Sunday, August 5, 2007

August 5th Log

1976, Don Siegel, United States

1st Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

The Shootist is the final film of legendary star John Wayne. It is a film that stands as a wonderful tribute and swan song of an iconic figure in American film history. The film is directed by Don Siegel at his trademark skilled pace and sense of realism. Siegel keeps the action and plot minimal, instead focusing on character development, or more specifically on John Wayne. Amazingly, Wayne was not the first or even second choice for the film, but when he was offered the part it completely transformed into a definitive role and a tribute to his significant career as both an American actor and an American symbol. Of course Wayne’s health problems on the set parallel those with that of his character here. James Stewart took a small role in the film to honor his good friend, whom he previously starred alongside with in John Ford’s 1962 masterpiece The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Also, Lauren Bacall gives a terrific performance as the widow mother who runs the house that Wayne decides to spend his final days (a young Ron Howard plays her son). The Shootist is an important final tribute to an important actor. Being John Wayne’s last film, the significance of The Shootist takes on more depth and it seems even more fittingly significant as a tribute to his career and persona.

1950, John Ford, United States

Repeat Viewing, DVD

Rio Grande is the third and final film of John Ford’s ‘cavalry trilogy’, and it also marks one of the pivotal works into his emergence as an individual artist outside the studio. Though Rio Grande was made within the studio, Ford (as he was able to do with many of his greatest films) worked within the conventions to create his own personal vision of artists filmmaking. Rio Grande is a film that is so carefully and beautifully made and one in which the small moments truly shine. As often with Ford, who was a visual poet, the most subtle moments can be the most impacting of the film (I love the shot of John Wayne peeking into the window at his son). It is these Ford moments that capture all it’s expression through visuals alone. Of course Ford’s mastery as a storyteller is never lost, and Rio Grande has something for everyone to enjoy- action, romance, comedy, and a great cast of many Ford-regulars). This is the first of many collaborations between Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, who would also star in Ford’s next film The Quiet Man. Rio Grande features many of Ford’s themes on honor, and courage. However, the emotional core of the film is the contrasting of patriotic duty and family responsibility. This is where the strength of the film lies and in the hands a of great filmmaker Rio Grande becomes a wonderful film. I can’t say the film is as flawless as some of Ford’s very greatest masterworks, but this remains a great film in it’s own right.


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