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Friday, November 4, 2016

PURSUED (1947)

This unusual Raoul Walsh Western, from a psychologically twisted original screenplay by Niven Busch, has the mood & tone of one of those relocated Greek Tragedies Eugene O’Neill set in 1800s New England. But shorter. Still pretty talky though, which doesn’t always play into Walsh’s strengths for action & slow burn violence. Robert Mitchum is very strong as an orphan boy, raised by Judith Anderson with her two as one of her own. But as Mitchum grows up, trouble comes his way from inside & out. INSIDE the ranch, he’s destined to marry adopted sister Teresa Wright (too nice for the role’s neurotic sexual angle*) and to grapple for ownership rights with a jealous adopted brother carrying an incestuous chip on his shoulder. OUTSIDE the ranch, one-armed Dean Jagger is waiting to have his revenge for some unspeakable past family incident Mitchum can only recall in fitful dreams. (You know it’s plenty bad since Jagger’s missing arm functions as a castration substitute.) It’s all put together with tremendous brio by Walsh and with staggering cinematography by James Wong Howe, heavy on various infrared shooting techniques. (Look close for a thrill of an edit as a window shade is pulled down and an armed man comes in on the cut.) Max Steiner’s score is a bit oblivious to what’s going on under the surface, and a few soundstage exteriors hurt the cause, but the film is just too intriguing to shake off.

DOUBLE-BILL: The sexual tension Teresa Wright can’t quite summon is all over DUEL IN THE SUN/’46, from the novel by this film's author Niven Busch. But Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND/’45, with its big psychological mystery ‘reveal,’ also comes into play. Both films produced by psychiatrist-addicted David O. Selznick.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *But if Teresa Wright is wrong, who’d be right? Barbara Stanwyck?, perfect but too mature in 1947. Anne Baxter?, Oscar’d that year for RAZOR’S EDGE; Susan Hayward (from SMASHED/’47); or Gloria Grahame (in CROSSFIRE/’47), both earning Oscar noms. Any ideas?

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