Friday, August 14, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Roughshod (1949)

ROUGHSHOD is a fine little RKO Western with solid performances, an interesting storyline, and an authentic "fresh air" feel thanks to extensive location shooting.

Robert Sterling plays Clay Phillips, who is driving horses over the Sonora Pass with his kid brother Steve (Claude Jarman Jr.). Along the way to Sonora, Clay and Steve meet up with two different groups of people: four stranded dance hall girls and a murderous trio of thugs who want to settle an old score with Clay. The dance hall girls are played by Gloria Grahame, Myrna Dell, Jeff Donnell, and Martha Hyer, while the murderers are headed by John Ireland.

Sterling was a pleasant surprise as a very believable cowboy -- one reviewer likened him to a young Joel McCrea -- and the rest of the cast is excellent. The supporting actors include Sara Haden; Haden, like Sterling and Jarman, had spent considerable time at MGM, where she played Aunt Milly in the ANDY HARDY series.

I haven't been able to confirm where the movie was filmed, but it looks like it was actually filmed in the Sierras, where the story is set. (One blogger mentions shooting took place in the Tahoe area.) With the exception of a handful of indoor scenes, the entire movie was filmed in the great outdoors. The black and white photography looks terrific; it's one of those Westerns where the viewer can almost smell the dust and feel the cold water in the creek. Joseph Biroc was the cinematographer. Biroc's credits include IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) and MRS. MIKE (1949).

ROUGHSHOD runs 88 minutes. It was directed by Mark Robson, whose best-known titles include MY FOOLISH HEART (1949) and PEYTON PLACE (1959). He also directed the absorbing Korean War homefront drama I WANT YOU (1951).

This movie has not had a VHS or DVD release in the United States. It's been released on a Region 2 DVD in Spain.

ROUGHSHOD was shown on TCM this past week as part of Gloria Grahame Day in the Summer Under the Stars Festival.

January 2016 Update: ROUGHSHOD is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

February 2016 Update: My review of the new ROUGHSHOD DVD may be found here.


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