puffy cheeks and this great way of furrowing his brow and narrowing his eyes. Just putting the camera on him and giving him lots of closeups of his facial expressions makes anything watchable. I have never liked Barbara Stanwyck, and she is awful here. Not that the script does her part any favors. Oh, and as for the "younger brother looking up to the older brother" part: problem is that both brothers are grown men. in 1953,  MacMurray was 45, the actor playing his brother 40. A little late to start followin in big bro's footsteps. Younger Bro gives some silly justification for it: he figures that if he goes out on a job with Older Bro, then he can find out for sure whether or not Rela really wants him cuz she loves him, or just cuz she wants whichever brother is the good brother. Now that he and Wes are both bad, Rela can choose the one she really wants without focusing on who is the moral one... Puhleez. that is a lame excuse for having the 40 year old start following in his older brother's footsteps Wink


My recommendation is: Do not rent or buy this dvd;  but if you see this movie playing on a classic movie channel, or if it is available on a free streaming service, watch it from the beginning until the part where Anderson heads back home.



« Last Edit: May 22, 2012, 11:36:02 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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