Man of the West
|Man of the West|
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Walter Mirisch|
|Screenplay by||Reginald Rose|
|Based on||The Border Jumpers
by Will C. Brown
Lee J. Cobb
|Music by||Leigh Harline|
|Edited by||Victor Heerman
Richard V. Heerman
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|October 1, 1958|
Man of the West is a 1958 American Western film starring Gary Cooper and directed by Anthony Mann, produced by Walter Mirisch and distributed by United Artists. The screenplay, written by Reginald Rose, is based on the 1955 novel The Border Jumpers, by Will C. Brown. The film co-stars Julie London, Arthur O'Connell and Lee J. Cobb in supporting. The film is one of Cooper's final western roles.
Former outlaw Link Jones (Cooper) travels from his small town to Texas to hire their first schoolteacher. When his train stops on the way, they are set upon by armed robbers but the train escapes leaving behind Jones, the fast-talking Sam Beasley (O'Connell) and saloon singer Billie Ellis (London). They start walking and eventually reach a place that Link knows well: the farmhouse where he once lived. There he finds the men who robbed the train and also his uncle, Dock Tobin (Cobb), who wants Link to return to his old ways and re-join his gang. Link has no interest in doing so and has to find a way out for them, knowing that they will die once the gangs finishes its next big job.
The film premiered in October 1, 1958. At the time of release, the film was largely panned by American critics, but it was praised by Jean-Luc Godard, who, before he became a director, was a film critic. Godard claimed that Man of the West was the best film of the year. Decades after the film's release, it has gained a cult following and greater acclaim, with film historian Phillip French claiming the film to be Anthony Mann's masterpiece, containing Cooper's finest performance.
On the train platform, Sam Beasley (Arthur O'Connell) speaks with Link briefly, rousing the suspicions of the town marshal, Sam being a known con man. When the marshal comments that Link looks familiar, Link gives him a false name.
Aboard the train, Sam impulsively joins Link, learns of his mission in Fort Worth and claims he can be of help. Sam introduces him to the Crosscut saloon singer, Billie Ellis (Julie London), insisting she could make an ideal teacher.
Their conversation is overheard by Alcutt, a shady-looking passenger. When the train stops to pick up wood for additional fuel, male passengers help load the train but Alcutt remains on board, feigning sleep. He signals three other men, Coaley Tobin (Jack Lord), Trout (Royal Dano) and Ponch (Robert J. Wilke), who rob the train.
Link tries to intervene and is knocked unconscious. The train pulls away, with Alcutt riding off with Link's bag containing Good Hope's money. Alcott is wounded as he and the robbers flee.
Link revives to discover that he, Sam and Billie have been left behind, many miles from the nearest town. Link leads them on foot to a ramshackle farm, admitting that he lived there years earlier. While the others wait in the barn, Link enters the run-down house and finds the train robbers hiding inside.
Coaley is suspicious of Link's claim that he simply wants to rest for the night. They are interrupted by aging outlaw Dock Tobin (Lee J. Cobb), who is startled to see Link, his nephew, whom he raised as a killer and thief. Link abandoned him more than a dozen years earlier to go straight. Tobin laments that nothing has been the same since Link's departure and introduces him to the roughnecks he now commands, including Link's own cousin, Coaley.
Disturbed by the revelation of Link's true identity, Coaley demonstrates his toughness by killing Alcutt, who is near death from his wound. Realizing the danger of his situation, Link brings in Sam and Billie from the barn and lies to Tobin, telling him that he intentionally sought out his uncle after being left by the train.
Tobin reveals his long-held ambition to rob the bank in the town of Lassoo and asserts that Link's return to the gang makes that possible. Link agrees to participate in the holdup to protect Billie, after a knife held to his throat while Coaley drunkenly insists that she strip. Tobin waits until she is nearly undressed before he laughingly sends Link and Billie to sleep in the barn, Link lying that she is his woman.
Claude Tobin (John Dehner), another cousin, arrives and is displeased at finding Link there. Tobin rejects the suggestion of Claude and Coaley to kill Link and the others. They depart on the four-day ride to Lassoo.
As revenge for the brutal treatment of Billie at the ranch, Link goads the brutal Coaley into a fistfight and beats him severely, then forcibly strips him of his clothes. Deeply humiliated, Coaley attempts to shoot the unarmed Link, but Sam intercedes and is killed instead. Tobin then shoots Coaley for disobeying him.
Billie laments that she has finally found a man worth loving, but can never have him. Link has a wife and children in Good Hope.
With the town Lassoo in sight, Link volunteers for the holdup job, secretly hoping that in town he can seek help. Tobin insists that he be accompanied by the mute Trout. It turns out that Lassoo is a ghost town, its bank deserted except for a frightened old Mexican woman, whom Trout shoots in a panic. Link proceeds to kill Trout. He then awaits the arrival of Claude and Ponch. In a drawn-out gun battle, Link kills Ponch first, then eventually and with some regret, Claude.
Returning to camp, Link discovers to his horror that Billie has been raped and beaten. He goes in search of Tobin, who is on a cliff nearby. Link calls out to Tobin that he, like Lassoo, is a ghost and finished. He shoots Tobin and reclaims the bag of Good Hope's money.
Riding back to civilization, Billie tells Link she loves him, but is resigned to the fact that she must resume her singing career and proceed alone, knowing that Link intends to return to his home and family.
- Gary Cooper as Link Jones
- Julie London as Billie Ellis
- Lee J. Cobb as Dock Tobin
- Arthur O'Connell as Sam Beasley
- Jack Lord as Coaley
- Royal Dano as Trout
- John Dehner as Claude
- Robert J. Wilke as Ponch
- J. Williams as Alcutt
- Chief Tahachee as Pio
The lead role was intended for James Stewart, who had worked with director Anthony Mann in five westerns. These were Winchester '73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954) and The Man from Laramie (1955). Stewart Granger was also considered for the lead role. Supposedly, Stewart (who eagerly wanted the lead role) was extremely upset when Mann didn't give him the script, felt betrayed, and had no interest in working with him ever again. Gary Cooper was then cast for the lead role. Cooper felt that he was miscast in this role because he was twenty years older than the character; Cooper was 56 at the time of filming, the lead character being 36.
Lee J. Cobb played the role of Dock Tobin, the uncle of the main character, despite being ten years younger than Cooper. This is the same case with John Dehner who plays Link's childhood friend, Claude. Denher was fourteen years younger than Cooper.
The title of the film has no connection to the novel entitled Man of the West, which was written by screenwriter Philip Yordan. Yordan's novel had been adapted into a film called Gun Glory, which starred Granger.
Cooper did his own horse-riding scenes despite physical pain from a car accident years earlier.
When first released, the film was largely ignored by American critics, though renowned French critic Jean-Luc Godard regarded it as the best film released that year. Howard Thompson, in the New York Times, gave it one of the few raves in the mainstream press. In the decades since the film's release, it has garnered a cult following as well as considerably greater acclaim. Some, such as The Guardian's Derek Malcolm consider the film Mann's best and a landmark in the western genre's canon. Malcolm included the film in his 2000 list The Century of Film. Critic and film historian Phillip French cites Man of the West as Anthony Mann's masterpiece, containing Gary Cooper's greatest performance. As of 2015, Man of the West maintains a rare 100% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film website, based on reviews from 13 critics.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 169
- "Man Of The West, NY Times review".
- Malcolm, Derek (23 March 2000). "Anthony Mann: Man of the West". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- French, Phillip (5 April 2015). "Anthony Mann and Man Of The West". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
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