Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Wyoming (1947)

Bill Elliott stars as a hardworking cattle baron in WYOMING (1947), a Western from Republic Pictures.

WYOMING and its tale of a range war spans many years, somewhat calling to mind an Allied Artists Western of the same era, SHORT GRASS (1950), which starred Rod Cameron.

Elliott plays Charles Alderson, who arrives in Wyoming in a covered wagon with his wife Karen (Vera Ralston) and her Aunt Maria (Maria Ouspenskaya).

Windy Gibson (George "Gabby" Hayes) gives them a place to stay, but soon thereafter Karen sadly dies in childbirth. Charles and Karen's daughter, also named Karen, is eventually sent to study in Europe with Aunt Maria, and when they return several years later, Karen (now also played by Ralston) has an accent and looks just like her mother.

Charles, meanwhile, has become Windy's partner and together they have built a huge cattle ranch.

Local homesteaders led by Duke Lassiter (Albert Dekker) want to fence off land and watering holes, heedless of the fact they're killing Charles's cattle. Charles and his reliable foreman Glenn (John Carroll), a former lawyer, disagree on tactics, with Charles living by the gun and Glenn preferring the law; this friction is complicated by the fact that Glenn and Karen have fallen in love.

WYOMING tells a meaty story, with more plot and characters than one might expect to find in an Elliott Western. Elliott is excellent as a man for whom life has sometimes been difficult but who has worked hard and is unwilling to let others destroy what he's built.

The film is also interesting insofar as range wars are often told from the perspective of homesteaders, with the land baron being an evil villain, but here we see the point of view of a man who's struggled from next to nothing to build his cattle empire and now is trying to hold on to it.

I especially enjoyed Charles's long-standing relationship with Lila (Virginia Grey), who arrives in town to run the saloon just as Karen leaves for school. The way Charles and Lila both argue and support one another over the years is touching and realistically done.

I've always liked Carroll, and he's very good in this as a man loyal to both his boss (and potential future father-in-law) and the law. I appreciated the conflict he felt, along with his devotion to Karen.

The movie was filmed in black and white by the great John Alton, so you know it looks good. It was directed by Joseph Kane. The script of this 84-minute film was by written by Lawrence Hazard and Gerald Geraghty.

The cast also includes Grant Withers, Harry Woods, Minna Gombell, Roy Barcroft, Trevor Bardette, and Charles Middleton.

This film is not currently available on DVD. I'd sure love to see an authorized set of not-on-DVD Elliott films released; I'd snap it up immediately, and I know many of my readers feel the same way.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

A happy surprise for me, Laura, to find a great review of one of Bill Elliott's best feature-length westerns for Republic Pictures. I have followed Bill Elliott for most of my life and I know you have come to admire him in recent years.

"WYOMING" is one of the best of his films, with a good cast and some great action sequences. Elliott's knock-down drag-out fight with Albert Dekker is a corker and, some say, comparable to the famous punch-up in the "THE SPOILERS" between Randolph Scott and John Wayne.

As you say, there are no official DVD releases of any of Elliott's Republic features sadly but Hollywood Scrapheap has put out transfers of this film and three others that are excellent.

11:39 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I saw Wyoming at a cinema when I was eight, and loved it. Feel the dame way now, but I do not think it is 'one' of Bill Elliott's best, it is by far, not only his best, Republics' best, excluding the Ford-Wayne films of the fifties. Laura, you touched on something that I have always been aware of -- the counterpoint to Shane, and I am with the Empire Builders, not the homesteaders. And certainly not the government that set them up for failure. Set everyone up for it...oh, and the cast is first rate and that certainly incudes the maligned Vera Ralston.

8:56 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Obviously, that should read 'same' not dame. Sorry about that. And while I'm at it, add Angel And The Badman to that list of great forties Republic pictures.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, this one has been on my "to watch" list thanks in part to you! (My dad also caught it before I did and strongly endorsed it as well.) It has been a real pleasure catching up with Elliott's movies, and I'm looking forward to more of his Republic films.

I can attest to the Hollywood Scrapheap print of WYOMING being excellent. THE GALLANT LEGION is also in my "watch" stack.

Barrylane, great to hear this was a childhood favorite of yours as well -- your favorite Elliott is high recommendation indeed.

I agree, Ralston is very good, which I didn't focus on in my post. I have recounted before that I am one of those who didn't care for her on first exposure, but this was in part because she didn't match up with the concept of the character I had from reading the novel before watching JUBILEE TRAIL (1954) as a teen. Getting to know her work better as an adult I appreciate her much more. Not a great actress, but a solid performer who had some strong moments. I'm glad to have given her a fresh look.

Best wishes,

11:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane, I am completely in agreement regarding ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947). It's my favorite non-Ford John Wayne film and one of my all-time favorite films, period.

Best wishes,

11:17 AM  

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