Monday, March 26, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Rawhide (1951)

RAWHIDE is a solidly made Western in which a band of outlaws, led by Hugh Marlowe, take over a remote stagecoach station with the intent of robbing a gold shipment scheduled to be on the next day's stagecoach. The outlaws need to keep the station manager alive to service a stagecoach due to arrive that night, and a tense hostage drama ensues.

Tyrone Power plays the station employee, and Susan Hayward and little Judy Ann Dunn play the woman and baby girl the outlaws believe to be Power's wife and child. In reality, Power and Hayward's characters have just met, but they go along with the outlaws' assumption as it seems to better their chances of staying alive. Of course, this being a movie, Power and Hayward have fallen in love for real by film's end.

Tyrone Power has always been a favorite of mine, and he is excellent in this as a resourceful man up against tough odds. Hayward plays a much harder-edged woman here than she played in THE PRESIDENT'S LADY a couple years later. Viewing the two Hayward films back to back provided an interesting contrast. The portrayals in these two films are so completely different, down to Hayward's manner of speaking in each film, that it gave me a new appreciation for Hayward's talents as an actress.

The outlaw gang includes Dean Jagger, George Tobias, and scary-looking Jack Elam. Edgar Buchanan is also in the cast. Gary Merrill provides the opening and closing narration.

RAWHIDE was directed by the fine director Henry Hathaway, who had previously directed Tyrone Power in BRIGHAM YOUNG, FRONTIERSMAN and THE BLACK ROSE. (Dean Jagger, who plays the most sympathetic outlaw here, played the title role in BRIGHAM YOUNG.) The script is by Dudley Nichols, who wrote the screenplay for the great STAGECOACH. Nichols' many other credits include BRINGING UP BABY and THE TIN STAR.

As was the case with so many other Westerns, the movie was shot outside Lone Pine, California. Dave Holland's book ON LOCATION IN LONE PINE says that lumber from the RAWHIDE stagecoach station was later used by a doctor and his wife to build a cabin on Lone Pine Creek. A stagecoach from RAWHIDE is now on exhibit in Lone Pine.

The film was shot in black and white and runs 86-89 minutes, depending on the reference source. Over the years it has also been shown on TV under the title DESPERATE SIEGE, apparently to prevent confusion with the TV series of the same name. The movie is a loose remake of a gangster movie which was melodramatically titled SHOW THEM NO MERCY!

RAWHIDE is available on VHS. It can be seen on cable as part of the library on Fox Movie Channel.

A set of Tyrone Power Swashbucklers is due on May 1st. (The Power-Hathaway film THE BLACK ROSE will be included in the set.) Perhaps RAWHIDE will be in a future volume of Power DVDs.

March 26, 2008 Update: One year to the day after I posted this review, I'm happy to say that RAWHIDE is coming to DVD on May 13, 2008. It will be in a three-film set of Fox Western Classics along with GARDEN OF EVIL and THE GUNFIGHTER.

Update: Here's a post from June 2007 with a photo I took of the RAWHIDE location outside Lone Pine, CA.

October 2016 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to revisit this film at the 2016 Lone Pine Film Festival.

Update: RAWHIDE is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.


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