Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Roughshod (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

ROUGHSHOD (1949), one of my favorite unsung Westerns, is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

I first saw ROUGHSHOD back in 2009, and as time has passed I've come to appreciate it even more. It was a delight to revisit it again in a lovely print, thanks to the new Warner Archive DVD.

Robert Sterling plays cowboy Clay Phillips, who is driving a herd of horses over the Sonora Pass with his kid brother Steve (Claude Jarman Jr.). They happen upon a broken buggy with four saloon girls who were headed to Sonora; Clay must be the luckiest cowpoke in history, because the women he's stumbled across are Gloria Grahame, Martha Hyer, Myrna Dell, and Jeff Donnell.

Unfortunately there's an escaped convict named Lednov (John Ireland) on Clay's trail, a cold-blooded killer who brutally murders anyone in his way...and he's gunning for Clay.

Most of the film is a character study of Clay, his relationships to his brother and Mary (Grahame), and tangentially the other women, who all make significant life choices during their journey. Sterling is so at home in a Western, I've wished ever since I first saw the film that he had done more of them. He did appear in THE SUNDOWNERS (1950) the following year, as well as in Audie Murphy's COLUMN SOUTH (1953) a few years later.

I've never been a big fan of Grahame, but for me this is her most appealing performance. She's lovely, and I especially enjoy the relationship she establishes with Steve as she teaches him to read. Jarman, who would appear in John Ford's RIO GRANDE (1950) the following year, is excellent as the determined brother, who refuses to leave when his brother wants to take on Lednov and his two confederates on his own.

While much of the film is easygoing and good-natured, there are dark moments, most notably when Lednov and his men stumble across Helen (Dell) and the new man in her life (Sean McClory). It's a disturbing scene which makes the stakes for Clay and Steve even more clear.

Except for a handful of interiors and a couple of process shots, ROUGHSHOD was shot entirely on location by Joseph Biroc. The Sierra locations look lovely in black and white and give the movie a feeling of authenticity which is sometimes missing from films shot on a Southern California movie ranch.

The screenplay was by Geoffrey Homes (OUT OF THE PAST) and Hugo Butler, based on a story by Peter Viertel. The running time is 88 minutes.

The supporting cast includes Sara Haden, Jeff Corey, George Cooper, James Bell, and Ed Cassidy.

ROUGHSHOD was an RKO film directed by Mark Robson. Another of Robson's 1949 releases, MY FOOLISH HEART, will be reviewed here in the near future.

ROUGHSHOD is another fine-looking print from the Warner Archive, with good sound quality. There are no extras.

A personal favorite which is recommended for Western fans.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger John said...

I am curious what you think of Gloria Grahame in Human Desire and In a Lonely Place.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Have reviewed both films here in the past -- thought she was boring (and haggard) in HUMAN DESIRE but terrific in IN A LONELY PLACE.

I do better with her in small doses. Her appearance, voice, and demeanor just don't do a lot for me, but she does impress me in some films despite that. NAKED ALIBI was another good one.

Thanks for asking!

Best wishes,

8:06 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

This film needs to be kicked up to the top of my shopping list, as it's clear from what has been previously written and now your enticing review, Laura, that this would be my kind of western.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I suspect you will enjoy it as much as I do, Jerry -- in any event, I hope so! Do let me know. :)

Best wishes,

3:31 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

By the way, Laura, worthy of mention I believe is the death this week of English cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (February 22) aged 103!!
His first feature film as a cinematographer was "DEAD OF NIGHT", a classic from Ealing Studios for whom he worked for many years, filming many of their classic films. His final film was in 1989, "INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE" after a 45-year distinguished career.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Whoops - you already included the news in 'Around The Blogosphere' - I should have known!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a movie I hardly remembered seeing as a kid, though one scene was firmly nailed in my head (more on that when I get around to finishing my post on it).

It really knocked me out. One of the best examples of the Western-noir pseudo-genre that I've come across.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Catching up here after a hectic workweek!

Jerry, I'm glad you mentioned Douglas Slocombe's passing -- I'd always rather have news like that mentioned more rather than less! He had an amazing career.

Toby, I'm delighted to hear you enjoyed ROUGHSHOD so much and am really looking forward to reading your thoughts on it. I hope more people will take the time to see this film, which deserves to find a wider audience.

Best wishes,

10:11 PM  

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