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Dallas (1950) may be one of Gary Cooper's lesser-known Westerns, but it remains of interest today for Cooper's performance as Blayde Hollister, its intriguing supporting cast, and its strong Technicolor photography by Ernest Haller. For good measure, the historical figure of Wild Bill Hickok (played by Reed Hadley) makes an appearance as one of Hollister's allies. The film historian Bruce Chadwick considers Dallas one of the best films about the ongoing tensions between the North and the South after the Civil War and the subsequent process of reconciliation. (The character Hollister's nickname is "Reb," in case there is any question about which side he fought on.)
While Cooper's stoicism certainly suits the role, in fact he was not the first choice as Hollister. Errol Flynn, Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum were all considered for the lead. Tonia Robles, Hollister's love interest, is played by Ruth Roman. At the time of production (May-June 1950), she was 27 and Gary Cooper was 49. When the film was released newspaper ads played up the romance angle with tag lines such as "When Texas was a powder keg - they lit the fuse!" and "You'll remember big Reb and his Border Lady." Of Polish-Russian origin, Roman also appeared in notable films such as the boxing drama Champion (1949), Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) and Anthony Mann's The Far Country (1954). She later performed mostly on television.
The villain Bryant Marlow is played by the beefy Steve Cochran, who gained notoriety as a hard-living ladies' man. The year before, he made his reputation as Big Ed Somers in White Heat (1949) and even played a Klansman in Storm Warning (1950). Later he established his own production company, Robert Alexander Productions, and helped produce two of his most interesting films, Come Next Spring (1956) and Michelangelo Antonioni's Il Grido (1957). He spent the latter part of his career acting on television, and died unexpectedly of a pulmonary infection in 1965 while sailing off the coast of Guatemala with a bevy of young women. Bryant's girl Flo is played by Barbara Payton, a starlet who later wrote the scandalous tell-all autobiography I Am Not Ashamed (1963), about her affairs in Hollywood and her eventual decline into alcoholism and prostitution. Bryant Marlow's brother Will, the slick businessman and silent partner in crime, is played by the veteran Raymond Massey.
But the true veteran in the film is surely Antonio Moreno. Originally from Spain, he had worked in the film industry since the early 1910s. Some of his earliest roles were in D. W. Griffith Biograph shorts, including The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912). The handsome young actor later played leading roles opposite Greta Garbo in The Temptress (1926) and Clara Bow in It (1927). During the 1930s, Moreno made a number of Spanish language versions of Universal and Fox productions, and later played in Mexican films as well. One of his very last roles was in John Ford's The Searchers (1956).
Dallas received good, but not stellar reviews upon its initial release in December 1950-January 1951. John L. Scott of the Los Angeles Times admired the film's "well staged" action sequences and also liked Massey and Cochran as the Marlow brothers. As for Ruth Roman, he wrote, "Her role as a decorous young woman doesn't give much chance to fire up, but she's gorgeous in the period costumes." In his review for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther appreciated the film mainly as an entertaining, if slight, Western that offered viewers the opportunity to see Gary Cooper being Gary Cooper. He wrote, "Stuart Heisler's direction is not outstanding, but he kept his cameras going when the horses were on the run."
Producer: Anthony Veiller
Director: Stuart Heisler
Script: John Twist
Director of Photography: Ernest Haller
Art Director: Douglas Bacon
Film Editor: Clarence Kolster
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Gary Cooper (Blayde "Reb" Holllister); Ruth Roman (Tonia Robles); Steve Cochran (Bryant Marlow), Raymond Massey (Will Marlow), Barbara Payton (Flo), Leif Erickson (Martin Weatherby), Antonio Moreno (Felipe Robles), Jerome Cowan (Matt Coulter), Reed Hadley (Wild Bill Hickok), Gil Donaldson (Luis).
by James Steffen
Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Crowther, Bosley. "The Screen in Review." (Review of Dallas.) New York Times, January 13, 1951.
Scott, John L. "Those Wide, Open Spaces Welcome a Favorite Son," Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1950.