Great Day in the Morning (1956)

“Sure, I’m loyal. I’ve got an undying loyalty to myself and no one else, nothing else.”


Near the start of the Civil War, an apolitical Southern profiteer (Robert Stack) in Colorado becomes embroiled in a heated stand-off between Unionists and Confederates; meanwhile, he finds himself caught in a love triangle between a feisty saloon hostess named Boston (Ruth Roman) and a prim-and-proper dress-shop owner (Virginia Mayo).


Jacques Tourneur’s Civil War-era western is notable primarily for Lesser Samuels’ intelligent script, which deftly explores the tensions between “Northern” and “Southern” sympathizers in a non-strategic territory of the U.S. The screenplay features many memorable lines, and Robert Stack’s character is drawn as a reasonably compelling anti-hero. The film also benefits from fine supporting performances by both Ruth Roman (appropriately savvy and forward as a woman who immediately falls for Stack) and Raymond Burr (intensely angry as Roman’s jilted, would-be lover); unfortunately, Virginia Mayo fares much worse (she performs her scenes with melodrama rather than nuance), and Stack should have at least attempted a southern accent. Surprisingly, little of Tourneur’s signature directorial style is in evidence here, making this a somewhat puzzling — albeit enjoyable — inclusion in Peary’s book.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ruth Roman as Boston
  • Raymond Burr as Jumbo Means
  • An effective look at pre-Civil War loyalties and tensions
  • A clever script with many pithy lines: “The North and South are natural enemies — like husband and wife.”

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing.


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