Jeb Rand on the Brain

That's Your Funeral

PURSUED. Robert Mitchum as Jeb Rand attends the funeral of the man he killed, Harry Carey. Stunning photog by James Wong Howe. I guess he’s using a polarising filter to make the sky ultra dark. Either there’s a really strong low sun or he’s actually lighting it — it has a sort of artificial look, but I guess it’s sunlight alright — the sky is basically clear. So they’re filming it late in the day as the sun sinks, and the brightness plus the unnaturally dark sky give it a dreamlike, unnatural quality.

The Women

And anything with Dame Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA, and by the way, where do you suppose MISTER Danvers is?) gets extra dream-points. The idea of a Dame out west is appealing too.

Mitch

Theresa Wright, who’s always admirable, but usually very sweet and innocent, gets to be really strong and interesting in this movie. She look at Mitchum and silently vows to marry him — then kill him!

The Wright Stuff

Does Jeb suspect?

Big Bad Bob

Screenwriter Niven Busch scripted THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and is generally more associated with the noir scene than with westerns. The dialogue is nice too, with pleasing archaisms like “I disremember,” and “must be boresome.” You can’t have too much of that kind of lingo in my book. Well, you CAN, but usually the problem is you don’t have enough. “Generally better to overdo these things,” as Mitchum himself says in the remake of CAPE FEAR.

I guess if this was a John Ford film we might have a long shot with a low horizon and plenty of sky, which would have been pictorially very nice but not helpful really. This is definitely a film noir pretending to be a western, and noir is a fair distance from the Ford style. Although the Ford style takes in Murnau-isms at times, so is closer to noir than I’m acknowledging. Aw, I’m just hedging my bets all over the place. Time I went to bed.

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7 Responses to “Jeb Rand on the Brain”

  1. I quite like Pursued but didn’t like the flashback structure at all – it seems a cheat to have Mitchum relate the story of how they came to be awaiting death in the cabin to his girl when she was there to witness it and played a major part in events herself!

    “Hey, do you remember that time I shot your brother and then you vowed to kill me but then couldn’t do it because you were just a silly lovestruck girl? You must recall it – it was only the most important and devastating series of events in your life!”

    At this point I was imagining Mitchum violently shaking her shouting “Remember! Remember!”

    Sadly my imaginings trying to make the flashback work pulled me out of the film, and I also found the ending an anti-climax (it has that quality of a quick resolution and then straight out of the film to the end credits that is very nice to watch. No half hour of resolution after the action has officially ended, but I’m not complaining about the swiftness of the resolution. It just felt to me that we never really got into the head of the mother to understand what she was thinking – what was the turning point for her to side with Mitchum – a bit of a flaw for a ‘psychological western’, even if she wasn’t the main character in the piece).

    Not to mention the convenience of Mitchum’s character being able to overcome his amnesia at the most convenient point in the film for him to do so! (i.e. after the flashback and five minutes before the end!) I think his character must have been faking not being able to remember anything!

    I thought it was an interesting attempt to do ‘psychological’ with the light glinting off the spurs but that perhaps it lost sight of the narrative and tied itself in knots by trying to be too tricksy with its structure.

    Actually I caught Mitchum in Dick Powell’s The Hunters yesterday and think that is a truly great film. Deceptively simple (I checked David Thomson’s entry in the Biographical Dictionary of Film and the only mention of the film is that it is “anonymously directed”) and unflashy but quite subversive in its own way – in an era of From Here To Eternity type threesomes it is interesting to see an unrequited love story where the couple who belong together never do so due to their loyalty to the feckless dead weight lump the girl’s married (even to the extent of saving Abbott from behind enemy lines when it perhaps would have been easier for everyone if they’d left him for dead!) It is amazing to see the guy playing Abbott literally being carried by Mitchum through a number of scenes! ;-)

    (Spoiler) The amazing final shot where Kristina Abbott visits first her husband and then Saville (Mitchum) in the convalesence hospital is going to stay with me. They say their goodbyes as Abbott is being shipped back to the US from Japan so they’ll never see each other again, they part and then both their attention is taken by the jet planes flying overhead. This gives Kristina the excuse to turn back to Saville (maybe for the uplifting run into each other’s arms and the happy ending) only to see his back to her as he is following the planes flying off into the distance. It is almost as if he has forgotten her and she smiles a little sadly and walks off. The film ends on Saville’s back as he is straining to see every moment of the planes, his true love. (end spoiler)

    It is such a simple ending but completely masterful – Saville is a man of war not of women, of duty not of passion (which is why he saved Abbott more because it is the right thing to do, not just because he made a promise to the wife through love).

    I feel Dick Powell is a severely underrated director (I also love Split Second, the ‘taken hostage by robbers who unfortunately decide to hide out in a deserted town, oblivious to the fact that it has been chosen for the site of a nuclear test!’ film), but I’ve yet to see The Conqueror (the John Wayne as Genghis Khan film!)

  2. Sorry, don’t know where those ‘winks’ came from!

  3. dcairns Says:

    There’s a virus or something on WordPress which is chucking in winks at everyone.

    I basically agree re PURSUED. And Dame Judith’s shooting the baddie is not only unexplained re her emotional turning point, it’s legally questionable! Are they going to hang Dame J now?

    Mitchum not only narrates things to Wright that she already knows, his flashbacks include action he wasn’t present at, which is an even bigger offense. Although see Joseph Cotton’s bits in CITIZEN KANE for a successful example of this kind of cheating.

    Most of this didn’t bug me too much but the ending was a letdown. The bad guy being so enjoyable evil, he deserved a more effective end.

    I keep missing THE HUNTERS on Film4 but I’ll check it out for sure next time. Recording COPACABANA right now, which has an outstanding audio flashback joke.

  4. I only got connected to freeview last Tuesday so I’m spending much too much time excitedly watching through all these new channels (though I am annoyed that the one film I really wanted to see, The Exterminating Angels, was postponed last week!) I am also glad to see that Channel and Film 4 have been showing films in their proper aspect ratios and hope that will continue – I get the impression The Hunters could be even more easily dismissed as poorly made if just seen in a pan and scan format.

  5. Niven Busch was, of course, married to Teresa Wright when “Pursued” was made. As for Busch and westerns … he was the author of the novel upon which “Duel In The Sun” was based. Somebody else wrote the movie, admittedly, but that film was very much a part of the landscape when “Pursued” was made.

    When I saw the Tim Burton “Sleepy Hollow” — quite underrated, btw — that stuff toward the bigginning with the killing in the cottage *immediately* reminded me of the traumatic childhood incident in “Pursued.”

  6. Pursued was the central film discussed in the Edinburgh Festival’s Raoul Walsh tribute book back in the day. Very funny as they were applying a Lacanian reading to a film redolent of Pop Freudianism. Talk about “Over-egging the custard”!

  7. That book’s pretty notorious, isn’t it? A classic example of forcing a work through a critical filter whether it illuminates it or not.

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