15 February 2004 | rmax304823
Bad man tries to hang up guns.
Randolph Scott usually has a bit of rogue in his characters but there's less of it here than usual. Scott is a member of a gang of thieves and barely escapes when the others are slaughtered by the U.S. Marshal, played by George MacReady who is a bad guy even when he's a good guy, as he is here. That was a close call, Scott reflects, and maybe it's time to hang up my sixguns and take up farming. Not only does he farm (corn) but he marries the daughter of the local church deacon. How good can you get?
Nothing good lasts, however, as anyone over the age of eight knows. His former buddies play a dirty trick on him and expose his identity as a bandit, forcing him to leave wife and home and take to the road again. The Doolin Gang isn't bad, as bank-robbing thieving murdering gangs go. None of them is really evil, although they have their differences. The movie differentiates them pretty well and gives us a chance to get to know them, weaknesses and virtues alike. They have colorful names which I can't remember exactly but are something like "Tulsa," "Brickbat," "Arkansas," "Little Billy." Little Billy is the educated one. He's been to school in Pennsylvania. You can tell because he can quote Benjamin Franklin. He's played in such an effete manner by Noah Beery, Jr., that one wonders if his character isn't one of those barely disguised gay people that some of the older movies used. In any case he does not utter one believable line. But Scott is pretty good, playing it so straight. And John Ireland is very watchable too. I don't know why, but I've always liked John Ireland even in villainous roles. The bridge of his nose seems to have caved in and drawn his eyes closer together. His best role was in "All the King's Men." He had a much more prominent part in "Red River" than we see on screen in today's prints. His role was cut to the bone by director Howard Hawks when Hawks found out that Ireland was romancing Hawks' girl friend at the time, who shall remain nameless here except for her real name -- Letitia laCock -- which wasn't made up by Andy Warhol.
Where was I? Oh, yes, Scott's pretty good. I enjoyed him in his earlier movies, "My Favorite Wife" and "Follow the Fleet," where he established and retired the world's record for repeating the word "swell" on screen. There was a considerable hiatus in his career while he played replaceable heroes in replaceable Westerns, until he made "Ride the High Country" for Sam Peckinpah. He was genuinely good in that -- all rogue, from beginning to end.