3:10 TO YUMA

3:10 TO YUMA

(director: Delmer Daves; screenwriters: based on a story by Elmore Leonard/Halsted Welles; cinematographer: Charles Lawton Jr.; editor: Al Clark; music: George Duning; cast: Glenn Ford (Ben Wade), Felicia Farr (Emmy), Van Heflin (Dan Evans), Leora Dana (Alice Evans), Henry Jones (Alex Potter), Richard Jaeckel (Charlie), Sheridan Comerate (Bob Moons), Robert Emhardt (Mr. Butterfield), Ford Rainey (Marshal), Barry Curtis (Mathew Evans), Jerry Hartleben (Mark Evans); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David Heilweil; Columbia TriStar Home Video; 1957)

“It’s rather talky but always remains lively and tense.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Delmer Daves efficiently directs this classic psychological B/W Western that writer Halsted Welles adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard. It’s rather talky but always remains lively and tense, and its intelligent script turns it into a plausible character study of the poor family-man rancher and the bold womanizing outlaw–each wanting what the other doesn’t have. It’s ruined only by the false ending, where an unconvincing reason is given for the sudden change in character exhibited by the captured gang leader.

Rancher Dan Evans and his two sons, Matthew and Mark, while rounding up their stray cattle witness the notorious 12-man gang of Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) rob the stage of its gold shipment outside of Bisbee and kill the stage driver Bill Moons, who tried to get heroic and overtake a gang member. The gang heads into Bisbee, where they alert the marshal of the stage holdup. The gang scatters but the lonely leader pines for sad-eyed barmaid Emmy (Felicia Farr), and gets taken prisoner when he’s caught off-guard after romancing her. The problem is for the inadequate law enforcement personnel to transport the dangerous outlaw so he gets on the 3:10 to Yuma. The marshal figures the gang will jump them, so he comes up with a diversionary plan to have two volunteers take Ben to Contention City to wait for the train while the empty stage becomes the focus of the gang. When no one volunteers, the well-fed overweight stage owner, Mr. Butterfield, offers $200. The rancher, about to go under because of the drought, accepts for the money, which is the exact amount he needs to pay another rancher to draw water; while the town drunk, Alex Potter, accepts to redeem himself.

The volunteers have Ben holed up in a hotel as they tensely wait for the train, while the cool, smooth-talking Ben offers $10,000 to Dan if he lets him go. Ben also warns that the gang will be there and the townfolks will desert him, leaving him alone to face the gang. The offer is tempting, but Dan turns it down after watching the dead stage driver’s funeral procession pass through town.

The tension increases when a drunken Bob Moons finds out where the man who killed his brother is being held and tries to kill him, but is overtaken by Dan. But his shot alerts the gang’s lookout, Charlie (Richard Jaeckel), who quickly brings the gang to town. They kill Alex and string him up in the hotel lobby, and threaten to kill Dan unless he frees the prisoner. Dan’s worried wife Alice arrives to tell her hard-working hubby to forget about the money. But the failing rancher can’t turn his back on his civic duty and attempts to get Ben on the train, even if he loses his life. He rationalizes that even the town drunk gave his life so that others could live in peace.

Van Heflin and Glenn Ford give top-notch performances, in a film that closely follows the example of the 1952 High Noon formula.