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The Bravados

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The Bravados. Joan Collins (Josefa Velarde), Gregory Peck (Jim Douglas). His daughter has survived and met a new mother. Bravados [Finnish, Swedish and Italian titles without the definite article].     Director: Henry King. Year: 1958. Country: USA. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1958) di Frank O’Rourke. Scen.: Philip Yordan. F.: Leon Shamroy. M.: William Mace. Scgf.: Lyle R. Wheeler, Mark-Lee Kirk. Mus.: Lionel Newman.     Int.: Gregory Peck (Jim Douglas), Joan Collins (Josefa Velarde), Stephen Boyd (Bill Zachary), Albert Salmi (Ed Taylor), Henry Silva (Lujan), Kathleen Gallant (Emma Steinmetz), Lee Van Cleef (Alfonso Parral), Barry Coe (Tom), George Voskovec (Gus Steinmetz), Herbert Rudley (sceriffo Sanchez).     Prod.: Herbert B. Swope Jr. per Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 35 mm. D.: 98’. Col.     Helsinki premiere: 3 Oct 1958 Metropol, distributed by O.Y. Fox Films A.B.     Copy from 20th Century Fox by courtesy of Park Circus.     Soul and Craft: A Portrait of Henry King.     Introduce Imogen Sara Smith, hosted by Ehsan Khoshbakht.     Viewed at Cinema Jolly, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra, 27 June 2019. Imogen Sara Smith (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Henry King’s austere, morally ambiguous revenge drama The Bravados treads the same stony path as Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious (1952), Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961), and many of the great 1950s westerns of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher. All these films track men whose festering psychological wounds, scabbed over by embittered stoicism, drive them to pursue a vengeance they imagine will make them whole again. Their causes may be just – often, as in The Bravados, they are seeking to avenge the rape and murder of a woman – but obsessive hatred warps them, twisting courage and integrity into neurotic monomania. No one is healed by revenge in these movies; the hero is either redeemed by abandoning his quest or gutted by achieving it. Here, King gives an extra twist to the pattern, planting early on the suspicion that the four outlaws that Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) is hunting down may be the wrong men – and that he might not even care." "This was the fifth of King’s six films with Peck, whose usual upstanding decency shades into self-righteous inflexibility, and makes his glints of sadism all the more shocking. Douglas kills one man as he grovels on his knees, and dispatches another by stringing him upside-down from a tree. The outlaws have already been sentenced to hang when the movie begins; after escaping, they kill without hesitation, and one kidnaps and assaults a young woman. Does it matter if they are innocent of one crime, when they are guilty of so many others?" "Despite the grandeur of its landscapes – the sun-beaten plains and plunging cliffs of Mexico’s Michoacán and Jalisco provinces – and the ravishing colour cinematography by Leon Shamroy, The Bravados is lean and hard, with little of the tenderness found in King’s folksy portraits of rural America. It gestures toward redemption, with hints of the director’s Catholic faith, but remains a troubling portrait of blinkered, overbearing certainty, which Peck linked to the communal scapegoating of McCarthyism." Imogen Sara Smith AA: Revisited The Bravados which I knew previously from a dvd viewing of the handsome Twentieth Century Classics release of 2006. I found the film distinguished even then, but my eyes were opened to its full impact on the CinemaScope screen of Cinema Jolly. Henry King's philosophy of space and Leon Shamroy's outdoors cinematography can be fully appreciated only in the cinema. Imogen Sara Smith again gave the best introduction of the festival. She put The Bravados in the context of the post-WWII Western revenge tragedies of Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, et al. Those movies offered sombre critiques of the cycle of violence in which the protagonist finds himself. Henry King brings a new angle to Gregory Peck's star persona in a role in which his character is limited by his inability to doubt and change. Traces of war, loss, disillusionment and the burden of the past were characteristic of the species of "the noir Western" (illuminatingly discussed by Smith in her book In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City). (End of my Smith resume). Henry King was at his best when he had a strong screenplay, and the script of The Bravados is very good indeed, written by Philip Yordan, based on the novel by Frank O'Rourke. Yordan was famous for using surrogate screenwriters, especially during the black list era, but nobody has questioned his credit in The Bravados. Yordan gave an interview to Patrick McGilligan covering The Bravados among other things (see beyond the jump break). Perhaps the interview is not 100% reliable but it is revealing all the same. "I'm a stranger here myself" is a line of dialogue that connects The Bravados with another Philip Yordan project, Johnny Guitar (that line got identified with the director Nicholas Ray to the extent that it was the title of his autobiography project). But the line also appears in The Gunfighter [tbc], not linked with Yordan but with Henry King and Gregory Peck. I'm a Stranger Here Myself was also the title of a 1938 Ogden Nash book and a 1943 Kurt Weill song with lyrics by Nash. All followers may have been inspired by him. The Bravados was the newest film screened in Bologna's Henry King tribute, and it shares key themes with his earlier films. Revenge is central in Tol'able David and Jesse James. Heroism is questioned in King's other films with Gregory Peck such as Twelve O'Clock High and The Gunfighter. Henry King made conveyor-belt Westerns in the silent period, but starting with The Winning of Barbara Worth they were all special (Jesse James, The Gunfighter, The Bravados). The spiritual presence of the Catholic church is sincere in The Bravados. Like in Way of a Gaucho seen yesterday (directed by Jacques Tourneur but originally assigned to Henry King), it represents transcendence in a world of mindless violence. The film is well cast and the cast is well directed. Movie star incongruities are handled with an approach that can be compared with the V-effect of the stage. Joan Collins brings her film star quality to the female leading role, effective as a woman who has been around and whom the leading male has known in New Orleans. Gregory Peck has his usual limitations, and those limitation are channeled, if not into strengths, then into meaningful character traits. Henry King has an obvious affection to the Spanish-Mexican presence in his Westerns; it is also reflected in the beautiful score by Lionel Newman. There is a genuine sense of the sublime in the location shooting in the mountains and near wild rivers. The Bravados is the latest film of Henry King's that I have seen. In it he has lost none of his command. In the finale King stages a complex situation simply, eloquently and powerfully. The print was perfect, and the theme colour blue came off powerfully as announced by Smith. The image was out of focus during long passages due to absent-mindedness in the projection room. AFI CATALOG ONLINE: HISTORY According to a Jun 1956 Var article, Twentieth Century-Fox bought the rights to Frank O'Rourke's novel before it was published. HR news items yield the following information about this production: In Jul 1957 Edward Dmytryk was announced as director. Dmytryk did not work on the picture, however. Ken Scott, who played "Primo," the deputy, was originally cast as a heavy, according to a Dec 1957 news item. The same item and materials contained in the picture's production files in the AMPAS Library indicate that the studio wanted to film in Arizona, but director Henry King lobbied to shoot on location in Mexico. Mexican locations included Morelia, Uruapan, Patzcuaro, and San Jose Punua. In 1959 Joe De Rita, who played "Simms," took over the role of "Curly" in The Three Stooges. The Niños Cantores de Morelia Choral Group SYNOPSIS Jim Douglas is on his way to witness a hanging in the border town of Rio Arriba when he is stopped on the outskirts of town by a guard who disarms him and then escorts him to see Sheriff Eloy Sanchez. The sheriff questions Jim's motives and then confiscates his guns. On the street, the edgy townsfolk mistake Jim for Simms, the hangman who is to execute the sheriff's four prisoners. While registering at the hotel, Jim is warmly greeted by Josefa Velarde, a former lover he has not seen since a liaison in New Orleans five years earlier. When Josefa asks Jim if he ever married, he curtly answers yes and then changes the subject. After Simms arrives, Jim asks to see the prisoners, the men he has been tracking for six months, and expresses his relief that the law will finally bring them to justice. The men--Alfonso Parral, Bill Zachary, Ed Taylor and Lujan--insolently address Jim as he glares at them through their cell bars. Simms postpones meeting the prisoners until after the town gathers that night in church. When Josefa invites Jim to join her at church, he tersely replies that he no longer attends services. As the town kneels to pray, Simms visits the jailhouse and coldly stabs the sheriff in the back. Whirling around in shock, the sheriff shoots and kills his assailant, but the four prisoners escape nevertheless. Meanwhile, Emma Steinmetz, the shopkeeper's daughter, has slipped out of the service to retrieve something from the store and is abducted by the prisoners. The gravely wounded sheriff staggers into the church just as the outlaws and their hostage gallop out of town. When Emma's father Gus discovers that his daughter is missing, a posse forms, but Jim declines to join, vowing to bring the fugitives to justice himself. Alone in his hotel room, Jim stares at the photo of his wife and daughter he carries in a pocket watch. The next morning, Jim catches up to the posse and assumes command. After finding the real Simms's body lying dead along the roadside, Jim orders gunshots fired every five minutes to distract the outlaws. At the Rio Arriba church, Parral's mother grieves for her dead son while the padre tells Josefa that Jim's wife was raped and murdered by four outlaws who were identified by Jim's neighbor, a man named Butler. When the padre mentions that before embarking upon his quest for vengeance, Jim entrusted the care of his little daughter to a ranchhand and his wife, Josefa gasps that the little girl could have been hers because Jim proposed to her years earlier, but she turned him down. While Josefa rides to Jim's ranch to comfort the little girl, Zachary, Taylor and Lujan continue on with Emma. Spying Jim in the distance, Taylor stays behind to ambush him. When Taylor starts firing, Jim waits until he runs out of bullets, then lassoes him and hangs him upside down from a tree. Four miles from the Douglas ranch, Emma, Lujan and Zachary come across Butler's shack and ask him for food. After feeding them, Butler nervously excuses himself to go to work, grabs a sack and runs out the door. Zachary shoots Butler in the back and while Lujan goes out to examine the sack, Zachary drags Emma into a room and rapes her. As the posse approaches, Lujan and Zachary ride off, leaving Emma behind. En route to the Douglas ranch, Josefa meets Jim and begs him to give up his quest. After finding Butler's dead body and Emma, ravished and hysterical, Josefa exhorts Jim to kill the culprits. Josefa and Jim ride to his ranch and after entrusting his daughter to Josefa's care, Jim and the posse ride in pursuit of the remaining two fugitives. The posse is forced to turn back upon reaching the Mexican border, but Jim continues on. Finding Zachary and Lujan in a small border cantina, Jim throws his watch on the table. When Zachary draws his gun, Jim shoots him down, then turns to fire on Lujan. Lujan escapes, however, but Jim tracks him through the night and into the following morning. Returning home to his wife Angela and ailing son, Lujan runs out of the house to fetch some water for the child, and Jim enters and aims his pistol at Lujan. Angela smashes Jim over the head with a clay pot, and Lujan then asks Jim why he is hunting him. When Jim shows him the photo, Lujan insists he has never seen the woman before, and recalls that he and his companions rode past the Douglas ranch on their way from the border. Pointing to the sack, Jim states that the men who killed his wife stole the sack containing the family's life savings. When Lujan tells Jim that he took the bag from Butler, Jim realizes that Butler killed his wife. Speechless with remorse, Jim returns to Rio Arriba and heads directly to the church to pray for forgiveness. Soon after, Josefa and his daughter enter the church and the little girl runs to her father, who hugs her. As the three walk out of the church together, they are greeted by a round of applause from the assembled community. When the townsfolk offer their undying gratitude, Jim asks for their prayers instead. PATRICK MCGILLIGAN: INTERVIEW WITH PHILIP YORDAN (IN BACKSTORY 2, 1997) I never did understand why. How did the audiences know to go to see this picture? I don't know. Anyhow, that's the story of Johnny Guitar . I had the same situation years later at Fox. [Producer David] Brown, who was partners with [Richard] Zanuck, was the story editor, and I had a seven-year contract at Fox. But I had a seven-year contract at Columbia too once, and I never lasted more than eight or nine months. The pay [at Fox] was good, they treated me fine, and Zanuck even let me work at home. But it was a harder life, I don't know why. There was something wrong with me that I couldn't stay at a studio. Anyhow, Brown called me in; it was in the morning on a Thursday. He said they had a Western with Gregory Peck called The Bravados [1958]. He handed me the book. He said they had a script [based on the novel by Frank O'Rourke]. I read it and again it was a situation like Johnny Guitar . It wasn't a good script and Peck had turned it down. Brown says, "You know, Peck in a Western is bread and butter. We need that picture, I can't tell you how desperately, for our banks. We need this picture. So, can you write it?" I said, "I can write it if I don't use the script or the book. I'll have to write you an original from scratch." He says, "I don't care what you write, but I want Peck." I said, "Well, I don't know, I never met Peck, but I can do something with it." He says, "What's the deal?" I said, "Well, if Peck doesn't want to do it, there's no deal. If Peck wants to do it, I'll make a deal with you." He says, "Fine." Well, I went home and I had a secretary, little Southern girl, and I just dictated this story straight through. Beginning to end. Their top director, Henry King, read it and says, "I'll do this." When King says he'll do it, then Peck says, sure, he'll do it. ― 355 ― The story was very simple. A rancher comes back after a cattle drive to find out that his wife was raped and killed, and he's out to get the guys. The picture opens in a town where there are four guys in jail for holding up the bank and shooting the banker, four outlaws; they are going to be hung the next day. Everybody is armed, on guard, and they don't want anybody interfering with the hanging. In rides Gregory Peck and he comes to see the sheriff and he says, "I want to see the hanging." What kind of creep is this that has ridden two hundred miles to watch a hanging? Guy likes hangings! Then Gregory Peck asks, "Can I look at the prisoners?" The sheriff says, "What the hell do you want to look at the prisoners for?" But he takes him down to the cells and the prisoners look at him and they don't know who he is either. In the middle of the night, some other guy arrives, the hangman. Only he isn't really the hangman, he's their outlaw friend, and he springs them. When he springs them, they kill a couple of guards. Now, a posse is going to get them, so Peck says, "I want to join you." He joins them. And by and by, you find out that these are the guys that killed his wife. The posse chases them to Mexico, only they have to stop at the border. But Peck's not an officer of the law, so he goes over the border and he gets them one by one. The first guy he captures and he hangs him. The second guy he shoots. The third guy, I don't know, he kills in some way. The fourth guy is a Mexican and he tracks him all the way down to his house with his wife and baby, and he's about to kill him when he realizes that these aren't the four guys. They're four outlaws who held up a bank, they deserve to die, but these aren't the guys that raped and killed his wife. He has killed three guys out of blind revenge. So he spares the fourth guy. I don't think there had ever been a picture like that. It was something I just invented on the typewriter as I went along. So when you have an idea like this, what's to rewrite? It's simplistic, you go along and you wait for the kicker—you find out that he's chasing the wrong guys. I'll tell you how apropos it was [of Johnny Guitar ]. I had a problem. Peck says, "I'll do the picture but I want a few changes." Brown says, "We're all set but we still don't have Peck. He likes the script, but you've got to sit down with him . . . because he won't sign [a contract] until he talks to you." Well, this guy comes to see me in my little office at Fox and he says, "You know, I lynch three guys. That's not me. I don't lynch innocent people." I said, "They're not innocent, they're . . ." Well, he had thirty-three changes [he wanted], all written down, which destroyed the whole script. The basic premise was this character didn't want to kill. I said, "Mr. Peck, the whole strength of this picture is you're killing murderers—but not the murderers that killed your wife. And in the end, you do spare the fourth guy, when he proves to you he couldn't have been there. And, of course, you go back to church, because you're a Catholic, you con- ― 356 ― fess, and you get absolution." Henry King was a Catholic, and he loved the ending. Anyhow, I must say, that after a couple of hours I whittled down his objections one by one. I prefaced the discussion by saying, "Look, Mr. Peck . . ." He says, "Call me Greg . . ." I said, "Greg, you're the boss. Without you, we're in the shithouse. I need this picture because of the banks." And I told him everything that Brown had told me and that my job was to make him happy. I said, "Anything you say, I'll do. I'll do to the best of my ability. You're the boss, so I want your opinion. I'll give you my opinion, but I don't want to make you feel that you shouldn't do the picture." So he didn't say much, he just listened. When I was all through, I made two small changes, and he did the picture. The picture didn't work. [Director] King was too old. It didn't come across the way it should have. You buttered Peck up? I didn't butter him up! I was honest. The same with Joan [Crawford]. Honest. Direct. Saying, I work for the studio, and I'll do anything you want. Anything you want, I gotta do. That was my approach.

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