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Thursday, February 04, 2016

When Lead Men Lived Off Westerns

Fred Sits Back Seat Behind Better B.O. Bets Doris and Jack

Fred MacMurray Plays Cowboy in Face Of A Fugitive (1959)

Fred MacMurray as a stickup man with lots to answer for who holes up in a mine town and grows a conscience. There were oceans of adult-theme westerns in the 50's, companies trying to float above thick of TV oaters. A star like MacMurray could make a project with his name and deferred salary, the reward a chunk of net provided the show goes into black. Most of time ones like Fugitive could thrive by dint of thrift, avoidance of crowds, location, other spending traps. Face Of A Fugitive is primarily a "town" western,  which meant conflicts settled by talk and infrequent gunplay. Good enough writing could assure interest, as was case here. "Morningside Productions" was where Charles Schneer hung hat, this a rare western he engaged, but not a sole one; there was also Good Day For A Hanging with MacMurray. Fred was known for holding on to a first dollar earned in pictures, one way of keeping rich to do sure-thing actioners like these. He wasn't a Scott or McCrea, but there was space for plenty on cowboy marquees, drive-ins especially hot to play outdoor product. Come to think of it, what's more appropriate than convertible-sit as Fred rides out for a reckoning, time-honored ritual to seldom require undivided attention.

3 Comments:

Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Of all the citified actors who looked out of place in Westerns, MacMurray's near the top of my list. But I make the usual allowance for a likable actor: Cowboys came in all types and came from all parts of the world. Why not someone like Fred?

1:00 PM  
OpenID 655665da-3f34-11e4-9e4b-1b9366bf1347 said...

This a fine Noir Western. MacMurray is playing a part that a casting agent would say "Let's get Randolph Scott or Joel McCrea". Fred accounts himself well, one scene he much pretty much tells the villain that he's ready to take him and his henchmen on whenever he's ready! A pretty good shoot out at the end, and Dorothy Green is well cast as his romantic interest. James Coburn's first film, I think, it's well cast all around, and surprisingly good work from Wendkos. Along with it's sister film GOOD DAY FOR A HANGING, Fred had some solid western work until THE APARTMENT came along.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

Recently caught Never A Dull Moment during TCM's month of MacMurray, in which he plays a full time rancher and part time rodeo performer, and I must say I was very surprised to find him remarkably comfortable and convincing in the the saddle.

I'm now surprised that he didn't become a regular presence in westerns, perhaps more like Stewart than Scott or McCrea.

1:45 PM  

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