Rawhide (1952)



In a remote mail outpost, a stagecoach employee (Tyron Power, The Black Swan), his boss (Edgar Buchanan, Ride the High Country) and a woman (Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!) traveling with a baby are held hostage by a group of outlaws (Hugh Marlowe, All About Eve, Jack Elam, Once Upon a Time in the West, George Tobias, Sergeant York, and Dean Jagger, Elmer Gantry) who are planning to rob a shipment of gold.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Entertaining if a tad formulaic western, written by Dudley Nichols (Stagecoach) and directed by Henry Hathaway (True Grit), two veterans of the genre. Rawhide doesn’t offer many surprises, but the cast is in top form and the locations — Pine, California — add tremendously to the tense atmosphere.

Rawhide (not to be confused with the famous TV series of the same name) is a low-key western. This is a character-driven, moody western, which has more things in common with post-war noir than with stylish 1950s westerns like Shane or Rio Bravo.

Susan Hayward is the best thing about the movie. She plays a tarty lady who is not afraid of anything. Deliberately or not, Hayward dominates the film with a robust characterization. She’s so strong that co-star Tyron Power looks a bit weak in comparison. Granted, Power plays a less colorful character and that allows Hayward to act circles around him, and everybody else for that matter.

Unfortunately, Rawhide has a weak villain, played by Hugh Marlowe. The actor just wrong for the part — Marlowe looks more like a college professor than a sadistic outlaw. It’s a mistake that prevents the movie from really soaring. The rest of the cast is wonderful, though. Jack Elam is a great as one of Marlowe’s henchmen. Dean Jagger is even better — he’s able to create a multidimensional character out of a cardboard villain. Kenneth Tobey (Strange Invaders) has a tiny role.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Rawhide isn’t a classic, but it’s pretty good. The movie looks great — Milton R. Krasner’s (An Affair to Remember) b&w cinematography is gorgeous and moody. P.S. This film, and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), are the main inspiration for director & writer Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 western, The Hateful Eight.  Narrated by Gary Merrill (Phone Call from a Stranger). B&W, 89 minutes,  Not Rated.

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