Great Day in the Morning (1956)

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

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Synopsis:
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).

Genres:

Review:
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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