The Man from Laramie (1955)

Directed by Anthony Mann - starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Alex Nicol, Cathy O'Donnell and Aline MacMahon as 'Kate Canady'

Stewart plays 'Will Lockhart', an ex-soldier seeking revenge for the death of his brother who was killed by Apaches using rifles. While trying to investigate who sold the Indians the guns, Lockhart runs afoul of powerful cattle baron Alec Waggoman (a superb Donald Crisp) and his spoiled brat of a son, Dave (Alex Nicol).

Alex Nicol is great as the whiney spoiled manchild, Dave. Throwing his weight around and showing off he picks on outsider Lockhart. He tosses a rope around him and drags him through a campfire, burns down his wagons and shoots his mules (off camera)! Dave is upsurped by Vic Hansbro (Arthur Kennedy) who runs the ranch himself and is like a son to Alec, possibly moreso than Dave.

Cathy O'Donnell plays 'Barbara Waggoman' caught between the love of Vic and Lockhart, the stranger, and a much older man. Cathy isn't given much to do but has a couple cute scenes with Stewart, one where they're drinking tea and carrying on.

Lockhart gets framed for knifing a wino (Jack Elam!) in a back alley and gets bailed out by Kate Canady (a spirited Aline MacMahon). She's an old love of Alec's and his only true competition in the country. She wants Lockhart to help her run the ranch. He wants nothing to do with it but needs her help so he agrees and begins looking over the cattle. What follows is one the most shocking sadistic scenes of violence in a pre-1960's mainstream picture, as if the poor mules weren't already enough. It's great.

THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is one of the best films of the genre, and possibly Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart's best film together. The relationships are grey and not everyone is as good or bad as they seem to be at first. Lots of ideas about fate, tragedy and love. Especially between the KING LEAR inspired good son/bad son. There's quite a bit of plot but it never gets bogged down and has a nice pace that is always moving and interesting. The New Mexico locations shot in CinemaScope are stunning, with expansive sweeping shots of the desert, the salt flats and the various ranches look beautiful. It's too bad Mann and Stewart didn't get to do more films together in Scope.

Six six-guns are pointed at James Stewart in this publicity still for the Columbia Pictures release,
The Man from Laramie (1955)

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