WAY OF A GAUCHO
(director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriters: novel by Herbert Childs/Philip Dunne; cinematographer: Harry Jackson; editor: Robert Fritch; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Rory Calhoun (Martin Penalosa), Gene Tierney (Teresa Chavez ), Hugh Marlowe (Don Miguel Aleondo), Richard Boone (Maj. Salinas), Everett Sloane(Falcon), Enrique Chaico (Father Fernandez), Lidia Campos(Tía Maria); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Philip Dunne; 20th Century Fox; 1952)
“Ex-lumberjack Rory Calhoun, an Alan Ladd discovery, is very gaucho in this civilizing of the pampas melodrama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the lesser films directed by the great Jacques Tourneur (“Out of the Past”/”Cat People”/”I Walked With A Zombie”), yet watchable and entertaining. Ex-lumberjack Rory Calhoun, an Alan Ladd discovery, is very gaucho in this civilizing of the pampas melodrama. It stings like a knife wound when at its sharpest and its colorful scenery shots offer a visual feast for the eyes, but it gets lassoed into being merely a conventional western and never really gets to telling an authentic gaucho tale of its last hurrah on the pampas before replaced by modernity.It’s based on the novel by Herbert Childs and is written by producer Philip Dunne. It’s set in the 1870s, and was filmed on location in Argentina.
Upon the death of his old-fashioned gaucho padrone (landowner) father, Don Miguel Aleondo (Hugh Marlowe) leaves the city with his fine foreign suits and soft ways to take over running the vast ranch on the pampas. Change has come to the pampas because Argentina has become unified and the wealthy landowners can no longer make their own laws for their tenant farmers and ranchers. During a welcome home feast, the gaucho Martin Penalosa (Rory Calhoun), admired so much by the old man for his strong gaucho beliefs that he was raised as Miguel’s brother, kills an enemy gaucho in a fair knife fight who insults Miguel for being a wuss. Rather than jail and a certain death sentence, Martin is sent to the army. There he’s bullied by the sadistic army major, Salinas (Richard Boone), and deserts one day after an Indian raid. When Martin finds the attractive city girl Teresa Chavez (Gene Tierney) captured by an Indian, he rescues her and brings her back to Miguel’s. But the gaucho is arrested by Salinas, who sent an army patrol to Miguel’s. After one torture too many, Martin escapes with the help of Falcon (Everett Sloane) and several other gaucho jailbirds. Martin turns outlaw and becomes the ruthless gaucho bandit in the hills, who takes the name of the legendary bandit Valverde, and raids railroad encroachments on the pampas.
It turns into a long history lesson how it’s almost impossible to fight back at the changing times without being punished, and after a series of adventures and even marrying Teresa the freedom-loving hardass Martin learns that he cannot bring back the pampas of the past and must adjust to the new ways or fall by the wayside.
The film’s most memorable shot is of Rory standing on his horse in the middle of the pampas to see if he’s being followed.
REVIEWED ON 9/20/2012 GRADE: B