Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Not-so-Overlooked Films: The Gunfighter (1950)

Sadlly, The Gunfighter is not about gunfighting. It's a about a gunfighter regretting the life he's led and losing everything he's ever wanted. And if that's not depressing enough, all the other characters are helping him regret, and helping him lose. It's what you might call an anti-gunfighter film.

The trouble is, the producers of this one were so intent on making a "grown up" western that they forgot what makes a western good. Despite the smoking six-guns depicted on the posters, this one has almost no shooting, dang little action, and not a lick of fun. Gregory Peck spends most of his screen time fretting and regretting in a near-empty saloon. And just to prove how grown up the film is, it delivers a totally predictable downbeat ending.

I ain't saying grown-up themes or emotions are bad, even in westerns, but they're a lot easier to take when balanced with a little raucous humor and gratuitous violence. If this is an "A" western, I'll take a "B" every time.

Punk Kid #1 challenges Gunfighter. 

Punk Kid #1 bites the dust. (Yeah, this is the same scene, but the lobby cards for the rerelease were colorized differently than the originals.)

Punk Kid #1's brothers come looking for trouble.

In the next town, Gunfighter discovers an old pal packing a star.

An ex-father tries to bushwhack Gunfighter, believing G killed his son. 

Ex-Father is invited to cool his heels.

Punk Kid #2 tries (and fails) to pick a fight.

Ex-girlfriend declines G's invitation to visit South America.

The downbeat denouement.

More Overlooked Films await you at SWEET FREEDOM. 


Cap'n Bob said...

The movie tanked. Peck said he researched gunfighters and noticed most of them had mustaches, so he grew one. It didn't appeal to his female fans, who stayed away in droves. years later the producer met Peck and said something likie, "You son-of-a-bitch, that mustache of yours cost me a million dollars."

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I'm quite partial to this one, if nothign else because it sombre tone and careful handling makes it feel, tonally, so different from many a B oater. Always surprised me that Peck made as many Westerns as he did since it didn't really seem to chime with his urban persona, which may be why THE BIG COUNTRY, in which he plays an outsider, is for me the best of them.

Mike Britt said...

I saw this movie in the theater back in 1950 and the only thing that I remember about it was that it was a great disappointment to a seven year old boy who was used to double features that included a Roy Rogers and a Bowery Boys, a cartoon and a Three Stooges short. It often plays on the "Westerns" cable channel and I have avoided because of my memories of it...maybe I am finally mature enough to watch and enjoy it now.

Evan Lewis said...

I'm plenty old enough to be mature, but I guess it didn't take.

Fred Blosser said...

They did one thing right: It's hard to beat Richard Jaeckel and Skip Homeier as blowhard punks.

Anonymous said...

The movie tanked at the box office, but, oddly, the premise was copied by other movies and TV shows: The Fastest Gun Alive and The Last Challenge, both with Glenn Ford, and episodes of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Rawhide (guest starring, respectively, Steve Forrest, Robert Culp, and James Gregory). Some of those did add more action and/or happy endings, though. Peck's historically accurate mustache seems to have been box office poison at the time, but it did not seem to hurt Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck years later.

Ron Scheer said...

The mustache aversion in the 1950s I've heard attributed to the bad rep Joe Stalin was giving it. And Hitler before that...I like this film, partly because it makes for a change from all that the title leads you to expect. Of course, I didn't see it as a kid and would probably have been bored to death by it when I was nine.

Lexman said...

I watched this a while ago when i was in my teens and loved it a lot, haven't seen it since, thanks for the great pictures and posters!