10 September 2007 | bkoganbing
Bad Cause He Has To Be
Stepping into the place of Spencer Tracy, James Cagney plays Jeremy Rodock in Tribute to a Bad Man. It's the story of a man in the wilds of the west where there is no law and he has to make his own to hold his own.
Of course in that kind of rugged country your character is also changed by the responsibility you have. You make a lot of enemies.
Don Dubbins is a young drifter who comes into the valley that Rodock and his spread dominate and finds a badly wounded Rodock. He administers some first aid and gets him back to his ranch. Cagney because he owes him his life, takes Dubbins in.
Cagney's got a live in mistress in Irene Papas and Dubbins goes kind of sweet on her. She's also got another admirer in one of the other ranch hands, Stephen McNally. If you think the plot is beginning to resemble Jubal which came out the same year, you're right.
Tribute to a Bad Man is the last of three Cagney westerns, The Oklahoma Kid and Run For Cover are the other two. I've never felt Cagney's urban persona is quite home on the range, but he does deliver a very good performance.
Best in the film however by far is Vic Morrow. He's the son of a rival rancher who Cagney catches stealing his horses. I can't say, but watch what he does to 'punish' him and then lets up. But Morrow's speech letting him know he's got a permanent enemy is the highlight of the film.
Without Cagney the film would be less than memorable though.