There’s something of a Baby-Boomer divide on Glenn Ford. One of the last pre-Method Acting screen icons, Pre-Boomers were around in time to feel the pulse of his pre-1960s work, when Ford’s banked sexual charge still held a reserve of threat. But by the time those younger opinion-making Boomers came of age, Ford was reduced to coaxing heat out of embers. It’s why so many film-goers were caught off-guard at the emotional charge he could still call on for SUPERMAN/’78. Where had this quietly compelling presence been hiding? And that presence is one of reasons this standard-issue Western from Delmer Daves (splendidly shot in rich, dark tones on a very WideScreen by Charles Lawton) holds more interest than it probably deserves. It’s already a little late in the day for his ‘shy guy with a spine’ act, but Ford’s still effective as the new man on Ernest Borgnine’s ranch, fending off unwanted attention from the boss’s unhappy wife and glaring hostility after winning the foreman spot from jealous ranch-hand Rod Steiger. (Steiger & Borgnine, replaying characterizations from OKLAHOMA!/55 and MARTY/’55, who’d each be better served phoning it in, go full throttle to annoying effect.) A religious sect gets tossed in for narrative seasoning, but only a surprise appearance from young Charles Bronson as third-wheel/deus ex machina adds something fresh. He may be the best thing in the pic.
DOUBLE-BILL: Daves, Lawton & Ford got back together (in b&w and a less wide screen) to make a masterpiece, 3:10 TO YUMA/’57.