Thursday, January 16, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Marksman (1953)

Wayne Morris stars as THE MARKSMAN (1953), a pleasing Allied Artists "B" Western.

THE MARKSMAN is part of a Wayne Morris Double Feature DVD set from the Warner Archive. I reviewed the other film in the set, THE FIGHTING LAWMAN (1953), all the way back in 2013, yet somehow I didn't manage to catch the other film in the set before now, despite my enjoyment of Morris in '50s Westerns. (So many movies, so little time...)

Morris plays Mike Martin, whose shooting skills with a telescopic sight net him a job as Deputy Marshal under Bob Scott (I. Stanford Jolley).

Mike has always wanted to be a lawman, yet he chafes at having to use his shooting skills time and again to kill bad guys. Then Lt. Governor Watson (Tom Powers) arrives and assigns Mike and Marshal Scott to track down a cattle rustling gang.

Marshal Scott sets off on the trail of the gang and disappears, so Watson assigns Mike to take on the investigation while pretending to be a prospector.

"Prospector" Mike rides onto the ranch of Champ Wylie (Frank Ferguson), who extends Mike his hospitality. Mike also meets pretty, animated Jane Watson (Elena Verdugo), a novelist who is Wylie's niece. Unfortunately, Wylie is not all he seems to be...

This is a solid, well-made 62 minutes, with much of it shot outdoors; I couldn't pin down the locations but the film was obviously shot in Southern California, perhaps at Corriganville or maybe a little at Iverson Ranch.

I enjoyed Morris's interplay with Jolley and especially Powers, and the development of Mike and Jane's relationship is cute. I especially enjoyed Mike's amazement learning there were entire stores dedicated to books -- though if he was really a college man, as he claims at one point, one assumes that wouldn't have really been shocking news. Morris is genial and entirely appealing in the lead role.

Verdugo is a different kind of leading lady, very talkative, with a light comedic touch; there's almost a touch of Jean Arthur to her giddy writer fascinated by the wide open spaces and the handsome cowboy. I enjoyed her and her spunk, including saving Mike's life at one point.

Ferguson is always a welcome presence in Westerns. The cast also includes Rick Vallin as Wylie's righthand man.

The movie was directed by Lewis D. Collins and filmed in black and white by Ernest Miller. The script was by Dan Ullman, who wrote a several other Westerns reviewed here in the past.

I had a good time watching this one and think my fellow fans of the "B's" will probably like it too.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I like it too, Laura! Glad you got around to this one. No western classic, of course, but Morris's series for Allied Artists were generally enjoyable.

I always feel Wayne Morris gets unfair criticism from some quarters. In 1954 he co-starred with Randolph Scott in "RIDING SHOTGUN" playing a somewhat overweight and lackadaisical deputy called Tub Murphy. Some writers seemed to latch onto this (it was just a role!) and described him as pudgy or having a beer belly in his films. I think it would be hard to spot that in these westerns. Someone writes something (maybe ill-informed) and that gets perpetuated by subsequent writings. Lazy journalism?

9:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad to know you liked this one too, Jerry! One of those movies which is simply a nice, diverting way to spend an hour.

Agree with you about Morris, when I was watching I thought about the fact that he looked fit and handsome and actually wondered why people criticize his '50s looks -- so your comment was timely! You might be on to something with his appearance from RIDING SHOTGUN influencing the overall impressions held by some.

Best wishes,

9:26 PM  

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