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, Tulsa) traveling with a baby are held hostage by a group of nasty 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 western, written by Dudley Nichols (The Informer and Stagecoach), directed by Henry Hathaway (The Sons of Katie Elder and True Grit), two veterans of the genre. Overall, a bit too routine for my taste, not helped much by a main villain who lacks charisma. The two leading actors, however, are in top form and the locations, in Pine, California, add tremendously to the tense atmosphere.

It’s yummiliciously low-key. In the next few years, thanks to the invention of CinemaScope, westerns will become a bit more grandiose, so Rawhide was made in the style of a 1940s western and that’s perfectly fine with me. Milton R. Krasner’s (An Affair to Remember) crisp, atmospheric B&W cinematography is excellent and Sol Kaplan and Lionel Newman whip out a really nice music score.

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 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) — the actress has star quality!

As I suggested before, my main issue with the film is Harlowe, who is barely convincing as a ruthless gunfighter. He’s just wrong for the part. He 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. Elam is a great bad guy. Jagger is even better — he’s able to create a multidimensional character out of a cardboard villain. Beloved character actor Kenneth Tobey (Strange Invaders) has a tiny role.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Rawhide isn’t a classic, but it’s pretty good. This film, and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), are the inspiration for director & writer Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 western, The Hateful Eight. Not to be confused with the popular TV series. Narrated by Gary Merrill (Twelve O’Clock High). B&W, 89 minutes,  Not Rated.

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