Monte Walsh (1970 film)
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|Directed by||William A. Fraker|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Cinematography||David M. Walsh|
|Distributed by||National General Pictures|
Monte Walsh is a 1970 American Western film directed by cinematographer William A. Fraker (his directorial debut) starring Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau and Jack Palance. The name "Monte Walsh" is taken from the title of a 1963 western novel by Jack Schaefer, but the film has little to do with the plot of Schaefer's book. The film was set in Harmony, Arizona. The story has elements of a tragedy. The song played over the opening credits is "The Good Times Are Comin' " by Mama Cass, with music and lyrics by John Barry and Hal David.
Monte Walsh is an aging cowboy facing the final days of the Wild West era. He and his friend Chet Rollins, another longtime cowhand, work at whatever ranch work comes their way, but "nothing they can't do from a horse". Their lives are divided between months on the range and the occasional trip into town. Camaraderie and competition with the other cowboys fill their days. They seek work and take a job at the ranch of Cal Brennan, where they meet an old friend, Shorty Austin, another ranch hand.
Monte has a long-term relationship with an old flame, prostitute and saloon girl Martine Bernard, who suffers from tuberculosis. Chet, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Mary Eagle, a widow who owns a hardware store. As barbed wire and railways steadily eliminate the need for the cowboy, Monte and his friends are left with fewer and fewer options. New work opportunities are available to them, but the freedom of the open prairie is what they long for. Shorty loses his job and gets involved in rustling and killing, gunning down a local lawman. Then Monte and Chet find that their lives on the range are inexorably redirected.
Chet marries Mary and goes to work in the store, telling Monte that their old way of life is simply disappearing. Caught up in the spirit of the moment, Monte asks Martine to marry him, and she accepts. Monte goes on a drinking binge and rides a wild horse through town, causing considerable damage, smashing through a plate glass window and shattering an entire store of breakables. A rodeo owner, Colonel Wilson, sees him and offers him a job. Monte considers the high salary, but decides the work is too degrading and refuses. Eventually, they all must say goodbye to the lives they knew, and try to make a new start. When Shorty shoots and kills Chet while trying to rob the store, Monte, distraught after the death of his beloved Martine, goes after him.
Shorty arrives and Monte chases him. Shorty shoots Monte, but runs off when the shot only hits his arm. Monte then manages to slip around Shorty and shoots him. As Shorty is dying, Monte tells him that he rode the wild horse.
- Lee Marvin as Monte Walsh
- Jeanne Moreau as Martine Bernard
- Jack Palance as Chet Rollins
- Mitchell Ryan as Shorty Austin
- Jim Davis as Cal Brennan
- G.D. Spradlin as Hal Henderson
- John Hudkins as Sonny Jacobs (as John 'Bear' Hudkins)
- Raymond Guth as Sunfish Perkins (as Ray Guth)
- John McKee as Petey Williams
- Michael Conrad as Dally Johnson
- Tom Heaton as Sugar Wyman
- Ted Gehring as Skimpy Eagans
- Bo Hopkins as Jumpin' Joe Joslin
- John McLiam as Fightin' Joe Hooker
- Allyn Ann McLerie as Mary Eagle
- Matt Clark as Rufus Brady
- Charles Tyner as Doctor
- Jack Colvin as Card Cheat
Most reviews of the film were positive, and the western has scored an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A positive notice came from critic Roger Ebert, who remarked that the production was "as lovely a Western as I've seen in a long time."