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Month: January 2008

Ox-Bow Incident, The (1943)

Ox-Bow Incident, The (1943)

“Don’t let’s go off half-cocked and do something we’ll be sorry for — we want to act in a reasoned and legitimate manner, not like a lawless mob.”

Synopsis:
Two drifters (Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan) join a vengeance-hungry posse eager to hang three men — Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn, and Francis Ford — who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary appropriately labels this relentlessly “grim” western (based on Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s novel) as “a bit too theatrical”, noting that director William Wellman’s camera is “rarely… on someone who isn’t speaking” — yet despite the static, somewhat stagy direction, it remains an undeniably powerful tale of mob mentality, one which (sadly) holds more relevance today than ever. Top-billed Fonda (in a role somewhat similar to his “Juror #8” in Twelve Angry Men) is really more of a supporting presence, functioning as one of the few participants level-headed enough to recognize that the posse is rushing heedlessly into criminal action; indeed, Ox-Bow is truly an ensemble film, with the cast of (mostly) repugnant characters representing group-think at its worst. What’s most fascinating is recognizing how several key posse members — primarily ultra-macho Major Tetley (Frank Conroy), who wants his effeminate son (William Eythe) to prove his “manliness” through violence — have deeply personal reasons for wanting to exact “justice” at any cost, while others are simply turned on by the thought of a triple hanging. While it’s not a film I look forward to revisiting any time soon, The Ox-Bow Incident remains an essential part of cinematic history, and should be seen by all film fanatics at least once.

P.S. My favorite moments are those with the inimitable Anthony Quinn, who’s given far too little screen time: despite his (initial) feigned innocence and lack of English skills, his eyes are simmering with bitterness and knowledge; when he finally confesses to knowing “seven languages”, and digs a bullet out of his own leg when no one else is brave enough to stomach the task, he brilliantly defies all the unspoken stereotypes heaped upon him because of his “ethnic” appearance.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dana Andrews as Donald Martin
    OxBow Andrews
  • Henry Fonda as Gil Carter
    OxBow Fonda
  • Anthony Quinn as “The Mexican”
    OxBow Quinn
  • A deeply disturbing look at mob mentality run amok
    OxBow Mob

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a seminal western.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

“Dogs have fleas; managers have sports writers.”

Synopsis:
The foul-mouthed manager (Paul Douglas) of a losing baseball team (the Pittsburgh Pirates) is visited by an angel, who promises him that a team of heavenly players will help the Pirates win the pennant — if Douglas cleans up his act. Aided by a plucky journalist (Janet Leigh) and a winsome young orphan (Donna Corcoran) who claims to actually see the team of angels, Douglas soon finds himself a changed man, and the Pirates begin winning games.

Genres:

Review:
Clearly banking upon the popularity of earlier fantasy hits such as Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Angels in the Outfield is an innocuous, somewhat derivative, yet surprisingly heartwarming “family film”. What’s not to like about watching curmudgeonly Paul Douglas turn into a respectful, child-loving teddy bear, or adorable moppet Donna Corcoran insisting loudly to her only-in-Hollywood loving nun protectors (Spring Byington and Ellen Corby) that she sees angels roosting behind each of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The story itself is, naturally, unrealistic — particularly the way in which Douglas and Leigh are magically pulled together as a May-December couple by the end of the film, despite a lack of any overtly romantic overtones — but it’s fairly easy to forgive these gaffes and simply enjoy the events as they unfold. Laugh-out-loud moments include the clever way in which the sound studio depicts Douglas’s swearing in early scenes, and Douglas’s misinterpretation of Leigh’s instruction to dry her rain-soaked shoes UNDER a warm oven.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Paul Douglas as Guffy McGovern
  • Janet Leigh as Jennifer Paige
  • Donna Corcoran as Bridget
  • A genuinely warm-hearted, good-natured “family film”

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book (no surprise, given his love of baseball).

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