Thursday, May 5, 2016

Under Burning Skies: Four Faces West, Monte Walsh, The Grave of Marcus Pauly

Four Faces West (film, 1948)

Ross McEwen (Joel McCrea) robs a bank in Santa Maria, New Mexico, and kidnaps the banker then releases him a few miles away. In an odd twist, he leaves an IOU for the $2000 he pilfered. The banker hikes back to town to alert newly elected Sheriff Pat Garrett (Charles Bickford) who leads a posse after McEwan. Along the way McEwan is helped by, and falls in love with, a nurse named Faye Hollister (Frances Dee, aka Mrs. Joel McCrea). Observing their budding romance is a gambler, Monte Marquez (Joseph Calleia), who realizes who McEwan is and may or may not hanker for the reward on the wanted man’s head. Reflective, moving gem that is based on the book Paso Por Aqui by Eugene Manlove Rhodes and for whom the film is dedicated. Joel McCrea's every man, likable persona resounds even better now than it did in the mid-twentieth century. A rancher in real life who, after the success of The Virginian in 1946, exclusively made Westerns (with one exception) for the rest of his career.

Film flub: IMDb notes that when McEwan gets bit by the rattler, it's concealed inside the bushes. But a second later, with no time to slither away, the snake is seen in open ground.

Monte Walsh (TV film, 2003)

In this remake of the 1970 Lee Marvin film, Isabella Rosselini, playing the part of “Countess” Martine, says to Tom Selleck’s Monte Walsh: “Monte, as time goes by, we all have to take the best we can get. Perhaps one day you will find that the same applies to you.” Monte replies, “Well, I ain’t changing.”

It’s a familiar plot: the 19th-century cowboy having trouble accepting the inevitable fact that times are indeed passing him by. Writer Jack Schaefer explored a similar theme in his earlier and more famous Shane. However, at the end of that classic, the hero rides off into the night and fade-out. In a way, Monte Walsh picks up where that film left off and follows the story of what became of men like Shane. Hardships abound as Monte continues to try to make a living when fewer and fewer options remain as railways, barbed wire, etc., become more widespread. A defiant Monte tells a fellow hombre that as long as there is one cow and one cowboy, it ain’t over.

The Grave of Marcus Pauly (novella, 2011) by Wayne D. Dundee

Annabelle Heath arrives in the town of Busted Bow looking for Ford Ramsey, an ex-con who rode with her uncle Marcus Pauly robbing banks shortly after the Civil War. Her aim is to ask Ramsey's help in locating Pauly's remains, somewhere in the rugged territory, so she can take them back to Missouri for a proper burial—which were her mother's last wishes. Of course, that will be anything but easy especially when Ramsey starts to suspect someone is following them, someone who may want the money that many believe Ramsey hid before being sent to prison. A highlight of The Grave of Marcus Pauly is the friendship that develops between the earnest but na├»ve Annabelle and the hardened former convict determined to finally do the right thing. Wayne D. Dundee (Manhunter’s Mountain, The Empty Badge) tells the story in his steady, unassuming, rhythmic precision that doesn’t let up until the final page.


Shay said...

I can't vouch for the quote, but McCrea allegedly once commented "If I'm gonna do claptrap, I may as well do it on horseback."

David Cranmer said...

Helluva quote that I had not heard before, Shay. Of course, I know very little of McCrea besides the research I did for this short review.

Paul D. Marks said...

I like both film versions of Monte Walsh. Each brings something a little different to the story. But I truly love the book, one of my faves. And, though the theme may have been done before, I think it really captures that feeling of someone who's time has passed.

David Cranmer said...

Paul, awesome, awesome book MONTE WALSH is and I like it a bit better than SHANE. Oddly I haven't read any Jack Schaefer beyond those two. May have to correct that soon.