(director/writer: Burt Kennedy; screenwriter: based on the novel by Max Evans; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: John McSweeney; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Henry Fonda (Howdy Lewis), Glenn Ford (Ben Jones), Chill Wills (Jim Ed Love), Sue Ann Langdon (Mary), Edgar Buchanan (Vince Moore), Hope Holiday (Mary’s sister), Kathleen Freeman (Agatha Moore), Joan Freeman (Meg Moore), Denver Pyle (Bull), Barton MacLane (Tanner); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard E. Lyons; MGM; 1965)
“As easy to watch as catching a Las Vegas stripper in her act, and you never mind too much that nothing much happens.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Burt Kennedy (“Support Your Local Gunfighter”/”Comanche”/”Mail Order Bride”) is writer-director of this leisurely-paced, amiable, offbeat western comedy. It’s based on the novel by Max Evans. The basically plotless movie, soon to become a cult fave, makes up for its slight story by a rich characterization given by its stars Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford as non-heroic flawed cowpokes. It’s a modern western set in the Old West (filmed on location in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest).
Ben Jones (Glenn Ford) and Howdy Lewis (Henry Fonda) are two aging, itinerant bronc-busters who are forever on the verge of settling down. They are weary from always being broke and the two ne’er-do-well cowpokes make a vow to give up carousing and settle down in Tahiti with their savings as horse tamers instead of always working for the stingy and double-crossing rancher Jim Ed Love (Chill Wills). Being broke, they supposedly take one last job with Love, trying to tame a wild stallion who refuses to be broken named Ol’ Fooler. Unable to break the stallion, they grudgingly accept him as partial payment for their winter’s work. They then go off rounding up strays for the winter in the New Mexico hills and trade him to moonshiner Vince Moore (Edgar Buchanan) for a bottle of whiskey. When the moonshiner discovers the horse has a hankering for corn mash (just like this film), he returns him to the cowpokes. In due time, the cowboys come to admire the stubborn horse and scheme to enter him as a bucking bronco in a rodeo. This gives them the chance to meet two Las Vegas sisters (Sue Ann Langdon & Hope Holiday) who are chorus gals, and the boys forget all their vows and start messing around with the strippers. The horse also lives up to his rep as not to be tamed, but comes down with a fatal injury. When the decision to shoot the horse is made, Ol’ Fooler rears up and destroys the vet’s barn. The forlorn cowpokes use all their wages to pay for the damage and return with Ol’ Fooler to desperately apply for another job from Jim Ed Love.
This was a sleeper film that the studio put on the second bill of a double feature with the top billing inane musical romance film Get Yourself a College Girl, not realizing it had a winner with this agreeable film. The studio never knew how to market The Rounders, but Fonda fans discovered the film and brought it back to life from the dead. It even inspired a short-lived TV series with the same title. Its wry humor, however, soon becomes tiresome and the sentimentality surrounding the horse threw me off it. But it’s beautifully shot and as easy to watch as catching a Las Vegas stripper in her act, and you never mind too much that nothing much happens.
REVIEWED ON 10/12/2007 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/