The made-for-television western The Sacketts combines the plotlines from two seperate Louis L’Amour novels, The Daybreakers and The Sacketts. In this film, the three Tennessee-raised Sackett brothers migrate to the West following the conclusion of the Civil War. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Movie Guide.
Made ten years before Lonesome Dove, The Sacketts (1979) may well have been the first great Western Mini Series – and in looking at the cast, it’s easy to understand why some Western fans may hold it with similar esteem,with Western Greats like Glenn Ford, Sam Elliott, Tom Selleck, Slim Pickens, Jack Elam, Ben Johnson, L.Q. Jones, and some notable support players including John Vernon, Gilbert Roland, Buck Taylor… and on. Pretty impressive. So although The Sacketts does show itself to be a little shy in production values compared to modern fair, it still shines with notable Star Power.
Angelo: “How come you get into the sheep business, boss?”
Jason Sweet (Glenn Ford) : “Well, I’ll tell ya, Angelo. You see, it’s this way. I just got tired of kicking cows around. You know how dumb they are.”
Angelo: “And you think sheep are smarter?”
Jason Sweet: “Oh, no, no. They’re dumber. Only their easier kicking…and woollier.”
Now we come to another rather odd Glenn Ford film: The Sheepman – the last Western Glenn Ford made in the 50’s.
Yes, there are indeed some odd things about this film … but some wonderful things as well.
Let’s have a look.
“What’s in a name?” asked William Shakespeare.
Well … a lot.
The first odd thing is that I found this film referred to on the Net under no less than seven different names !! The Sheepman; Stranger with a Gun; Stranger In Town; Showdown In Powder Valley; and The Valley of the Powder, The Trail West, Too Big for Texas. ??? This adds a bit of a bizarre aura to the movie right off the top. And fact is, the film didn’t do well upon initial release as The Sheepman and some/all/much (??) of this was blamed on it’s name. I can understand that, and I also puzzled at the choice of such a title. Is that the kind of title that inspire you to go see a Western? Not me. Something like The Cattle Raiders from Death Valley or Showdown at Bushwacker Ridge … would have been better (in my opinion.) Glenn Ford was the Top box office draw in the movie business at the time, so maybe they just felt his Stardom – especially in a Western – would bring folks in. ?? But people just plain weren’t drawn to it – for whatever reasons.
So they wisely re-issued the movie under the title Stranger with a Gun (and 14 other names)and it did better.
But I really can’t figure why a film like this wouldn’t do well. Hell, it has Glenn Ford (and Shirley McLaine !!!) And did Glenn ever make anything bad ? NO !!! He was great from the ‘get go’ – till the end. A great and charismatic actor.
Shirley McLaine? Like Lemmon in Ford’s previous movie Cowboy,she was not greatly known yet. Shirley, however, was one of the last great actresses to come out of the old studio film system – which was fading fast from it’s former glory. One of the fraternity of immensely talented song and dance gals who could act and do it all: comedy, stage, drama … anything you want. And later Starred with Lemmon himself in Irma la Douce (1963).
OK … now where wuz I ?? O Yeah ! Glenn Ford Westerns …
After Delmer Daves directed 3:10 to Yuma he made Cowboy.
Not a classic, but still somewhat enjoyable due to it’s Star Power: Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon.
Jack Lemmon – a truly wonderful actor was not yet at the peak of his
popularity and respect, had yet to show his stunning depth and versatility.
Thus, on the posters, he is very obviously second billed to the
well established – and well deserved Ford.
But frankly, some of these posters are real stinkers – and head scratchers.
When you’ve got two great actors like Ford and Lemmon shouldn’t
they at least be pictured on the posters ??? Yet some of them …
you would hardly know who was in the movie.
Most of them got it right though.
So, a bit of a different idea for a Western – based on a book by Frank Harris – a semi-autobiographical novel My Reminiscences as a Cowboy – written in 1930.
The supposed story of a greenhorn who goes on a cattle drive and other Wild West adventures –
later being exposed as several scenes were taken from movies – or completely fabricated. But who cares ??! it ain’t history and makes for a good yarn.
“What are you squeezin’ that watch for?
Squeezin’ that watch ain’t gonna stop time.” Glenn Ford as Ben Wade / 3:10 to Yuma
Quiet on the set! Master at Work …
One critic has noted the likely influences of German Expressionist film makers in 3:10 to Yuma. Such insight is beyond my ken – so it’s much appreciated. Other, closer to home influences, are more obvious, as from Fred Zinnemann’sHigh Noon and John Ford’s Classics Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine … others.
No color? No Computer Generated Effects?
All the unique virtues of Black and Film making are in evidence. Plus more:
high angle … low angle … wide angle … echo shots … close ups … lighting … shot framing … scene composition … dramatic use of Light/Dark/Shadow … Direction …
Nearly every shot in 310 to Yuma is crafted … seamlessly and unpretentiously integrated.
“While studying civil engineering and law at Stanford University, Delmer Daves secured work as a prop boy for director James Cruze’s The Covered Wagon (1923). So fascinated was Daves by the Native Americans working on this film that he forsook a law career to live in Arizona among the Hopi and Navajo. He studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, appearing in a few early talkies before turning to screenwriting. In 1944 he directed his first film, the low-key combat drama Destination Tokyo. In this and his other war-related films Pride of the Marines (1945) and Task Force (1949), writer/director Daves emphasized the anxieties and tribulations of the individual soldier, rather than resorting to gaudy Hollywood heroics. In 1951, Daves formed his own production company, Double-D productions. Most of his best 1950s films were westerns, which like his war pictures favored slowly escalating personal tensions over wanton gunplay …” ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Nominated for 1959 by Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Cowboy (1958).
Laurel Award Nominations
1959 Nominated Golden Laurel Top Director
1960 Nominated Golden Laurel Top Director
1961 Nominated Golden Laurel Top Producer/Director
1962 Nominated Golden Laurel Top Producer/Director
1963 Nominated Golden Laurel Top Producer/Director
1964 Nominated Golden Laurel Top Producer/Director
“The success of High Noon spawned numerous psychological Westerns, and one of the best of this crop was 3:10 to Yuma. Van Heflin as rancher Dan Evans and Glenn Ford as outlaw Ben Wade both give exceptional, multi-layered performances, among the best of their careers, with Ford going particularly against type and displaying that he was one of the more underrated actors of his generation. The script by Halsted Welles, based on a story by Elmore Leonard, is taut and insightful, … Equally important is the superb direction of Delmer Daves, … There are also strong supporting parts for Leora Dana as Heflin’s wife and a collection of scene-stealing character actors, including Richard Jaeckel, Henry Jones, and Robert Emhardt … “
“I don’t say stuff like this very often, but 3:10 to Yuma is basically a perfect film. Unpretentious, deeply psychological, and gorgeously produced, it works on every level, making it one of the very best examples in the history of the genre. Smart and powerful while remaining completely unassuming, I can’t imagine how it could be any better than it is. If you’ve never seen it, or have only seen the modern remake, Criterion’s Blu-ray reaffirms just how brilliantly it still shines after all these decades.”
Complex Western a Cut Above the Competition: 3:10 to Yuma
“The little-known 3:10 to Yuma contains similar elements to the renowned High Noon, but is a better film. Clocks play a big role in each film. But instead of focusing on the faceless evil of the coming bandits, as High Noon did, 3:10 has a continuous byplay between the ingratiating bandit and the upright cattleman. Both Glenn Ford and Van Heflin shine in their parts and the psychological maneuvering between the two is remarkable. The supporting cast is well chosen and professional.
The story is by Elmore Leonard. Delmar Daves (The Petrified Forest, Destination Tokyo) directed the film and used German Expressionist camera techiques like the fabled films noir of the 40s and 50s. Many interesting angles not usually seen in westerns, here. The photography and lighting, by Charles Lawton, Jr. (Lady From Shanghai), is dramatic and wonderfully preserved in the new Columbia DVD. The music, by George Dunning, is well matched to the visuals and contains a theme song sung by Frankie Laine, as was the custom in those days.
3:10 to Yuma is head and shoulders above the typical white hat/black hat western ground out during the era, and better than High Noon, demonstrating psychological depth and different layers of meaning.”