HALLIDAY BRAND, THE (director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriters: George W. George/George F. Slavin; cinematographer: Ray Rennahan; editor: Stuart O’Brein; music: Stanley Wilson; cast: Joseph Cotten (Daniel Halliday), Viveca Lindfors (Aleta Burris), Betsy Blair (Martha Halliday), Ward Bond (Big Dan Halliday), Bill Williams (Clay Halliday), Jay C. Flippen (Chad Burris), Christopher Dark (Jivaro Burris), Jeanette Nolan (Nante), Glen Strange (Townsman); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Collier Young; United Artists; 1957)
“A superior western that never got the attention it should have.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Told mostly in flashback, it’s a powerful, grim psychological western directed with an uncompromising fierceness by Joseph H. Lewis (“Terror in a Texas Town”/”A Lawless Street”/”7th Cavalry”). It’s a Freudian Oedipal story about the tyrannical, domineering, racist patriarch, Big Dan Halliday (Ward Bond), who is both the ruthless and crooked ‘law and order’ sheriff and cattle baron original town settler. Big Dan settled the territory and made it safe by taming the Indians, and then helped bring about peace when he buried the hatchet with them (on the entrance to his ranch there’s a tomahawk buried in a woodblock). When the widowed Dan discovers that his only daughter Martha (Betsy Blair) is in love with his half-breed ranch hand Jivaro Burris (Christopher Dark), he chases him from the property vowing no Halliday will ever marry someone of mixed blood. Jivaro is arrested when he returns to the ranch and is spotted hiding where a ranch hand is dead and some horses have been stolen. The gentle Indian’s claims of innocence are unheeded by Big Dan, who places Jivaro in jail and goes off with a posse to round up the rustlers. By purposely leaving no men to guard the jail, it leaves the way for an angry mob to lynch Jivaro and in effect do Big Dan’s dirty work.
Youngest son Clay (Bill Williams) remains loyal to his pa and is the deputy sheriff, while the oldest, Daniel (Joseph Cotton), rejects his pa’s harsh ways and gives up his inheritance. Before he leaves the ranch for good, Daniel relates to Jivaro’s widowed storeowner white father Chad (Jay C. Flippen) and his pretty sister Aleta (Viveca Lindfors) what happened at the jail. The father overhears Daniel tell Aleta the truth that his pa was responsible for the lynching, and is all riled up. The sheriff appears that morning at Burris’s place looking for his son and Chad points a rifle at him while ordering him off his property, but Big Dan goads him into a gun duel and kills him. When Daniel hears about this, he’s filled with hatred and goes on a one-man rampage to bring his father down and is branded as an outlaw.
After six months in hiding Clay only brings Daniel back to the ranch for a reconciliation after telling him pa is dying and he’s agreed to let Clay marry the half-breed Aleta. But Daniel soon finds his father hasn’t changed and reneges on his word about the marriage, spouting his racial purity argument again. The father pulls a gun on Daniel but drops dead from exhaustion before he can pull the trigger.
Lewis offers a severe critique of patriarchal rule, racism, identity, law and order lawmen who bend the rules, and violence. It’s a superior western that never got the attention it should have. REVIEWED ON 3/28/2005 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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