3:10 to Yuma (1957)

“Lots of things happen where all you can do is stand by and watch.”

Synopsis:
A destitute farmer (Van Heflin) and a drunk (Henry Jones) are hired by stagecoach company owner Mr. Butterfield (Robert Emhardt) to accompany an outlaw (Glenn Ford) to Contention City, where the 3:10 train will take him to prison in Yuma. In the meantime, Ford’s posse — led by Richard Jaeckel — plots to rescue him, while Ford tries to bribe Heflin into letting him go.

Genres:

Review:
This character-driven western, directed by Delmer Daves, tells a simple yet taut tale of a weary family man (Heflin) who wants nothing more than to keep his farm afloat, and the cocky outlaw (Ford) who gradually grows to admire his principles. In essence, it’s an extended cat-and-mouse narrative, as each man carefully plays off the other; along the way, we’re asked to question — primarily through the character of Heflin’s spitfire teenage son, who’s eminently scornful of his “wimpy” dad — what it means to “be a man” and stand up for one’s self. Heflin is appropriately complex and troubled in the lead role, but it’s Glenn Ford’s turn as Ben Wade which most impresses — his intense performance never misses a beat. Unfortunately, 3:10‘s ending takes an unexpected turn which beggars belief and goes far beyond reasonable expectations — but it’s difficult to fault the script (based on an Elmore Leonard short story) too harshly, given the fine ride until then.

P.S. 3:10 has achieved renewed interest given the compelling 2007 remake by James Mangold, starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. Interestingly, the new film — fine in nearly every respect — sports an equally unsatisfying ending.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Glenn Ford as Ben Wade
    310 Glenn Ford
  • Atmospheric direction by Delmer Daves
    310 Direction
  • Fine b&w cinematography
    310 Cinematography
  • A satisfying script

Must See?
Yes, simply for Ford’s performance.

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One Response to “3:10 to Yuma (1957)”

  1. An absolute must – I love this movie! Each time I see this pressure-cooker, it grabs me and won’t let go. A reliable actor, Ford was, as I recall, always good. This could arguably be his best performance (it’s almost certainly his sexiest, in a smoldering way), but I don’t think it’s the only reason to see the film. And, as co-star, Van Heflin meets him every step of the way.

    As noted, the story is simple – for a western (usually structured around a series of incidents), surprisingly little happens. What we’re left with is a series of episodes in which, for the most part, people talk. But the tension throughout is palpable.

    [It’s rather amazing to think that Elmore Leonard’s work goes back this far. This was based on a short story of his. He was born in 1925, and I recently read his latest novel ‘Up In Honey’s Room’, just now in paperback – and simply terrific.]

    Fave scenes:
    -Ford has supper with Heflin and his family
    -All scenes between Ford and Heflin when they’re holed up together near the end

    This is a perfectly realized film in all aspects, and ffs can easily return to it from time to time. I tried to watch the remake when it came out on DVD – I didn’t make it all the way through and I’m not sure why: I like the leads but it just didn’t hold me like the original did, and I gave up.

    [Note: Having read the book, I would love to someday come across Daves’ film of ‘Youngblood Hawke’ – nearly impossible to find.]

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