I had a rare evening completely free, and after the disappointment of FORT BOWIE (1958), I needed a palate cleanser. Randolph Scott to the rescue! Randy plays a mysterious loner in a well-crafted Cinecolor Western, THE NEVADAN.
THE NEVADAN had everything FORT BOWIE was lacking, including an interesting storyline, a touch of romance, and a colorful cast of characters. It catches the attention from the action-packed opening credits sequence and maintains interest throughout. THE NEVADAN isn't one of Scott's classics, but it's certainly a well-made, solid piece of Western entertainment.
We first meet Scott dressed up as a dude, following outlaw Tom Tanner (Forrest Tucker) and claiming to be lost. For a while Scott's character seems to throw in his lot with the bad guy, but anyone who's ever watched a Scott Western knows that couldn't really be true. Besides, when Scott's alone he seems to smile a lot over the villains' moves. And although he seems to be a clueless city slicker, he happens to be really fast with a gun cleverly hidden in his boot, and he can tame the wildest bucking horse. What gives? Maybe it has something to do with Tanner and a stolen shipment of gold...
There's some nice interplay between Scott and Tucker, with the puzzled Tucker trying to figure out Scott's persistence in sticking with him. Some critics suggest their relationship foreshadows the interplay between Scott and some of the villains in the classic Westerns he made with Budd Boetticher, such as Lee Marvin in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956) or Richard Boone in THE TALL T (1957).
Pretty young Dorothy Malone plays a girl who runs a horse ranch and catches Scott's eye. Scott was 27 years and one week older than his leading lady, but who's counting? He doesn't look quite as weatherbeaten in this as he would later in the '50s, and the age span doesn't seem quite as pronounced as it might. Nonetheless, the filmmakers seem to have been uncomfortable doing more than merely hinting at Scott and Malone's attraction to one another.
Malone's not-so-nice father is portrayed by George Macready. Great faces like Frank Faylen, Charles Kemper, and Jock Mahoney (billed here as Jock O'Mahoney) fill out the cast. IMDb also credits Mahoney with serving as Scott's stunt double on the film. Watching the climactic fight sequence in the mine shaft closely, it's apparent that Scott was doubled in some of the shots, although the darkness of the mine helps conceal it to an extent.
The cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr. really takes the caliber of the film up a notch, whether it's the silhouette of a lone rider on a hilltop, horses racing straight at the camera, or an attractively set up shot of Scott simply standing on the street, waiting to be approached by Galt (George Macready); the camerawork on the latter shot caused me to murmur "Nice!"
The film has a distinctive look thanks to the combination of the blue-red Cinecolor palette and Lone Pine's Alabama Hills. Scott and Lawton worked on a number of other films together in the same hills, including THE WALKING HILLS (1949), THE TALL T (1957), and RIDE LONESOME (1959).
This film runs 81 minutes and was directed by Gordon Douglas (WALK A CROOKED MILE, MR. SOFT TOUCH). It was produced by Randolph Scott and his longtime partner Harry Joe Brown.
THE NEVADAN is available in a very nice print from the Columbia Classics DVD-R program. Columbia Classics can now also be purchased from the Warner Archive.