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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: RIP Elmore Leonard; 3:10 TO YUMA

IN MEMORIAM: ELMORE “DUTCH” LEONARD (1925-2013)
3:10 to Yuma (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Delmer Daves, 1957 (Criterion Collection)

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Frankie Laine sings:

There is a lonely train called the 3:10 to Yuma.
The pounding of the wheels is more like a mournful sigh.
There’s a legend and there’s a rumor,
When you take the 3:10 to Yuma,
You can see the ghosts of outlaws go riding by.
Chorus: Riding by….
Laine: In the Sky… (Chorus echoes)
Laine: Way up high…The buzzards keep circlin’ the train.
While below, the cattle are thirstin’ for rain.
It’s all so true, they say, on the 3:10 to Yuma,
A man may meet his fate,. for fate travels everywhere.
Though you’ve got no reason to go there,
And there ain’t a soul that you know there,
When the 3:10 to Yuma whistles its sad refrain:
“Take that train…  (Chorus echoes)
“Take that train…” (Chorus wails.)
Ned Washington (lyrics) & George Duning (music):  “3:10 to Yuma

Here, in all its taut, bare-knuckle glory, is Delmer Daves’ best and most justly celebrated Western, the 1950s classic 3:10 to Yuma. An Eisenhower-era show that reflects both the staunch ideals and the queasy fears of those years, it’s a movie sharply scripted, crackling with tension, shrewdly cast  (Glenn Ford and Van Heflin are the leads and antagonists, supported by Felicia Farr, Henry Jones and Richard Jaeckel), and beautifully photographed in black and white by Charles Lawton Jr, who also shot the gorgeous color landscapes of Daves’ Jubal.

3:10 to Yuma—which may be the best title for a movie Western, ever—is based on a story by the young Elmore Leonard, who later became the primo contemporary American crime novelist (“Get Shorty,” “Freaky Deaky”) and also happens to be one of Quentin Tarantino‘s main writing models. (Leonard’s story is probably better than the movie.) The picture Daves made from it is another clockwork suspense Western in the tense tick-tock style of High Noon, with Heflin as the upright but financially strapped rancher Dan Evans, who hires on as armed escort for a dangerous and deceptive prisoner—affable outlaw boss and sexy killer Ben Wade (Ford)—all the way to the 3:10 train to Yuma (and justice), despite Ford’s relentless razzing and the gathering of his gang all around them.

Like Gary Cooper’s Marshall Will Kane in High Noon, Heflin’s Evans is the man of rectitude and honor harassed by outlaws, deserted by townsfolk, waiting for the inevitable showdown. But Ford’s Wade is a breed apart from Frank Miller’s silent, menacing “High Noon” gang. Like those deadly charmers Arthur Kennedy in Bend of the RiverRobert Ryan in The Naked SpurRichard Boone in The Tall T (also from a Leonard story) and Lee Marvin in Seven Men from Now, he’s the outlaw as seducer, the smiler with a gun. And 3:10 to Yuma, which boasts film noir mainstays Ford and Heflin as co-stars, is definitely one of the peaks of Western Noir.

Daves’ Yuma is also notable as one of the negative inspirations (see above) for Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo. (The other was, of course, High Noon.) Hawks underrated them both. The 1957 3:10 to Yuma is an inarguably excellent black-and-white Western, one of the best in its class despite a disappointing ending—a mistake not much improved when the movie was remade in 2007 by writer-director James Mangold, with Russell Crowe as Wade and Christian Bale as Evans. The 1957 movie also has what many Westerns should have but only 3:10 to Yuma, Gunfight at the O. K. Corral, Rawhide, Blazing Saddles and a few others do: a title song sung by Frankie Laine. There‘s a legend and there‘s a rumor that the song in 3:10 to Yuma…was Frankie‘s top effort too—though Ned Washington‘s lyrics, which suggest an American Western Kwaidan, have almost nothing to do with the movie. Doesn’t matter.

So rest in peace, Dutch—but only if you want to. Sorry about the adverbs.

Extras: .Interviews with Elmore Leonard and Glenn Ford’s son, Peter Ford; Booklet with Kent Jones essay.

One Response to “Wilmington on DVDs: RIP Elmore Leonard; 3:10 TO YUMA”

  1. Roy Atkinson says:

    There is a great version of Ned Washington and George Duning’s “3:10 to Yuma” on Frankie Laine’s 1961 Columbia LP “Hell Bent for Leather.” The orchestra is conducted by one Johnny Williams, better known today as John Williams. I lost my old vinyl version in a recent house move. But, alas, I see it is available on CD. Laine is in great form doing everything from “The Hanging Tree” and “Cool Water” to High Noon’s “Do Not Forsake Me.”

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Julian Schnabel: Years ago, I was down there with my cousin’s wife Corky. She was wild — she wore makeup on her legs, and she had a streak in her hair like Yvonne De Carlo in “The Munsters.” She liked to paint. I had overalls on with just a T-shirt and looked like whatever. We were trying to buy a bunch of supplies with my cousin Jesse’s credit card. They looked at the credit card, and then they looked at us and thought maybe we stole the card, so they called Jesse up. He was a doctor who became the head of trauma at St. Vincent’s. They said, “There’s somebody here with this credit card and we want to know if it belongs to you.”

He said, “Well, does the woman have dyed blonde hair and fake eyelashes and look like she stepped out of the backstage of some kind of silent movie, and is she with some guy who has wild hair and is kind of dressed like a bum?”

“Yeah, that’s them.”

“Yeah, that’s my cousin and my wife. It’s okay, they can charge it on my card.”
~ Julian Schnabel Remembers NYC’s Now-Shuttered Pearl Paint

MB Cool. I was really interested in the aerial photography from Enter the Void and how one could understand that conceptually as a POV, while in fact it’s more of an objective view of the city where the story takes place. So it’s an objective and subjective camera at the same time. I know that you’re interested in Kubrick. We’ve talked about that in the past because it’s something that you and I have in common—

GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.

MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?

GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.

Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé