5 March 2009 | dougdoepke
Too Earnest for Its Own Good
A rather dour Reconstruction Western that's probably too earnest for its own good. Writer Hall Bartlett's heart is in the right placereconciling North and South following the Civil War. Union Major Drango (Chandler) wants to unite rebellious Confederate town around a regime of humane occupation, despite widespread resistance. The supporting cast is familiar from about every popular TV series of the dayStone, Phillips, Sande, Ankrum, Baer. Too bad the powerful Donald Crisp is largely wasted in a circumscribed role, and why Julie London's presence other than to build box-office appeal is unclear to me. In fact, her romantic subplot with Lupton sprawls the story without strengthening it.
Also, reviewer Lorenellroy is rightChandler's major comes across as too stiff and unappealing for a central character. His besieged Major should be serious, but the seriousness is finally carried to a deadening degree. Bartlett was interesting as a producer, especially with Navajo and Unchained. Here, however, I'm afraid he tries to do too much with a screenplay that ends up in too many talky subplots. Then too, direction should have been left to a better stylist since the core material had potential.
In passingnote that no reference to slavery or appearance of a black person occurs anywhere in the movie, a rather startling omission for a film dealing with the post-Civil War South. My guess is that the producers, like others of the period, didn't want to risk dealing with a sensitive subject at a time when Jim Crow laws still prevailed below the Mason-Dixon Line. Anyway, considering the number of Westerns on TV and in theatres in 1957, it's probably not surprising that despite good intentions and a fine performance from Joanne Dru this dour little oddity has remained lost in the mix.