Friday, June 05, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Belle Starr's Daughter (1948)

After half a decade in bit roles, Ruth Roman had her breakout role starring as Cimarron Rose, BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER (1948).

Rose is caught between two men, Marshal Tom Jackson (George Montgomery) and outlaw Bob "Bitter Creek" Yauntis (Rod Cameron).

Having been raised by her outlaw mother (Isabel Jewell, who also played Belle in BADMAN'S TERRITORY), Rose is skeptical of the Marshal's attention to her...though she might be attracted to him.

Rose also spurns Bob's aggressive moves, but might be weakening about marrying him...though her realization that Tom has been carrying her hair ribbon in his saddlebag could change her mind.

More importantly, Rose has no idea that Bob murdered her mother and her mother's close friend Jim Davis (Kenneth MacDonald). When Rose is forced to go on the run with Bob, she learns what a mean son of a gun Bob really is. For one thing, he's not at all shy about executing his men when they're no longer useful, to make sure they won't talk to the law. And learning the awful truth about her mother's death is still to come.

BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER is an entertaining 86 minutes which is at its best during scenes filmed in the great outdoors. According to IMDb, exteriors were filmed in the High Sierras around Bridgeport, California, and the final chase scenes do look like that area. The black and white filming was by William Sickner.

Other than those exterior scenes, this Edward L. Alperson Production, released by 20th Century-Fox, has a sort of "low rent" feel to it at times. This is one of the few black and white Westerns where I've felt the absence of color was regrettable, particularly in those mountain scenes. Ruth Roman and the mountain vistas seem to cry out for Technicolor in this instance!

That said, the film's biggest problem is its bombastic musical score by Dr. Edward Kilenyi. As Montgomery chased Cameron on horseback while the music blared, pistols blazing, I half expected the Lone Ranger to ride into the picture. The music gives the film a sort of cheesy feel, something more appropriate for the small fry than an adult Western. I couldn't help thinking that the movie would play very differently with another score; no music at all might have been better! It's fairly rare when a background score hits me negatively like this. The last Western score I can think of I really didn't like was Elmer Bernstein's music for THE TIN STAR (1957).

Despite the film's flaws, it's certainly worth seeing, especially if one is a Western fan like I am. The lead actors are terrific, with Montgomery at his most handsome. For those who are used to seeing Cameron as a Western hero, seeing him play a casually cold-blooded killer is something of a revelation. He is one nasty guy in this! It was actually a little hard for me, as a Cameron fan, to see him as such a mean villain; he was certainly convincing.

Roman does well as the feisty Rose; I especially enjoyed the scene when Cameron was putting the amorous moves on her one night and pulled back her blanket to discover she had a gun pointed straight at him! From this film Roman's career took off, with a terrific portrayal of a very scary woman in the following year's THE WINDOW (1949) further pushing her up through the ranks of stars.

Charles Kemper, who brought so much to a number of late '40s Westerns, shines as Montgomery's deputy. The cast also includes Wallace Ford, William Phipps, Jack Lambert, J. Farrell MacDonald, and Chris-Pin Martin.

BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER was directed by Western specialist Lesley Selander, from a script by W.R. Burnett.

Many thanks to Jerry Entract for helping me to see this one at last!


Blogger Jerry E said...

Thanks for the credit, Laura. Just glad it made it possible for you to see it at last and to review it.

As you say, it has its flaws - I am going to have to watch it again now to listen out for that music score! LOL Fantastic credentials though, with two favourite actors heading the cast, Selander directing, and a screenplay by W R Burnett. The more I see of Cameron the more I think he was underrated as an actor.

This coming week UK TV are showing (for the first time) the other Montgomery-Cameron starrer, "DAKOTA LIL". I shall be interested to see what they have come up with as it has so far turned up either as a pretty awful colour print or a better(though far from perfect) b&w print. Will report back when I have seen the results.

11:56 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,
Lovely review BTW.
If you found Cameron's bad buy tough to watch,just wait until you see
He is REALLY nasty in that one.
He plays a misogynistic brute who likes to throttle his victims.
He has more or less met his match with Marie Windsor though.
Cameron to Windsor "never did believe in schooling for females"
Windsor to Cameron "by the look of your handwriting you don't approve of schooling
for males either."
Its kinda sad that two of Selander's best Westerns are only available in black and
A restored color version of DAKOTA LIL needs to be found as well as THE YELLOW
I too agree that Rod was vastly underrated as an actor.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, I'd be most interested to hear your opinion of the score next time you see it.

How interesting that Cameron is again a bad guy in the other film he made with Montgomery! Sounds like fun, John -- Marie Windsor makes anything better.

It's interesting, most black and white Westerns look absolutely fine to me, and in some cases the B&W is a huge part of their artistry (i.e., WAGON MASTER, WINCHESTER '73); I can't imagine them in color. But once in a while it just seems like the movie needed color, and this was one of those times!

Best wishes,

10:50 PM  

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