10 Classics list!
With COLORADO TERRITORY (1949), director Raoul Walsh loosely remade his own film HIGH SIERRA (1941), which had starred Humphrey Bogart. In this Western telling, Joel McCrea stars as outlaw Wes McQueen.
Movies about outlaws are my least favorite kind of Western, as they inevitably come to a bad end, but I wanted to finally see COLORADO TERRITORY because of the film's fine reputation and my admiration for McCrea. And I must say that as outlaw movies go, COLORADO TERRITORY is top drawer; it's superbly acted, fast paced, and beautifully shot (by Sid Hickox) in striking locations.
McQueen agrees to rob a train with Reno (John Archer) and Duke (James Mitchell), which they plan while hiding out in an abandoned town. Also hanging around is Colorado (Virginia Mayo), who becomes attracted to the comparatively gallant Wes.
Wes plans for the train robbery to be the proverbial "one last job," and he dreams of settling down with Julie Ann, not realizing she's not quite the nice girl he idealizes. Colorado, meanwhile, proves her loyalty to Wes time and again...right up till the bitter end.
FOUR FACES WEST (1948), in which his desperate cowboy, Ross McEwen, robs a bank but has a chance at redemption. Wes McQueen seems at heart to have had the same inner decency as McEwen, but he's too far gone and his dreams of a better, more decent life come too late in the game, heartbreakingly captured by McCrea's regretful performance. Both films also share in common wonderful black and white location shooting, including in New Mexico.
In addition to being a longtime fan of McCrea, I've become quite an admirer of Virgina Mayo, who was my most-watched actress of 2014. Mayo had a great year in 1949, giving what might be her two best performances, both for director Raoul Walsh, in COLORADO TERRITORY and WHITE HEAT (1949). She has a great entrance in COLORADO TERRITORY, brushing her hair and then flipping it back and looking up. In each film she's the companion to an outlaw or gangster, but the parts, and her performances, couldn't be more different. She's stunningly tough as Colorado, leading to an ending which, as my friend Blake Lucas has described, is tragic yet also quite beautiful.
I also liked James Mitchell as the educated outlaw Duke. The following year he would again play opposite McCrea in STARS IN MY CROWN (1950). Mitchell was an interesting actor, veering from straight dramatic parts to dancing roles.
I especially admired the film's fast 94-minute pace, which always kept things interesting and didn't give me time to dwell on the inevitable ending. The screenplay by John Twist and Edmund H. North was loosely based on W.R. Burnett's HIGH SIERRA.
COLORADO TERRITORY is available on DVD from the Warner Archive. It's a fine print, and the DVD includes the trailer.
Just a couple reviews left to post to wrap up my thoughts on my 2015 list!