director Anthony Mann
After watching a few Westerns with the kids, my appetite has been whetted for more of the same. I was digging around for lists of the greatest examples of the genre to see what would come up, and sadly the lists I came across didn’t offer so many hot leads but rather a number of films that I have seen. Maybe what I need is a list of the best B-movie Westerns.
That said, Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur did show up in a few places. Mann is one of those auteurs whose name I became familiar with as I started really getting into cinema. For all that, outside of Winchester ’73 (1950), I’m not sure how many of his films that I’ve actually seen. I think I saw one when I was living in England, which is actually where I turned the corner on my interest in film and also where I came to know and love the Western.
The Naked Spur is a pretty great film. It’s a tight concept with a small but very good cast. James Stewart is hunting for Robert Ryan, a wanted murderer. He winds up stumbling into a partnership with gristly old timer Millard Mitchell and unsavory roustabout Ralph Meeker as he captures Ryan, who turns out to be travelling with young thing, Janet Leigh. It’s a game of distrust in all directions, with Ryan cockily trying to wrangle his escape.
Shot on location in Colorado, the settings are beautiful and dramatic and make for a great finale above and in a raging river.
I think I’ll have to queue up the rest of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart Westerns (there are five all together) and more Mann films as I try to get a better handle on them for myself.