GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING (director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriter: Lesser Samuels/novel by Robert Hardy Andrews; cinematographer: William Snyder; editor: Harry Marker; music: Leith Stevens; cast: Robert Stack (Owen Pentecost), Virginia Mayo (Ann Merry Alaine), Ruth Roman (Boston Grant), Alex Nicol (Captain Stephen Kirby), Raymond Burr (Jumbo Means), Leo Gordon (Zeff Masterson), Regis Toomey (Father Murphy), Carlton Young (Col. Gibson), Donald MacDonald (Gary John Lawford), George Wallace (Jack Lawford), Dan White (Rogers); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; RKO; 1956)
“Directed with skill and a good eye for detail by Jacques Tourneur.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A superior Western set just before the onset of the Civil War in 1861 in Denver, a primarily Union mining town in the Colorado Territory where Northerners and Southerners voice their hostility to each other. It’s directed with skill and a good eye for detail by Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People”); the literate screenplay is by Lesser Samuels and it’s based on the bestselling novel by Robert Hardy Andrews.
Warning: spoilers throughout.
Owen Pentecost (Robert Stack) is a slick gambler/gunslinger from North Carolina who arrives in Denver because of his lust for gold and promptly wins in a card game the Circus Tent saloon from embittered Union man Jumbo Means (Raymond Burr) and also inherits Jumbo’s world-weary saloon gal Boston Grant (Ruth Roman). With the saloon comes deeds to mines lost in gambling, as the money-hungry Owen works a deal to split profits in half with anyone willing to be staked to work the claim. One such miner Jack Lawford refuses to go along with the deal after striking a valuable ore and foolishly draws on the gunslinger, who kills him in self-defense. That day Jack’s young son Gary arrives by stage and learns he’s an orphan. The guilt-ridden Owen decides to raise him.
Torn between the also newly arrived prim blonde beauty Ann Merry Alaine (Virginia Mayo), opening up a dress shop, and the heart of gold fast-time gal Boston, Owen has a hard time deciding who he loves even though the sexy Boston is his type and deeply loves him. His interest in Ann gets the ire of his rival, her hired travel guide to town Stephen Kirby (Alex Nicol), a secret Union agent with the rank of captain, who was sent by Washington to stop the Southerners from shipping out a reported two million dollars worth of gold for the cause. Refusing to be loyal to any side, Owen agrees to take the Southerner’s gold back to the south for $100,000 in the covered wagons he owns from the Circus Tent business. Refusing to take along the boy and Boston because they’re Northerners and wouldn’t be comfortable where he’s going, results in the vengeful Jumbo knifing Boston to death.
The concluding action-packed scene has Owen lead the wagons through the Union soldiers surrounding the town and then the cynical Owen does an about face and offers the South his services for free, as he heroically gets the Union soldiers off his trail by having them chase his empty wagon while Southern miner Rogers and his fellow Rebs take the wagons with gold back south.
REVIEWED ON 10/20/2005 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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