The Bravados (1958, Directed by Henry King) English 8

Starring Gregory Peck, Joan Collins, Stephen Boyd, Henry Silva, Lee Van Cleef, Albert Salmi, Barry Coe

The Bravados - Film | Park Circus

(8-Exceptional Film)

Surprising. Violent. Gripping.

Sheriff Sanchez: We want you to know we’ll always be grateful… and in our hearts always.

Jim Douglass: Thank you… and in your prayers, please.

The Bravados begins as so many exceptional westerns do, with a mysterious stranger riding into town. Here, the mysterious stranger is Jim Douglass (Peck). We know his name but not his motives and he arrives in town not long after a gang of violent thugs are arrested. The suspicious townsfolk wonder if he’s there to help the bad men escape, but once they do escape, Douglass is called on to recapture them. Having his own private reasons for wanting the criminals dead, he accepts. Gregory Peck is surely one of the best of the old stoic leading men. No matter how colorful his supporting cast or surroundings, he’s never upstaged. This is a juicy role for the actor and not quite his typical heroic lead. Douglass is a violent, complicated man. Perhaps one of the few antiheroes Peck ever played. The story’s also a good one; gripping and ultimately surprising.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Gunfighter (1950, Directed by Henry King) English 8

Starring Gregory Peck, Jean Parker, Helen Westcott, Millard Mitchell, Karl Malden, Skip Hoemeier, Richard Jaeckel

THE GUNFIGHTER (1950) - Local bad boy (Skip Homier) trues to goad ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Thoughtful. Serious. Affecting.

Peggy Walsh: When did you get this idea, Jim?

Jimmy Ringo: Well I didn’t get it, it just kinda’ came over me. The way gettin’ older comes over ya. All of a sudden you look at things different than the way ya did five years ago. All of a sudden I knew this was the only thing in the world I wanted.

I’d seen The Big Country and Duel in the Sun. I’m a fan of both, but those felt like anomalies in Gregory Peck’s filmography. I’ve never looked at him as an actor fit for westerns. Over the past week, I’ve watched three films that have changed my mind. The first was The Gunfighter and it’s likely the best. He plays the notorious Jimmy Ringo. Ringo wanders into town looking to talk with his estranged wife and son. He’s older now. Being a famous quickdraw isn’t as appealing as it once was. Everywhere he goes, some young gun wants to kill him; to take the mantle from him. Essentially, he has death following him and he can’t outrun his reputation. It was pointed out to me, and it’s an interesting point, that The Gunfighter would seem to be material typically portrayed in a film noir. Classic westerns are generally fun, adventurous, shoot ’em-ups. The Gunfighter is a foreboding character piece. The hero is a world-weary criminal. It’s one of the best of the classic westerns with a strong central performance by Peck, filled out by an excellent supporting cast (particularly Millard Mitchell).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Merrily We Live (1938, Directed by Norman Z. McLeod) English 7

Starring Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Patsy Kelly, Ann Dvorak, Tom Brown, Clarence Kolb, Bonita Granville, Marjorie Rambeau

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(7-Very Good Film)

Zany. Irreverant. Charming.

Mrs. Emily Kilbourne: Shakespeare was right when he said… oh, I don’t know what he said, but Shakespeare was right!

The 1930’s screwball comedy period gave us so many wonderful classics. Merrily We Live may not be in the same class as, say, My Man Godfrey which it was clearly inspired by, but it is still very good. The wealthy Kilbourne’s have suffered for some time from the eccentric matriarch, Emily’s (Burke), commitment to hiring homeless men to be the family valet. One unqualified valet after the other has stolen goods and left in the middle of the night. Then one day, E. Wade Rawlins (Aherne), rolls in, looking destitute and is hired on the spot. While the family waits for him to do what every valet before him has done, they slowly find themselves growing attached to him; especially the eldest daughter, Geraldine (Bennett). Terrific cast with Billie Burke as the mother stealing the show, Merrily We Live, I expect, will improve on further viewings, once I stop comparing it to my favorite film, My Man Godfrey.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Hi Diddle Diddle (1943, Directed by Andrew L. Stone) English 6

Starring Adolph Menjou, Pola Negri, Billie Burke, Martha Scott, Dennis O’Keefe, June Havoc

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(6-Good Film)

Inventive. Madcap. Enjoyable.

Senator Simpson [Looking at hat check girl]: You know, I’ve seen that girl somewhere before.

Liza Prescott: She’s a very particular friend of the director who’s making this picture. He sticks her in every scene he can.

It’s kind of wild seeing a movie from the 1940s break the fourth wall as frequently and as cleverly as Hi Diddle Diddle does throughout its brisk runtime. Meta humor, so-called, seems like a modern invention but watching Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road To…movies and now this has taught me otherwise. Adolph Menjou stars as Hector, a loving but crooked father whose son, Sonny, is getting married to a nice, respectable girl, Janie (Scott), from a seemingly affluent family. Finding, however, that the girl and her family have suddenly been thrust into dire straights, Hector is asked to use his old tricks to make things right. There’s a lot that goes on in this picture including animated shorts, musical numbers, and plenty of witty dialogue. It’s all done to amusing if rather slight success.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Little Foxes (1941, Directed by William Wyler) English 7

Starring Bette Davis, Teresa Wright, Herbert Marshall, Dan Duryea, Patricia Collinge, Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, Richard Carlson

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(7-Very Good Film)

Stagey. Masterly. Brutal.

The Hubbards, a southern aristocratic family, are always scheming. Wealthy, greedy, they’re led by three siblings, Regina (Davis), Ben (Dingle), and Oscar (Reid). Regina’s unhappily married to Horace Giddens (Marshall), suffering from a heart condition, whom the three siblings plot to bamboozle into funding their latest venture. Teresa Wright plays Alexandra Giddens, Regina and Horace’s daughter, threatened with marriage to her unscrupulous cousin, Leo (Duryea), in order to keep the family strong. Set in the early parts of the 20th century and based on a successful play, The Little Foxes is immaculately staged and well-performed by its cast who are given plum roles to dig into. Bette Davis is a force of nature and she excels in her role as a heartless, ruthless wife.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951, Directed by Raoul Walsh) English 5

Starring Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, James Robertson Justice, Terence Morgan, Denis O’Dea, Christopher Lee

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(5-Okay Film)

Serious. Dry. Well-Acted.

C.S Forrester’s famous literary hero, Horatio Hornblower, is adapted for the big screen, played by Gregory Peck with his natural austerity. English Naval Captain Horatio Hornblower guides his ship through every possible hardship during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century. Along the way, although married, he falls hard for Lady Barbara (Mayo). Compared to the jolly romps of Errol Flynn, this film seemed to me, overly serious. Well-crafted, well-acted, Captain Horatio Hornblower simply wasn’t much fun. Perhaps it’s an issue of expectations. This isn’t a swashbuckler. It’s a romantic drama set on a ship. Many people would welcome that. I didn’t care.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


State Fair (1945, Directed by Walter Lang) English 5

Starring Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Fay Bainter, Charles Winninger

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(5-Okay Film)

Idyllic. Sweet. Slight.

A small piece of Americana set to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein obviously has its appeal. State Fair follows the kindly Frake family as they prepare for the annual Iowa State Fair. The patriarch, Abel (Winninger), makes a wager with a neighbor that his prize pig will take top prize. His wife, “Ma” (Bainter), competes in the pickle and mincemeat competition. Their son, Wayne (Haymes), falls in love with a singer that seems to be giving him the runaround, and their daughter, Margy (Crain), has love problems of her own with a slick reporter named Pat (Andrews). It’s slice-of-life meets Hollywood fairy tale and as such, it’s suitably corny. That doesn’t bother me so much. I did feel, however, that State Fair is sweet but unspectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-