Arguably Hawks' greatest film, a deceptively rambling chamber Western made in response to the liberal homilies of High Noon. Here the marshal in need of help is Wayne, desperately fending off a clan of villains determined to release the murderer he's holding in jail until the arrival of the state magistrate. Unlike Cooper, however, he rejects rather than courts offers of help, simply because his supporters are either too old (Brennan), too young (Nelson), female (Dickinson) or alcoholic (Martin). Thus the film becomes an examination of various forms of pride, prejudice and professionalism, as the various outcasts slowly cohere through mutual aid to form one of the director's beloved self-contained groups. Little of the film is shot outdoors, with a subsequent increase in claustrophobic tension, while Hawks peppers the generally relaxed and easy narrative - which even takes time out to include a couple of songs for Dino and Ricky - with superb set pieces: Dino's redemptory shooting of a fugitive villain; the explosive finale in which Duke realises he needs all the help he can get. Beautifully acted, wonderfully observed, and scripted with enormous wit and generosity, it's the sort of film, in David Thomson's words, which reveals that 'men are more expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world'.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman|
Harry Carey Jr