A truly great Western

The_Man_from_Laramie_Poster Last night I watched The Man From Laramie for the first time, and it joined my select list of favorite Westerns, along with Tombstone and Silverado.

The Man From Laramie stars Jimmy Stewart in his fifth and final collaboration with director Anthony Mann. Mann directed Stewart in five Westerns in five years: Winchester ’73 (1950); Bend of the River (1952); The Naked Spur (1953); The Far Country (1955); and The Man from Laramie (1955). Also featured in this film are five-time Oscar nominee and Tony winner Arthur Kennedy; Oscar winner Donald Crisp; film noir favorite Cathy O’Donnell; and Oscar nominee Aline MacMahon. Jack Elam, known for playing villains, has a small but important role.

I was surprised by the dark tone of this film. It’s nearly Shakespearean in the way the tension mounts as one violent accident after another befalls Stewart’s character. The darkness of the plot is in sharp contrast to the gorgeous scenery and daytime action. The Man From Laramie was one of the first films shot in CinemaScope, and it really captures the majesty of the New Mexico landscape.

As always, Stewart is never less than compelling. I’ve always been a fan of his Western work in the radio drama The Six Shooter (listen), made during the same period as the Mann films, and it translates well to the screen.

Here’s what the New York Times had to say in 1955, and a more recent essay.

Highly recommended.

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