The Elder boys return to Clearwater, Texas for their Mother's funeral. John, the eldest, is a well-known gunfighter and trouble follows him wherever he goes. The boys try to get their ranch back from the town's gunsmith who won it from their father in a card game, after which he was murdered. Troubles come, however, just because they carry the Elder name.Written by
When John Elder (Wayne) draws his pistol on the sheriff in the graveyard, there are two guns, one in his holster, and another in his hand, done in an effort to make him look fast on the draw. See more »
I just saw this movie some 30 years after my first viewing of the film--and surprisingly I found it to be a lot more entertaining than my first recollections of the film.
It's a traditional Hollywood western: good wins over evil, the hero gets the girl, and law is maintained. It has no complications. Even the Mexicans are shown squatting at the funeral far apart from the others only getting up to bury the body. That was how most Westerns were made...So what's good about the film?
Elmer Bernstein's music is as good as his music in 'The Magnificent Seven', if not better. The range of actors: a believable John Wayne, an entertaining Dean Martin with "third-eye" act, a menacing George Kennedy, a "likable" Strother Martin in a brief role as the winner of the third eye, and a fine performance by young Dennis Hopper makes the film above average viewing.
The real hero of the movie is "Katie Elder" dead when the film begins, respected as the film unfolds, and never seen on screen. Everyone seems to remember her with awe. She is epitomized by the empty rocking chair (final shot) and a Bible she leaves behind.
Henry Hathaway's westerns will not be reflective ones as are later Westerns such as "Will Penny", "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here" or "Monte Walsh"--his movies tend to affirm the status quo of typical Hollywood westerns with a heart (good Christian values, strong connection with nature and animals--horses in this movie--as he did in "How the West was Won") and no mind (insensitive to Mexicans and Red Indians). The Christian values in the film are fuzzy, e.g., fool some poor gullible guys at a bar and emerge a hero, or sell a blind horse to gain money and remembered for it at your funeral, etc. This film of Hathaway, ably supported by Bernstein's music and Lucien Ballard's camera, is a great movie for an audience that wants to see a traditional western unfold--and but not be asked to think beyond what is shown.
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