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)
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 River, Robert Ryan in The Naked Spur, Richard 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.