3:10 to Yuma
In a career stretching from 1915 (he made his acting debut at 11 in a silent version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol) to 1965, Delmer Daves racked up credits as actor, writer, producer and director of every type of film Hollywood ever produced, but he did his best and most memorable work in Westerns. Along with a handful of films by other directors, notably High Noon (1952), to which this story bears resemblance, Daves ushered in a new era in the genre with Broken Arrow (1950), starring Jeff Chandler as Apache warrior Cochise, one of the few films to treat Indians with dignity and understanding. Daves' films brought modern psychological themes, a breakdown in romantic stereotypes, and moral ambiguities to a genre often characterized by good guy/bad guy gunplay. He is ably assisted in bringing out the movie's gray-shaded themes and rising tension by the performances of Heflin, casting his solid American plainness in a role similar to the actor's work in Shane (1953), and Glenn Ford, playing against type as a villain, although a charming one who displays a measure of decency at the end.
The film is as noteworthy for its technique as for its theme and characters. Daves shot 3:10 to Yuma in black and white in a time when color had become the standard for Westerns. One of the most significant departures from the genre is its setting, much of it takes place not in the great outdoors but within the confines of a single room. But the exterior sequences are also very striking; Daves used red filters to give a heightened, harsher sense of a land ravaged by drought. One of the other oddities in this project is its adaptation from a story by Elmore Leonard. Although he started his career with several interesting Western stories, particularly his novel Valdez Is Coming, made into a Burt Lancaster film in 1971, Leonard is best known today for complex, darkly funny modern crime stories. Two of his most popular books have been turned into critically and commercially successful films: Get Shorty (1995) and Out of Sight (1998). Interesting note: Leonard wrote the script for the television sequel High Noon Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980).
This was Daves' second film with Glenn Ford, following the Othello-based Western Jubal (1956), which also starred Felicia Farr, who appears in 3:10 to Yuma and Daves' earlier film The Last Wagon (1956). Daves' next project after this was Cowboy (1958), which paired Ford with Farr's husband-to-be Jack Lemmon.
Director: Delmer Daves
Producer: David Heilweil
Screenplay: Halsted Welles , based on a story by Elmore Leonard
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: Frank Hotaling
Music: George Duning, Ned Washington
Cast: Glenn Ford (Ben Wade), Van Heflin (Dan Evans), Felicia Farr (Emmy), Henry Jones (Alex Potter), Richard Jaeckel (Charlie Prince).
by Rob Nixon