This Is True Grit: The Anthony Mann/James Stewart Westerns

JUNE 22-23, 26, 29-30

"Anthony Mann’s place in American cinema is assured by the group of Westerns he made with James Stewart in the ’50s." ROBIN WOOD

"Mann brought a noir sensibility to the Western unlike any other director." DAVID BORDWELL

Anthony Mann, director of low-budget, hard-bitten, darkly cynical films noir in the 1940s, made a major contribution to the American cinema with his Westerns of the 1950s, most particularly with the celebrated quintet of “mature” or “psychological” (or “revisionist”) Westerns he made with actor James Stewart (who, in his work with Hitchcock over the same period, was similarly redefining, with edge and darker tones, his Capra-esque nice-guy image). Imbued with a noir sensibility, these five magnificent films — with their psychological complexities and adult themes; their neurotic, vengeance-obsessed heroes; their consideration of the effects of violence, including the hero’s violence, on family and community; and their gorgeous location photography — very much rank with that great paradigm and pantheon masterpiece of the “mature” Western, John Ford’s The Searchers, with John Wayne. Indeed, the alliance of Mann and Stewart, like the partnership of Ford and Wayne, is one of the foremost and defining director-star collaborations, not only in the history of the Western genre, but in the history of Hollywood.

 

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The first of the Mann-Stewart Westerns (and the only one in black-and-white) features "one of the most neurotic shootouts in the history of the Western."
"Mann’s finest Western ... Lighthearted comedy, majestic scenery, and superbly handled action are fused into a unifying moral vision."
"Mann strips his narrative archetype to the minimum in this extraordinary picture, with nary a house or town in sight, not a single interior shot and only five characters. It remains one of the major works in the genre."
This "far country" setting is Klondike Gold Rush-era Alaska and Yukon, where cynical, self-minded Stewart and chatty, elderly pal Walter Brennan drive a herd of cattle in pursuit of fortune.
Structured like a classical tragedy, the fifth and final Mann-Stewart Western is "violent but compelling stuff," and the only one in Cinemascope.