Man of the West


1h 40m 1958
Man of the West

Brief Synopsis

A reformed outlaw is among the hostages when his former colleagues rob a train.

Film Details

Genre
Western
Period
Adaptation
Release Date
Oct 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Ashton Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Sonora, California, United States; Sonora, California, United States; Thousand Oaks, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Border Jumpers by Will C. Brown (New York, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Reformed outlaw Link Jones travels to Crosscut, Texas to catch the train to Fort Worth, where he intends to use the savings of his community of Good Hope to hire a schoolteacher. On the train platform Sam Beasley speaks with Link briefly, rousing the suspicions of the town marshal, who advises Link that Sam is a known con man. When the marshal comments that Link looks familiar, Links is evasive about his identity. Onboard the train, Sam impulsively joins Link and upon learning of his mission in Fort Worth, claims he may be able to help. Their conversation is overheard by shady-looking fellow passenger Alcutt. When the train stops to pick up wood for additional fuel, Sam introduces Link to the Crosscut saloon singer, Billie Ellis, who Sam insists would make an ideal teacher. While the other male passengers help load the train with wood, Alcutt remains onboard feigning sleep in order to signal to three other men, Coaley Tobin, Trout and Ponch, who then attempt to hold up the train. Link tries to intervene and is knocked unconscious. The holdup is prevented by the quick actions of the train guard, who orders the train to pull away. Alcutt takes Link's bag containing Good Hope's money before jumping from the train, but is wounded as the robbers flee. Link revives to discover that he, Sam and Billie have been left behind, many miles from the nearest town. Link leads Billie and Sam to a ramshackle farm, then admits that he used to live there years earlier. While the others wait in the barn, Link enters the run-down house and finds the train robbers hiding inside. Coaley is suspicious of Link's claim that he and the others simply want to rest for the night. The men are interrupted by the appearance of aging outlaw Dock Tobin, who is startled to see Link, his nephew, whom he raised as a killer and thief and who abandoned him more than a dozen years earlier to go straight. Tobin laments that nothing has been the same since Link's departure and introduces him to the roughnecks he now commands, including Link's own cousin, Coaley. Disturbed by the revelation of Link's identity, Coaley demonstrates his toughness by killing Alcutt, who is near death from his wound. Realizing the danger of his situation, Link has Sam and Billie brought into the house and lies to Tobin, telling him that he intentionally sought out his uncle after being left by the train. Tobin reveals his long-held ambition to rob the bank at the town of Lassoo and asserts that Link's return to the gang makes that possible. Link agrees to participate in the holdup to protect Billie, and after declaring that she is his girl friend, leaves to assist Sam in digging a grave for Alcutt. Hearing Billie scream, Link finds Coaley drunkenly insisting that she strip. Coaley holds a knife to Link's throat to prevent him from interfering and Tobin remains disinterested until Billie is nearly undressed. The old man then intervenes and laughingly sends Link and Billie to sleep in the barn. There, Billie tells Link that she is incredulous that he ever could have been involved with such degraded, violent men, but Link states that he was just like them, until he forced himself to break away to find another life. When Link finds his empty bag in the hay, he angrily declares that he must get back Good Hope's money even if he has to kill the entire gang. Although frightened by their situation, Billie is touched by Link's sincere efforts to protect her and his gentlemanly manner with her. The following morning, Link tells Billie of his difficulties in starting over, but that he eventually succeeded and has a wife and two children, as well as the grudging respect of the townspeople, who know about his past and yet trust him enough to give him all of their money. Claude Tobin, another of Link's cousins, arrives inquiring about the train holdup and is displeased about Link's return. Claude then reveals that the Crosscut marshal recalled Link's identity and has connected him to the Tobin gang. Tobin rejects Claude and Coaley's suggestion of killing Link and the others and they depart on the four-day ride to Lassoo. That evening, Link goads Coaley into a fistfight and beats him severely, then forcibly strips him of his clothes. Deeply humiliated, and against Tobin's orders, Coaley attempts to shoot Link, but Sam intercedes and is killed instead. Tobin then shoots Coaley for disobeying him. That evening during a private conversation with Link, Billie laments that she has finally found a man worth loving, but can never have him. The next day Link asks Claude why he remained with Tobin, prompting Claude to declare that he loves Tobin as the only father he ever had and cautions Link that he will not succeed in defeating the gang. Outside of Lassoo, Link volunteers for the holdup job, but Tobin insists that he be accompanied by the mute Trout. Link and Trout discover Lassoo is a ghost town and the bank deserted except for a frightened old Mexican woman, whom Trout kills in panic. Link kills Trout, then awaits the arrival of Claude and Ponch. In a drawn-out gun battle, Claude and Ponch attempt to encircle Link, but Link kills Ponch first, then eventually and with some regret, Claude. Returning to the camp, Link discovers Tobin has raped and beaten Billie and goes in search of the old man, who is wandering drunkenly in the nearby mountains. Link tells Tobin that, like Lassoo, he is a ghost and finished, then kills him and reclaims the bag of Good Hope's money. Riding back with Link to civilization, Billie declares she will resume singing, knowing that Link will return to his home and family.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Film Details

Genre
Western
Period
Adaptation
Release Date
Oct 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Ashton Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Sonora, California, United States; Sonora, California, United States; Thousand Oaks, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Border Jumpers by Will C. Brown (New York, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Man of the West


"I have seen nothing so completely new since - why not? - Griffith. Just as the director of Birth of a Nation (1915) gave one the impression that he was inventing the cinema with every shot, each shot of Man of the West (1958) gives one the impression that Anthony Mann is redefining the Western. It is, moreover, more than an impression, He does re-invent.
- Jean-Luc Godard writing on Man of the West after naming it one of the ten best films of 1958."

Anthony Mann's Man of the West (1958) ranks in the top ten Western films of all time and remains one of the unsung masterpieces of American filmmaking for a number of reasons; it represents an exceptional studio director at the peak of his storytelling skills, it blazed new trails in telling the story for the genre, it introduced and reinforced new ways in which to think about the evolving West, and the film presented to audiences perhaps the most complex idea of a Western hero ever seen.

Man of the West presaged by four years two important movies in the genre ­ Lonely are the Brave (1962), a film which personifies, in overt detail, the end of the cowboy's mythical status as the super-heroic traveler through the uncharted west, and Two Rode Together (1961) by John Ford. The latter announced the beginning of a new storytelling grammar in the Western which would lead to Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch in 1969, signaling the end of the traditional form of the genre in American film. But Man of the West was instrumental, as so many of this director's westerns were, in creating a new path for the genre in which American audiences would now see the west: it was a place of uncompromising brutality, where flawed heroes were born only through a harsh, violent, and abnormal environment as the West slowly moved toward civilized society. It was Mann's psychological portrayal of the Western hero traversing this difficult terrain that contributes so powerfully to the innumerable qualities of Man of the West.

As for Gary Cooper, who has starred in a few of the best Westerns ever made, it was an impressive return to the genre for a man in his fifties. He had not made a Western for five years before accepting Man of the West. Commenting after the premier of the film, Copper said "Most Westerns are just Easterners with men wearing big hats. They're cops' n-robbers stories. I turn down 99 out of 100 offered me..." Cooper had a keen eye for accepting Western roles that could make good use of his natural talent ­ the often delayed, pensive, Midwest charm which created instant sympathy with audiences. His Western roles were never the overly heroic, but the sensitively drawn and vulnerable characters who had clear kinks in their armor. In Man of the West, he made exceptional use of these skills to convincingly play a man with not only a dark past, but numerous shades of emotion - especially fear, shame, deception, tenderness, and violent rage.

A number of important elements in this film can be found in many of director Mann's earlier westerns. The hero is a loner, a social outcast with a checkered past that ultimately confronts him. He often has an evil twin, in this case played with great skill by John Dehner, his 'cousin' who represents Cooper's former self. Mann also makes use of landscapes and outdoor scenery not just as background, but as cinematic counterpoints to the characters in the story. A number of other ideas are also explored in this film which have clear antecedents and lines back to Mann's other westerns, and seeing Man of the West in conjunction with the Westerns' Mann made with Jimmy Stewart (Winchester '73 (1950), The Naked Spur (1953), Bend of the River (1952), The Far Country (1954), and The Man From Laramie, 1955) is to experience one of the finest compilations of any group of films ever created in a single genre.

One area of importance in Man of the West, and of Mann's westerns in general, is the director's signature but controversial use of violence. Where many other great Western storytellers such as John Ford, Budd Boetticher, and Delmer Daves used violence as a supporting dramatic note, Mann used violence to tell his story in often creative ways and, as a liberating force which not only frees the hero, but defines who he is. The extended fist fight between Gary Cooper and Jack Lord, Cooper's bleeding neck held by a knife as Lord forces Julie London to remove her clothes, the senseless killings of innocent bystanders, and the near continuous threat of violent death or rape by the Tobin gang are just a few examples. Whether one agrees with Mann on the nature of his use of violence is a matter of debate, but the viewer cannot watch Man of the West without feeling unsettled by the sheer force with which the director uses it to tell his story.

Mann was unable to realize his final western film ­ an adaptation of King Lear, of which there are clear overtones in Man of the West. This great film was his final masterpiece in the genre, an enduring contribution to the American Western and an important achievement in American film.

Producer: Walter M. Mirisch
Director: Anthony Mann
Screenplay: Will C. Brown (novel The Border Jumpers)
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Costume Design: Yvonne Wood (uncredited)
Film Editing: Richard V. Heermance
Original Music: Leigh Harline
Principal Cast: Gary Cooper (Link Jones), Julie London (Billie Ellis), Lee J. Cobb (Dock Tobin), Arthur O'Connell (Sam Beasley), Jack Lord (Coaley).
C-100m. Letterboxed.

by Richard Steiner

Man Of The West

Man of the West

"I have seen nothing so completely new since - why not? - Griffith. Just as the director of Birth of a Nation (1915) gave one the impression that he was inventing the cinema with every shot, each shot of Man of the West (1958) gives one the impression that Anthony Mann is redefining the Western. It is, moreover, more than an impression, He does re-invent. - Jean-Luc Godard writing on Man of the West after naming it one of the ten best films of 1958." Anthony Mann's Man of the West (1958) ranks in the top ten Western films of all time and remains one of the unsung masterpieces of American filmmaking for a number of reasons; it represents an exceptional studio director at the peak of his storytelling skills, it blazed new trails in telling the story for the genre, it introduced and reinforced new ways in which to think about the evolving West, and the film presented to audiences perhaps the most complex idea of a Western hero ever seen. Man of the West presaged by four years two important movies in the genre ­ Lonely are the Brave (1962), a film which personifies, in overt detail, the end of the cowboy's mythical status as the super-heroic traveler through the uncharted west, and Two Rode Together (1961) by John Ford. The latter announced the beginning of a new storytelling grammar in the Western which would lead to Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch in 1969, signaling the end of the traditional form of the genre in American film. But Man of the West was instrumental, as so many of this director's westerns were, in creating a new path for the genre in which American audiences would now see the west: it was a place of uncompromising brutality, where flawed heroes were born only through a harsh, violent, and abnormal environment as the West slowly moved toward civilized society. It was Mann's psychological portrayal of the Western hero traversing this difficult terrain that contributes so powerfully to the innumerable qualities of Man of the West. As for Gary Cooper, who has starred in a few of the best Westerns ever made, it was an impressive return to the genre for a man in his fifties. He had not made a Western for five years before accepting Man of the West. Commenting after the premier of the film, Copper said "Most Westerns are just Easterners with men wearing big hats. They're cops' n-robbers stories. I turn down 99 out of 100 offered me..." Cooper had a keen eye for accepting Western roles that could make good use of his natural talent ­ the often delayed, pensive, Midwest charm which created instant sympathy with audiences. His Western roles were never the overly heroic, but the sensitively drawn and vulnerable characters who had clear kinks in their armor. In Man of the West, he made exceptional use of these skills to convincingly play a man with not only a dark past, but numerous shades of emotion - especially fear, shame, deception, tenderness, and violent rage. A number of important elements in this film can be found in many of director Mann's earlier westerns. The hero is a loner, a social outcast with a checkered past that ultimately confronts him. He often has an evil twin, in this case played with great skill by John Dehner, his 'cousin' who represents Cooper's former self. Mann also makes use of landscapes and outdoor scenery not just as background, but as cinematic counterpoints to the characters in the story. A number of other ideas are also explored in this film which have clear antecedents and lines back to Mann's other westerns, and seeing Man of the West in conjunction with the Westerns' Mann made with Jimmy Stewart (Winchester '73 (1950), The Naked Spur (1953), Bend of the River (1952), The Far Country (1954), and The Man From Laramie, 1955) is to experience one of the finest compilations of any group of films ever created in a single genre. One area of importance in Man of the West, and of Mann's westerns in general, is the director's signature but controversial use of violence. Where many other great Western storytellers such as John Ford, Budd Boetticher, and Delmer Daves used violence as a supporting dramatic note, Mann used violence to tell his story in often creative ways and, as a liberating force which not only frees the hero, but defines who he is. The extended fist fight between Gary Cooper and Jack Lord, Cooper's bleeding neck held by a knife as Lord forces Julie London to remove her clothes, the senseless killings of innocent bystanders, and the near continuous threat of violent death or rape by the Tobin gang are just a few examples. Whether one agrees with Mann on the nature of his use of violence is a matter of debate, but the viewer cannot watch Man of the West without feeling unsettled by the sheer force with which the director uses it to tell his story. Mann was unable to realize his final western film ­ an adaptation of King Lear, of which there are clear overtones in Man of the West. This great film was his final masterpiece in the genre, an enduring contribution to the American Western and an important achievement in American film. Producer: Walter M. Mirisch Director: Anthony Mann Screenplay: Will C. Brown (novel The Border Jumpers) Cinematography: Ernest Haller Costume Design: Yvonne Wood (uncredited) Film Editing: Richard V. Heermance Original Music: Leigh Harline Principal Cast: Gary Cooper (Link Jones), Julie London (Billie Ellis), Lee J. Cobb (Dock Tobin), Arthur O'Connell (Sam Beasley), Jack Lord (Coaley). C-100m. Letterboxed. by Richard Steiner

Quotes

There's a point where you either grow up and become a human being or you rot, like that bunch.
- Link Jones
Don't you talk anymore, Claude? We used to talk, you and me, when we were kids. What happened? Things have kind of gone to hell haven't they? And you're still at it - stealing and killing and running.
- Link Jones

Trivia

Notes

Although the Variety review stated that Man of the West was the "initial production by the Mirisch Co. for [distribution by] United Artists," the production company for the film was Ashton Productions, Inc. The Mirisch Company, Inc., formed in 1957 by producer Walter M. Mirisch and his brothers, released its first film, Fort Massacre, through United Artists in May 1958, several months before the release of Man of the West.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, exteriors for Man of the West were shot on location at Sonora and Thousand Oaks, CA, and the interiors were shot at Samuel Goldwyn Studios. The film's title song, written by Bobby Troup, was not in the print viewed. Jazz musician and sometime actor Troup also managed singer-actress Julie London throughout the mid-1950s. The two married in 1959.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1998

Shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.

CinemaScope

Released in United States Fall October 1958

Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.)

Released in United States Fall October 1958