Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Nevadan (1950)

Director: Gordon Douglas                                  Writers: George W. George & George F. Slavin
Film Score: Arthur Morton                                 Cinematography: Charles Lawton Jr.
Starring: Randolph Scott, Dorothy Malone, Forrest Tucker and Frank Faylen

This Randolph Scott western takes a while to get going, and even then it’s a bit lacking in suspense. The plot is reminiscent of an old John Wayne film, Blue Steel from 1934, but a bit more sophisticated. The Nevadan is a low budget feature from Columbia, one of three westerns that Scott made for the studio that year. It was filmed in an inexpensive process known as Cinecolor, an old two-strip process in which both strips of film ran simultaneously through the camera but each recorded a different color. And while the script is fairly undistinguished, the film sports a great cast with Forrest Tucker, Frank Faylen, George Macready and the beautiful Dorothy Malone. The director was Gordon Douglas, who went from this western right into a couple of Errol Flynn knock-offs at the studio working with Macready in both.

Forrest Tucker is a convict being transported east by stagecoach through Nevada. He manages to get away and rides far enough that the posse after him gives up. But there’s another man following him. Randolph Scott in a business suit says he’s lost and just following him to find a town. But Tucker brings him along to get an envelope from the bank in town, and winds up burning the contents. Frank Faylen and his brother stop the two for the envelope, but Scott gets the drop on the brother and sends them walking back to town. Scott doesn’t want to know anything about Tucker, but when the two split and meet back in town Tucker pretends he doesn’t know him. This gets Scott in trouble with the owner of the town, George Macready, who knows what Tucker was arrested for: robbing a quarter of a million dollars in gold. Once Macready feels sure Scott doesn’t know anything he lets him go and heads out after Tucker to get the gold with Faylen and his brother. Scott meanwhile pays a visit to Macready’s daughter at his ranch, Dorothy Malone, to trade for a fresh horse, and heads out himself.

It’s unclear why Scott keeps helping Tucker until deep into the film. The other odd thing is the romance between Scott and Malone, because there really isn’t one. A lot of fans find the presence of George Macready a little out of place. The actor is probably most well know for his appearances in Gilda four years earlier and Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory seven years later. He does as good a job, however, as any actor playing the part of the greedy ranch owner could do, if not better. Frank Faylen seems an equally odd choice to play a villain, but going against type also works here. Forrest Tucker, ironically, is the least distinctive member of the cast, while the real standout it Dorothy Malone who was so memorable in her brief appearance opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep. She is absolutely radiant here, and Scott is his usual dependable self. The Nevadan is definitely a low-budget western with not a lot to recommend it. Still, fans of Randolph Scott and Dorothy Malone will definitely want to check it out.

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