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Monday, January 26, 2009

THE FAR COUNTRY (1954)



This penultimate of eight collaborations between James Stewart & helmer Anthony Mann was their fourth Western. And if it pales next to their final work (THE MAN FROM LARAMIE/'55, Western #5), it’s still a strong film on its own terms, with particularly fine location shooting. Stewart, in atypically uningratiating mode, is a calculating loner who brings a herd of cattle up to Gold Rush territory for a big payoff. But the life-is-cheap/lawless frontier he finds along the way knocks a dent into the surface charm he’s long maintained as armor against real human contact. Stewart doesn’t have much rapport with his ambivalent leading lady Ruth Roman (who did?), but spars nicely with Walter Brennan, Corinne Calvert & J. C. Flippen, and against a convincingly amoral John McIntire. But the climax of the pic belongs entirely to Stewart’s longtime equine co-star, Pie, who proved a one-take wonder at taking direction.

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