20 August 2012 | dougdoepke
Fails to Gel
The movie is a stab at an epic western that simply fails to gel. The best part is the "moving west" scenes of wagon trains convoying across the open southwestern terrain. These achieve an epic feel that the dramatics unfortunately fail to duplicate. The screenplay itself is pretty crowded, telling the story of California's becoming a state, no less. From settlers to gold rush to saloons to political intrigue, the story is traced out mainly through Milland, Stanwyck, and Coulouris, with Fitzgerald as a salt-of-the-earth anchor.
Now, that might work, except director Farrow has little feel for the material. The various parts come across in rather limp, unexciting fashion. It's as if he's content to simply film the script without bringing its many conflicts to dramatic life. Thus, the drama is conveyed in words instead of characters. Then too, Oscar winner Milland appears either miscast or uninspired. His role really calls for a bigger personality than Milland's generally low-key wagon master. (He may have viewed a western as a comedown after his award winning role in The Lost Weekend.) Stanwyck is of course Stanwyck even though she's dolled-up to suit Technicolor filming and crowded around by the packed screenplay . Too bad the guy who could have enlivened the action remains in supporting background, namely, the commanding Albert Dekker (Pike).
Anyway, I guess I now know why this epic western remains so obscure, despite its Paramount pedigree and marquee cast.