Tuesday, March 20, 2012

They Passed This Way

I loved FOUR FACES WEST. It's a really good-natured western with a big, honest heart. There are no gun shots fired; there is no violence; there are no real bad guys. It's about a good man doing something desperate when times are rough and the people he encounters and proves his goodness to. Joel McCrea's endless affability makes empathy for Ross McEwen an easy sell. We understand why he does what he does. It's a questionable thing to do, but it isn't malicious. Ross does everything he can to make up for his actions; not because he feels guilty but because that's just who he is.

What's great about the film (and highly refreshing) is that it's not fatalistic in any way, and it's not even remotely cynical. Ross's actions determine his fate, and like I said, there are no bad guys, as everyone in the film is either decent or just doing his job. I kept waiting for something cynical or mean to happen and twist the film in the opposite direction, but it never came. Marquez, a character seemingly set-up to be the baddie, proves to be a great ally and friend to Ross. The film seems to have fun subverting our expectations for Marquez (e.g. the pistol moment). Hell, it seems to have fun subverting a lot of our expectations. But it always remains true to its kind nature, and this kindness wins out in the end.

This is a film that is deeply rooted in the traditions of the western, but it has just enough unique, atypical elements to make it stand out in the genre. It's entertaining, pleasant, and absolutely worth seeing. Also, it's great to see real-life husband and wife Joel McCrea and Frances Dee team up together. No acting needed to make that chemistry work.

As to the film's director, I don't know much about Alfred E. Green. Though interestingly, I at least knew who he was before FOUR FACES WEST because he directed SMART MONEY (1931), a Robinson/Cagney gambling picture that I really like. So, that makes two films of his that I'm a big fan of. Maybe he's got some other gems just waitin' to be discovered. Perhaps it's worth finding out.

Thanks for the heads up about this one, John! I'm real glad I decided to watch it.

Now, since the sheriff in the film is none other than Pat Garrett, I thought I'd share a little ditty off of Bob Dylan's PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID soundtrack. It's one of my all time favorite Dylan songs:

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