This week's Western is The Moonlighter (1953) starring frequent screen team Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.
Legendary old Hollywood stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck teamed up in four movies, including the classic film noir, Double Indemnity (1944), the Douglas Sirk domestic drama, There's Always Tomorrow and the romantic comedy, Remember the Night (1940).
The Moonlighter is probably MacMurray and Stanwyck's weakest onscreen outing. The film, directed by the reliable Roy Rowland, is really just a glorified B Western gussied up with A-list stars and the 3-D photography that was all the rage in the early fifties. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable film with some beautiful High Sierras scenery and plenty of chemistry between the two leads.
The Moonlighter begins with Wes Anderson (MacMurray) sitting in the county jail waiting for "a necktie party" while a bloodthirsty lynch mob riots outside. The crowd wants to hang Anderson's thieving hide for cattle rustling (his special talent is stealing cattle at night thus "the moonlighter" nickname). Anderson escapes at the last minute -- another man is mistakenly hanged in his place -- so he returns to his hometown and his old flame, Rela (Stanwyck), who by now has taken up with Anderson's brother, Tom (William Ching).
The rest of the film meanders along without really settling on a definable plot. The Moonlighter even manages to waste the inestimable Ward Bond, a character actor who enlivened many a horse opera. There's some humor (MacMurray preaches his own funeral while forcing attendees to make "generous" donations at gunpoint), some romance and a fantastic action sequence filmed at the Peppermist Falls in the High Sierras.
|A vintage poster for The Moonlighter (1950).|
|Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in the Moonlighter (1953).|
Go here, for more of our Top 100 Westerns.
Next week, we'll feature Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma.