Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Lone Hand (1953)

When I was growing up I watched Joel McCrea's Universal Westerns over and over...movies like SADDLE TRAMP (1950), CATTLE DRIVE (1951), and THE LONE HAND (1953), which I watched tonight for the first time in many years.

It had been so long since I'd seen THE LONE HAND, I'd almost forgotten the plot, in which Zachary Hallock (McCrea), a widower with a little boy, Joshua (Jimmy Hunt), has a secret life as a Pinkerton man trying to break up a gang of outlaws. The plot's not one of my favorites; both the son and Zachary's new wife Sarah Jane (Barbara Hale) suffer as they believe Zachary has gone wrong, and on a couple different occasions Joshua is sent to do a man's job, with disastrous results.

On the plus side, well, it's a Joel McCrea Western, and that says a lot. McCrea was an authentic horseman and rancher in real life, who often wore his own clothes and rode his own horses in his movies. The movie was shot on location in gorgeous Colorado; in a couple scenes approaching thunderstorms add some great atmosphere. Although the storyline could have been more appealing, the film is solidly made and worthwhile.

McCrea is never less than outstanding in his movies. In this film McCrea has excellent support from Hale, as the woman Zachary initially marries to ensure that his son won't be orphaned, and then comes to realize he's landed a gem. Jimmy Hunt, who plays the little boy, was also in McCrea's SADDLE TRAMP as one of the orphans McCrea adopts.

The supporting cast includes "Jim" Arness (that's how he's billed) as one of the outlaws. The cast also includes Charles Drake, Alex Nicol, Roy Roberts, and Frank Ferguson.

THE LONE HAND was directed by George Sherman, a veteran director of B Westerns. According to IMDb, Henry Mancini did uncredited work on the musical score. The movie runs 80 minutes and was shot in Technicolor.

A side note: I have seen the film referred to as simply LONE HAND over the years, including in Leonard Maltin's CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE, but the opening credits read THE LONE HAND so that's the title I've used here.

This movie does not appear to be available on VHS or DVD. I was fortunate to be able to borrow a recording from my father.


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