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Author Topic: The Gunfighter (1950)  (Read 10034 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« Reply #30 on: December 22, 2014, 02:48:29 AM »

review continued from previous post:



One aspect that makes the film so successful is that the entire population of the town is brought to life. Everyone's point of view comes out through conversations with other characters, but there are enough characters and these conversations come at the right time and in a believable setting so they don't seem like contrived lines that exist solely to tell the audience the plot. Too often, you get the star and then you get a collective whole. Here, the star is still the focus, but he doesn't have to be on the screen as long as he's the center of attention. What this means is that the star can be defined by other people's perceptions of him, but also importantly the other characters can be defined by their perception of the star. There are so many people in the town that they will be broadly defined if not types, but the film is using people that really exist in an honest rather than insidious manner. It is extremely well thought out and written, succeeding in getting across where the character is coming from and/or their mentality in one or two lines. For instance, a guy in the bar warns his brasher friend, "If he ain't so tough there's been an awful lot of sudden natural deaths in his vicinity."

We see how the entire town is changed by the presence of the celebrity. Everyone that ever came into contact with him remembers vividly, and hopes he remembers them. Everyone that hasn't come into contact with him feels the need to check him out. School is called off because all the boys skip to see him. They all have to have their opinion on him and how he should be treated. For some reason (isn't every town supposed to be the same for him?) Ringo is very slow to see that his presence or absences is always at the root, originally blaming others for things he sees that aren't right then having to swallow his tongue.

The mistake of most films is in going overboard to convince us the criminal hero shouldn't lie in their bed. Despite Peck's integrity and quiet strength, the film is wisely wavering in its sympathy toward him. We grow closer to him because what he says is true and we see what a good non-confrontational citizen he's trying to be, with his plea of "Now listen partner, I come in here minding my own business. Now how bout letting me go out the same way?" But then we are pulled away by negative revelations about his past. There's certainly a part of us that would like to see how he would do if given the chance to be an honest family man. This is justified by how well Mark & Peggie, now the two most respected members of the community have turned out. But it doesn't try to delude us into thinking he could ever get that chance, with Peck playing Ringo with great regret and fleeting hope stemming from desperation. The film is much better for being more about getting people to think about what they are getting themselves into, as the next generation still has the chance Ringo longs for.
It's hard to understand why this film doesn't get the recognition it deserves. I suppose at the time people weren't ready for it. It is a great story with a lot of truth, but it is a dark film that turns the tables on the viewer and asks them to inspect the reasons they love westerns. We later saw how well Michael Powell's Peeping Tom was initially received for doing that type of thing. The Gunfighter gets rid of most of the gun fighting, the romance, the horse riding, the scenery, the spaciousness, the nostalgia, and the phony Hollywood glamorization. It replaces them with a more realistic distanced view of the trials and tribulations those people went through with the strained relationships, life on the run, and fools killing to be "special", mainly all seen from inside nondescript interiors. In trying to be as authentic as possible, Peck sported a walrus moustache. Typical of trichophobic Americans, members of 45 different Peck fan clubs responded by begging the studio to make him shave it. So when the film wasn't a success (it even failed to earn Peck a nod from the bogus Academy despite him being nominated four of the previous five years, all for lesser performances), Darryl Zanuck, who had been against it all along, blamed the moustache.

The big thing against this film in retrospect, other than the lack of showings, is it's directed by Henry King. King was one of the fine directors that thrived under the studio system. He was sure and steady, giving everything room to breathe and just letting the story and actors do their job. His films didn't always work, sometimes even bombed, but he worked on many types of films and usually succeeded. It's just not cool to like him because of the auteur theory. There's nothing individual or distinguishable about his films, no visual style, no traits or common themes, so obviously he must suck.

*Spoilers*

The one place the film goes wrong, and badly so, is the finish. When you are making a grim tragedy, you have to have the balls to end with grim tragedy trusting that great art is always uplifting no matter how bleak it is in its greatness. Hunt jumps out and shoots Ringo in the back, and Ringo should die right after asserting the story be that he drew first. We are intelligent enough to know Ringo is saying this to place the curse of fame on Hunt. We don't need the big speech explaining what was already put across extremely well in a much more natural and less direct manner; it just dumbs the film down. Mark beats Hunt up, perhaps to show he is as tough as Ringo says, perhaps to show he hasn't changed as much as we thought, or maybe just to provide a little action, it's tough to say. To make things even more corny, we get Peggie and little Jimmie finally admitting they are Ringo's family to get in the funeral, but there's no sign of shock, no funny looks, no hint that they'll now be branded and tarnished by their association with him. Finally, we get a hokey shot of Ringo riding off into the sunset to delude us into forgetting he's dead and buried or who knows what kind of nonsense as long as it delivers a happy shiny feeling. Luckily, the first 80+ minutes are so intelligent and exceptional that no tacked on stupidity could kill the overall quality of the film.




----------------
I enjoyed this review, but firstly, I'm not at all sure that I agree with this guy that Gregory Peck was a better actor than John Wayne.

And RE: this guy's feelings about the ending discussed in the final paragraph of his review:

- I thought Ringo's dying speech to Hunt was ok, a nice summation of the theme (although perhaps it could have been a bit shorter);
- I agree with him that the marshal's speech to Hunt is useless - he is essentially repeating Ringo's speech;
-  have very mixed feelings about the marshal beating up Hunt at the end; as the reviewer says, maybe it's to show that the marshal really never was a great guy. Or maybe it'x cuz he doesn't want him to get away scot-free even though he can't arrest him cuz Ringo said he should go free. But a marshal-using his tin star to do an extra-judicial beating certainly rubs me the wrong way and doesn't bring any honor to law enforcement (then again, perhaps that's appropriate, since I think law enforcement often are a bunch of jerks, a bunch of thugs, allowed to do what they want cuz they have a badge).
- it doesn't make sense that Peggie now calls Mrs. Ringo at the end. - that's just movie-cutesie stuff. It would make much more sense if her true identity remained unknown, and she certainly wouldn't tell her son the truth of who his daddy is, cuz she wouldn't want him to admire him. Her desire to protect her son from his dad's identity should remain even after his dad is dead
- RE: what this reviewer calls "a hokey shot of Ringo riding off into the sunset to delude us into forgetting he's dead and buried or who knows what kind of nonsense as long as it delivers a happy shiny feeling" - I'm not sure that that shot is supposed to be Ringo (we never see his face) - perhaps it's supposed to be Hunt, not riding off into the sunset, but riding in the desert, showing that he is now living a life on the run. Or, perhaps it isn't meant to be specifically Ringo or Hunt, but just the anonymous "gunfighter," this general mythic character.

« Last Edit: December 22, 2014, 02:50:26 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2017, 12:18:20 PM »

I saw this for the first time today. It was a good movie.  As good as High Noon?  No.  Worth purchasing and adding to my dvd collection? Yes.

What i liked:

The cinematography. Just the fact it shot in black and white earns points in my book.  

The acting.  All the characters were on point. This is my first introduction to Gregory Peck. He nailed his character.

The script.  The premise was very good, until...


What i didn't like:

The ending.  Ringo's speech. The wife suddenly owning up to him after the fact.

The script.  In High Noon,  all the suspense build up was something that you enjoyed because of the premise of the Marshall waiting until noon to deal with his problem.  In The Gunfighter, it was like " will Ringo EVER leave that  bar?" lmao  Everytime you thought he would leave, something pulled him back. I lost count of the number of times it happened. It was annoying because it became clear that while he was IN the bar, there was not gonna be any action going down.

The gunfights.  Was censorship behind this?  When Ringo had his first gunfight,  they only showed the other character after the fact of getting shot, then cut to Ringo holding his gun.  They wouldn't show the actual shooting.  Same thing when his brothers were ambushed by Ringo.  Only during the last gunfight did they show any semblance of a real gunfight.


Again, overall, its a good movie and worthy to add to my collection.  I rate it 7 out of 10...

« Last Edit: January 18, 2017, 12:21:26 PM by Moorman » Logged

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