Today, we're kicking off our series on the American Western with the 1947 film The Angel and the Badman starring John Wayne and Gail Russell.
The Western films made by the old Hollywood studios are some of America's greatest cultural landmarks. The cowboys and gunslingers in these films exported American ideals around the world and created an heroic myth for the nation. These seemingly simple horse operas also struggled with the darker aspects of American life, depicting the terrible treatment of American Indians and the disturbing tendency towards violence that has marked the nation. Most old Hollywood stars appeared in at least one Western -- even James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart saddled up in The Oklahoma Kid (1939) -- but some actors (John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott) were defined by the genre. Westerns also attracted great talent behind the camera. Foremost is director John Ford, who defined and re-invited the genre over the course of his 50-year career, but there were other great auteurs (Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, Delmer Daves) who put their own unique stamp on Westerns. This series will consider the best Westerns made from 1930-1970. We're kicking off the list with The Angel and the Badman (1947) directed by James Edward Grant.
|Gunslinger Quirt Evans (John Wayne) romances shy Quaker girl Penny Worth (Gail Russell) in The Angel and the Badman (1947).|
|A vintage poster for The Angel and the Badman (1947).|
|Legendary Western actor Harry Carey plays Marshal Wistful McClintock in The Angel and the Badman (1947).|
The Angel and the Badman was not a success on its initial release. Forties audiences were used to seeing Wayne as a man of action and this meandering and philosophical film frustrated moviegoers. Today, The Angel and the Badman feels like Wayne's forced attempt to imitate the style of his mentor Ford. The film has its highlights (the final gunfight sequence is quite suspensful), but it often gets mired down with pacing problems and unnecessary dialogue.
The Angel and the Badman has gained a cult following through the decades. Johnny Cash was a huge fan, even writing a song about the film (above). There was also a Hallmark Channel remake in 2009 starring Lou Diamond Phillips.
The Angel and the Badman is streaming on Hulu. It is also available on DVD.
Next week we'll hit the range with the Duke in Chisum (1970).