WESTERN NIGHT AT THE MOVIES : FOUR FACES WEST (***)
Last evening at our Western Night at the Movies gathering, Johnny D. Boggs (Spur award-winning author of RETURN TO RED RIVER) brought a film both surprising and satisfying. FOUR FACES WEST from 1948 features kind bank robber (Joel McCrea) pursued across New Mexico Territory by determined U.S Marshal Pat Garrett (Charles Bickford) and his posse. And yet, no shots are fired, no fists thrown in anger. It might well be one of the gentlest Westerns ever made, and yet it’s as watchable as any of the other Westerns released that year, like RED RIVER with John Wayne gunning for his adopted son played by Montgomery Clift, BLOOD ON THE MOON featuring a bloody brawl between Robert Mitchum and Robert Preston, and an avaricious Humphrey Bogart hacked to death in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE. And while each of those films are rightly classics, none of them have as astounding a moment as McCrea (a real cowboy himself) roping, saddling and riding a steer across the desert. (That’s just one of the surprises here, but I won’t give away any of the others.)
Loosely based on the novella PASÓ POR AQUÍ by Western author Eugene Manlove Rhoades, this story of redemption has its flaws but they are easy to forgive.
Shot on location in New Mexico around Gallup, White Sands and Grants, FOUR FACES WEST was directed by Alfred E. Green who began his career in silent films, and written by C. Graham Baker and Teddi Sherman. Baker had been a newspaper reporter in 1914 before writing for pictures, and Sherman had worked as an actress but soon enjoyed a career as a writer for film and television.
The other members of our group include David Morrell, award-winning New York Times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD, Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning writer and producer of JOHN ADAMS and INTO THE WEST, and Robert Nott, journalist and author of biographies about Western film icons Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, as well as co-authoring a memoir about Sam Peckinpah with Max Evans.