23 October 2010 | secondtake
Totally solid, gorgeous, archetypal film about loyalty, greed, and love
Yellow Sky (1948)
A classic and somewhat formulaic, beautifully photographed Western with a couple small twists. The main thing you might not catch is that this is an adaptation of "The Tempest," by Shakespeare. Here, the band of travelers crosses a metaphoric sea (the desert) and reaches a "New World" where they sort out what matters between them. The set was built (and deliberately destroyed) from an old silent film set that was left over.
Of note--Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark together for their only time, and they inevitably end up as enemies. The setting is the amazing and deadly Death Valley, and the locations shooting is shot there for authenticity. William Wellman was one of those consistently excellent directors who never really made a bad film, but didn't always make exceptional ones, and this one is right in his usual mix of strong visuals, tight editing, fairly simple dramatic plots, and a key actor or two to identify with.
Ann Baxter is the third leading character, and she's pretty much right on, with some grit and determination, but also a little too isolated for her own good. She's a kind of parallel to the really touch Mercedes McCambridge in "Johnny Guitar," a far more inventive movie, but one where an isolated woman (or two) have to fight off the greedy male rabble. Sort of like life, sometimes. Note that "Johnny Guitar" is four years later.
Besides Wellman's expertise, cinematographer Joe MacDonald's work is really worth noticing, for once again he helps elevate a fairly straightforward plot into something hard bitten, layered, and beautiful. MacDonald, born in Mexico, really came into his own by the late forties, and is behind a whole bunch of noir and western classics (as well as the famous "How to Marry a Millionaire"). In all, it's a really good movie, no question.