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LAST STAND OF STEWART & MANN WITH THE MAN FROM LARAMIE

James Stewart in Anthony MANN FROM LARAMIE Year: 1955
Going backwards in the next few month's ongoing tribute to actor James Stewart and director Anthony Mann, together or apart, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is their last Western genre collaboration...

Riding All Alone
Once again, like BEND IN THE RIVER, our leading man is a drifting, hired loner in James Stewart, taking a dramatic backseat to Arthur Kennedy's far more interesting and fleshed-out character, Vic... But that's only because his story is more desperate, urgent, while with Stewart, the more times you view the movie, the deeper his character becomes: And the scene-stealing Kennedy's not much without this film's rich rancher, who's not the typical cattle baron but actually has a little soul in him, and creepily foreboding dreams. Enter Donald Crisp's Alec, with three problems, two he's aware of: The first being Stewart's title hero, Will Lockhart, a stranger from Laramie, dead-set on sticking around, eventually hired by Alec's rival... a tough old gal played by Aline MacMahon. Will's out to thwart a gun deal to the Apache's that could make them ten times as dangerous...

One of the all-time great tracking shots
To the old man, denial is everything, and hiring Will might help things not be revealed so quickly. Thus the story plays out with intrigue and a touch of "Spur-Noir" (our name for Noir Westerns) as Stewart investigates not only the situation but the people in town, simply by being an honest and headstrong man amongst them...

The nefarious Dave and his men ride in from the distance
For Stewart fans, this is arguably his best, strongest performance followed by ANATOMY OF A MURDER while the films are similar in that, in both, the younger man facing dangerous business upfront while his older, faithful sidekick goes off to poke around on his own. And though a romance with a local girl (Alec's niece, played by the always wispy and melodramatic Cathy O'Donnell, is teased at, there's not much beyond dinner table flirtation. Leading to the old man's other problems that drives this story of idealism verses nepotism forward at a sparse, brisk pace...

Stewart spots a stalker
While he trusts his "adopted son," Arthur Kennedy's Vic, he refuses to believe his real son... the movie's bratty wild card, Alex Nicol... could be the guilty party behind the gun deal...

Behind bars, just waiting
At one point, so much of the pivotal action is centered on these polar opposite "brothers" that, like Mann & Stewart's WINCHESTER 73, the main character injects more proverbial thunder than lightning...

LaramieScore: ****1/2
And with that, the actor and director's final of six Westerns together, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, with extremely gorgeous yet sparse and hollow, almost haunting locations (minus the too-obvious Day For Night sequences), while lacking the kind of intentional, hard-driving, gun-blasting intensity had in other Westerns, makes up for it with a sort of cursed aura throughout... a vibe that anything can happen, at any given moment and, by the end... because of the genuine nature of our determined lead and the secondary story about the "brothers" that forebodes THE GODFATHER, there's a lasting impression that, in its own way, exceeds many Westerns of this era: And that's saying something. 
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