FURIES, THE(director: Anthony Mann; screenwriters: from a novel by Niven Busch/Charles Schnee; cinematographer: Victor Milner; editor: Archie Marshek; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Vance Jeffords), Wendell Corey (Rip Darrow), Walter Huston (T. C. Jeffords), Judith Anderson (Flo Burnett), Gilbert Roland (Juan Herrera), Thomas Gomez (El Tigre), Beulah Bondi (Mrs. Anaheim), Albert Dekker (Mr. Reynolds), John Bromfield (Clay Jeffords), Scotty Hyslip (Wallace Ford), Blanche Yurka (Herrera Mother); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Paramount; 1950)
“Mann raises the bar for westerns, making them more adult and dramatic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Anthony Mann (“The Man From Laramie”/”Thunder Bay”) directs an intense King Lear-like drama about a dynastic struggle. He gives the western a film noir darkness, as cinematographer Victor Milner keeps the feel of the brooding narrative alive with his b/w shots of the harsh outdoors. The Freudian western, about the love/hate relationship between a father and daughter, is written in a heavy-handed manner by Charles Schnee; it’s adapted from Niven Busch’s novel. This is Walter Huston’s last film, he died shortly after the film’s release. Barbara Stanwyck complements Huston with an equally strong performance, as she’s the aggressive daughter of the bull-headed Huston.
The film is set in the 1870s in the New Mexico Territory. Crusty widowed rancher T. C. Jeffords (Walter Huston) returns with his California banker Reynolds (Albert Dekker) from San Francisco to his New Mexico ranch home “The Furies.” Reynolds grants T. C. a $100,000 loan on condition that he will evict the squatters on his land. Cattle baron T. C. rules the territory with an iron hand, and disdains his weak son Clay (John Bromfield) but takes a shine to his feisty daughter Vance (Barbara Stanwyck). He tells Vance she will run the ranch when he’s gone and offers her a $50,000 dowry if she marries someone of whom he approves. Vance pleads that T. C. allow the Mexican-American Herrera family to remain, as Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland) has been her best friend since childhood. But Vance falls for fancy talking gambler and saloon owner Rip Darrow (Wendell Corey); his father was killed by T. C. and he’s got his eye on reclaiming the fertile land known as the “Darrow Strip,” which was lost to T. C. in court. T. C. instead offers Rip the $50,000 dowry in exchange for leaving his daughter. Rip takes it and then founds the Darrow Bank, and one year later is the banker for the Anaheim Bank’s local business. When the Anaheim and Darrow banks refuse to renew T. C.’s loan unless Vance finally drives off the squatters, Vance has her ruthless ranch boss, El Tigre (Thomas Gomez), uproot everyone except the Herreras. T. C. brings his much younger scheming socialite fiancée Flo Burnett (Judith Anderson) to The Furies and she hires a manager to run the ranch and drive off the Herreras. Vance reacts by hurling a pair of scissors at Flo and permanently disfiguring her, then she rides to warn the Herreras. Juan is in love with Vance, and is hanged by T. C. for stealing horses. Vance vows revenge and allies with Rip–Vance agrees to return the Darrow Strip to Rip, and in exchange, he lends her $50,000 and aids her attempt to regain control of the ranch. This works, as T. C. goes bust. The insecure Flo, who has become an alcoholic, refuses to lend her hubby money for fear that he will leave her.
The film built so strongly on the emotions, goes full circle in its love and hate mood swings. Barbara Stanwyck sums up her approach to her character when she says, “I like being T. C.’s daughter.” It never quite works, though it remains interesting; its psychological trappings becoming increasingly burdensome and it has an unconvincing resolution. But Mann raises the bar for westerns, making them more adult and dramatic.
REVIEWED ON 11/7/2006 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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