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: Across the Wide Missouri (1951)  ( 1715 )
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« : May 21, 2012, 12:55:08 PM »
Across the Wide Missouri (1951) 6.5/10

Clark Gable    ...   Flint Mitchell
    Ricardo Montalban    ...   Ironshirt
    John Hodiak    ...   Brecan
    Adolphe Menjou    ...   Pierre
    J. Carrol Naish    ...   Looking Glass
    Jack Holt    ...   Bear Ghost
    Alan Napier    ...   Capt. Humberstone Lyon
    George Chandler    ...   Gowie
    Richard Anderson    ...   Dick
    María Elena Marqués    ...   Kamiah

I just saw this movie on TCM. Directed by William Wellman, and based on a book of the same name by Bernard DeVoto, this is a "pre-Western," taking place mostly in 1829-1830. It is the story of trappers/mountain men, and how they paved the way in those early years. This story mostly follows Flint Mitchell (Clark Gable) and a group of trappers first in the summer of 1829, as they meet after a winter of trapping; and then as they go back into the mountains for another trapping season, beginning in the fall of 1829 and going into the spring of 1830. The story is narrated by Mitchell's half-breed son, who as a child, heard it from his father.

This movie is really about the landscapes. Thankfully, it was shot in Technicolor, though it would have been even better if it would have waited just a couple more years for widescreen! The landscapes are just beautiful. The movie was shot in various locations in Colorado, according to imdb and Wikipedia In the scenes where they traveling, there are a few brief shots of snowy, rocky mountain peaks that look very fake; other than those few shots, it all looks real.

The story, which has a lot to do with Indians, isn't all that great. I couldn't really follow everything going on with the Indians, where Mitchell's Indian wife was supposed to be going, etc. etc. In this movie, many of the trappers get along well with the Indians, though of course there are a few hot-blooded people on both sides that cause problems. The theme of this movie is how those early trappers -- mountain men at home in the wild, who got along well with the Indians -- paved the way for us, way back in those early years in the mountains.... If you are going to make a movie portraying the life of trappers/mountain men, it's much more enjoyable to watch one that uses a group of trappers rather than a single, solitary one, like Jeremiah Johnson. It is much more enjoyable for the viewer when there is a group of trappers living together and interacting as in ATWM, than when there is one dude alone, as in JJ. And if you are gonna have a white man married to an Indian and neither understands the other's language, it's much more enjoyable to watch when there are a group of people living together with them, including interpreters (like ATWM), rather than when it's just the two of them unable to communicate with each other (like JJ). Using the group does not diminish the portrayal of the harshness of the mountain life, but it is much more fun to watch.

Unfortunately,  MGM messed with this movie badly -- so badly, in fact, that Wellman tried to get his name removed from it! The running times listed  on Amazon are 78 minutes for the Region 1 dvd; and 75 minutes for the Region 2 dvd (Spanish import). On imdb, it says: "Runtime 78 minutes | Argentina 82 minutes." I am not sure how long Wellman's version was. Furthermore, it was MGM that added in the voice-over narration. Personally, I think that the narration works just fine (but of course that doesn't mean I am condoning the studio's messing with Wellman's work).

Clark Gable delivers a solid performance, as does Maria Elena Marques, a pretty Mexican actress who plays Gable's Indian wife.

It's not worth a dvd purchase or rental, but it's nice to watch the beautiful landscapes, so check it out the next time it plays on TCM.

« : May 22, 2012, 10:34:57 AM drinkanddestroy »

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« #1 : May 22, 2016, 08:23:58 AM »

I guess Wellman never saw the MGM cut, he just disowned it due to the changes being made. I actually like this movie. It's by no means perfect, it starts off incredibly clumsily, there are logic issues (ex why does one of the trappers randomly shoot the chief?) and the plot doesn't quite come together, but the locations and 3-strip technicolor are absolutley gorgeous.

The pacing is also on point which negates some of the issues in the script, Gable is great as usual and Wellman got great use out of the locations.

I really want to see Wellman's cut.

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« #2 : February 09, 2017, 02:56:11 PM »

Trees lie where they fall, and men were buried where they died.

One of the most frustrating things in cinema is that of the interfering studio. Too many films, since cinema became the medium so massively loved by so many, have fallen victim to this most poisonous fly in the cinematic ointment. One such film to suffer greatly is the William A. Welman directed Western, Across The Wide Missouri. All the elements were in place, a fine story written by Talbot Jennings & Frank Cavett, which is worked from Bernard DeVoto's historical study of the American fur trade in the 1830s. Wellman (The Call Of The Wild/Beau Geste/Battleground) at the helm, Hollywood's golden boy Clark Gable in the lead, and a sumptuous location shoot around the San Juan Mountains to be photographed by William Mellor. With all the talk coming out of MGM that they wanted to make an "epic" picture, hopes were high for the early 1950s to have a Western classic on its hands. Enter studio boss Dore Schary who promptly cut the piece to ribbons. So much so that the film, where once it was epic, is now a choppy and episodic 78 minute experience. With a narration by Howard Keel tacked on by Schary just so we can try to make sense of what is (has) gone on. Wellman was rightly miffed and tried to get his name taken off the credits.

Amazingly, what remains is still a recommended piece of film for the discerning Western fan. The locations are just breath taking, expertly shot in Technicolor by Mellor, at times rugged and biting, at others simply looking like God's garden. This part of the world is the perfect back drop for the story as the white man's greed brings them into conflict with the Native Americans. The film also boasts an array of interesting characters, we got the Scots and the French represented alongside the usual suspects, while the tracking and fighting sequences are expertly filmed by the astute Wellman. It was a tough shoot all told as well. Ricardo Montalban {Blackfoot Indian Ironshirt} was involved in a horse riding accident, the consequence of which would severely affect him later in his life, while stunt man Fred Kennedy suffered a broken neck when his intentional fall from a horse did not go as planned. The horses too you can see really earned their oats, trekking up hill across sharp jagged rocks and ploughing through snow drifts, magnificent beasts they be. Joining Gable and Montalban in the cast are John Hodiak, James Whitmore, María Elena Marqués, Adolphe Menjou and Alan Napier. David Raskin provides a suitably at one with the atmosphere score. With Gable on form mixing with the high points that Schary left alone, Across The Wide Missouri is more than just a time filler. But the problems do exist and it's impossible not to be affected by the annoyance that comes with the old "what might have been" that gnaws away at the viewer at every other turn. 6/10

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