10 November 2019 | glennstenb
A Fateful Journey to the West for the Man... George O'Brien
"When a Man's a Man" is perhaps a heavy-handed title for this film, although apt in that hero Larry (George O'Brien) does blossom well in response to the challenges he takes on in the world of the West where he suddenly finds himself. There are also in evidence characters who demonstrate what it is NOT to be a man. This is a sturdy western from 1935, one that noticeably takes itself more seriously than the B-westerns of the era... it might better be called a B+ western. The film has a more mature and adult air, including the acting, which is of a higher calling, including by those in support. The direction, editing, and cinematography are more considered... for example, camera placement and settings are just better and actually seem planned. The final scene is stunning and poetic in its composition and execution. Of course, Harold Bell Wright is the author of the story from which the program comes, and one would expect anything based on the work of this acclaimed writer would be given a boost on results.
Furthermore, this western stands apart from its B-western cousins in that it has a strongly romantic aura, especially as it gives due attention to the developing romantic relationship between Larry and rancher's daughter Kitty (Dorothy Wilson). There are even some markedly passionate romantic moments in evidence that one won't see in a standard B-western. And one more thing... although the men in the film are of a breed accustomed to the rigors of life in the West, there is a kind of gentle purr to this film and you won't need a long piece of paper to tally up all those shot during the film.
George O'Brien's warmth and controlled, properly-channeled (and therefore admirable and defining) masculinity is well on display here. So all in all, viewing "When a Man's a Man" likely will be rewarding for fans of American western movies.