Thursday August, 1 2019 at 04:30 AM
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Once upon a time a film like The Rounders (1965) would have been classified by movie industry insiders as a "sleeper": in other words, a film that had no expectations attached to it but surprised everyone by being an unheralded little gem. Unfortunately, studios rarely knew how to market these films and as a result, they got stuck on the bottom of double bills with negligible companion features. The Rounders is a perfect example of this. It got stuck on a double feature with a mindless musical romance called Get Yourself a College Girl when first released. Nevertheless, it is now regarded as one of Henry Fonda's most popular films from the sixties and it even inspired a TV series with the same title starring Patrick Wayne in the Fonda role.
The premise is simple but slightly cockeyed. Two aging cowpokes hit on a scheme to get rich taming wild broncos and then retire to Tahiti with their savings. Never mind that they are hopeless at saving money, squander every penny on loose women and booze, and aren't even very good at picking champion horses. Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford play the none-too-bright cowhands in question and part of the film's pleasure comes in watching these two pros have fun with these bewildered characters as things go from bad to worse. For the record, a rounder is a wastrel or dissolute person but you won't see a more whimsical treatment anywhere of two complete losers.
The Rounders was filmed on location in the Coconino Forest in Arizona and was produced by Richard E. Lyons who also responsible for another excellent western in an entirely different vein a few years earlier - Ride the High Country, directed by Sam Peckinpah. That film also suffered the same fate as The Rounders. It was buried in double bills at drive-ins and second-run theatres because the studio brass at MGM didn't know what to do with it.
Offscreen, during the making of The Rounders, Henry Fonda and his son Peter were going through a turbulent time in their relationship, something acerbated by the counterculture movements of the sixties. In The Fondas: A Hollywood Dynasty (G. P. Putnam's Sons), author Peter Collier relates an incident that happened on the set of The Rounders: "When Peter went to the Arizona location of The Rounders to visit the son of Henry's co-star Glenn Ford....he discovered that the cast was planning a surprise birthday party for his father. When he was not invited, he sent Henry a nasty and illogical note of blame, and he would have left in a huff had the director, Burt Kennedy, not stopped him and pointed out the obvious: Since it was a surprise party, Henry could not have been the one who excluded him."
Director: Burt Kennedy
Producer: Richard E. Lyons
Screenplay: Burt Kennedy (based on the novel by Max Evans)
Cinematography: Paul C. Vogel
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Henry Fonda (Howdy Lewis), Glenn Ford (Ben Jones), Chill Wills (Jim Ed Love), Sue Ann Langdon (Mary), Edgar Buchanan (Vince Moore).
C-85m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Jeff Stafford