There Was a Crooked Man…

A sharply and literately witty Western comedy of manners, scripted by Benton and Newman (of Bonnie and Clyde) and set largely in an Arizona prison, 1883 vintage, peopled by a wonderful collection of rogues including a homicidal Chinaman, a dimwitted gunslinger (Oates), a pair of old-maidish conmen (Cronyn, Randolph), and - most memorably - the Missouri Kid (Meredith), once a great train robber but now a rheumy-eyed old man dreaming of the past and of the idyllic little farm he will never own. King of this community is new arrival Douglas, a cold-blooded outlaw smiling amiably behind steel-rimmed glasses, biding his time (he has loot stashed outside) but seen as a potential leader of men by the new warden (Fonda), a staunch believer in the milk of human kindness who enlists his aid in turning the place into a model prison. The resolution, cynically demonstrating the relativity of good and evil, comes a little too pat; but the performances, the set pieces, and the overall tone are irresistible.

Release details

Duration: 126 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Joseph L Mankiewicz
Screenwriter: Robert Benton, David Newman
Cast: Warren Oates
John Randolph
Arthur O'Connell
Martin Gabel
Burgess Meredith
Henry Fonda
Lee Grant
Kirk Douglas
Hume Cronyn
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