Friday, September 14, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Cow Country (1953)

COW COUNTRY is a very enjoyable Western starring Edmond O'Brien and directed by Lesley Selander. I liked it a great deal.

O'Brien is very appealing as a Western hero. He plays Ben Anthony, a good-hearted cowboy who runs a successful freight business in an area where ranchers are struggling due to a depressed cattle market.

Ben's childhood friend Harry (Robert "Bob" Lowery) plots with others to drive the ranchers out of business and take over their land. Harry also becomes engaged to Linda (Helen Westcott), though it seems she might be happier with Ben, judging from the sparks which fly when he kisses her while offering congratulations on the upcoming wedding.

I recently saw O'Brien in the Western SILVER CITY (1951) and thought he was even better in COW COUNTRY. This black and white Allied Artists film may have had a lower budget than SILVER CITY, but it's a stronger movie. O'Brien is excellent as a smart, ethical man of action. I wish he'd made even more Westerns than he did; I really like him in this genre.

This 82-minute film has an involved story with a large cast, but the plot moves along quickly and gives its characters a chance to shine as it unfolds. Character actor Don Beddoe is particularly good as a soft-hearted grocer who becomes Ben's partner, with Robert J. Wilke effective as one of the villains.

Westcott is decorative as a traditional Western leading lady, but it's Peggie Castle who really has the chance to shine as Melba, the daughter of a poor squatter, who dreams of financial security and living in a fine house. Melba believes that nasty Harry intends to marry her, having no idea he's engaged to Linda...and she fails to notice that the very nice Fritz (James Millican), a farmer, is in love with her.

Castle has ample screen time, with some terrific moments, and she just about steals the movie. My only significant complaint regarding the film is that she should have had a final scene to wrap up her story.

James Millican is moving as the devoted Fritz, an immigrant to the United States who dreams of marrying Melba, and his final scene is extremely satisfying. Millican was a USC grad who had over 180 film credits, but sadly he passed on in 1955, only 45 years of age.

The supporting cast also includes Barton MacLane, Chuck Roberson, Charles Courtney, Robert Barrat, and Raymond Hatton.

The screenplay by Adele Buffington and Tom Blackburn was based on the novel SHADOW RANGE by Curtis Bishop.

This film was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies as part of a tribute to Edmond O'Brien. To my knowledge it has not had a video or DVD release.

COW COUNTRY is a likable Western which should particularly appeal to fans of Westerns, Edmond O'Brien, or Peggie Castle. I was glad I'd recorded it as it provided a really solid evening's entertainment.

August 2017 Update: COW COUNTRY is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive. My review of the DVD is here.


Blogger Kristina said...

good to hear! though I try to avoid reading about movies I haven't seen yet,but couldn't resist seeing what you thought of it. Now I really look forward to watching it! Thanks & best Laura!

8:36 AM  
Blogger James Corry said...

Being an Allied Artists film, chances are that it will (eventually) show up on MOD through the WB Archive.......At least I hope so...I've always had a crush on Peggie Castle!


7:19 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Have finally seen Cow Country and enjoyed it. Good cast. Interesting to see James Millican with a German accent!
I always liked Peggie Castle and she had a good role as you say. She sure gave Robert Lowery a whipping!
Nice too that the two women weren't at loggerheads.
I had hoped Edmond O'Brien would go the whole film without wearing a gun, but he didn't quite make it! I guess when you are up against Robert J.Wilke you have no choice!

1:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad you got to see it, Vienna, I enjoyed hearing what you thought!

Hopefully Brad's optimistic prediction that it will turn up from the Warner Archive will come to pass, this is one I will watch again and would like to own in that format.

Best wishes,

1:24 PM  

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