The Desperadoes (1943)

The Desperadoes (1943)

Run time: 87 min
Rating: 6.4
Genres: Romance | Western
Director: Charles Vidor
Writers: Robert Carson, Max Brand
Stars: Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Glenn Ford
Storyline
Popular mailcoach driver Uncle Willie is in fact in league with the town’s crooked banker. They plan to have the bank robbed after emptying it, and when Willie’s choice for this doesn’t show in time, he gets some local boys to do it. When his man does turn up he decides to stick around, as he is pals with the sheriff and also takes a shine to Willie’s daughter Allison. This gives the bad men several new problems. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>
Details:
Release Date: 25 May 1943 (USA)

4 Comments

  1. rgkeenan

    September 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    For an enjoyable western starring the young Glenn Ford, Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor and Evelyn Keyes, you can’t go wrong with THE DESPERADOES. Filmed in gorgeous technicolor, there’s a Zane Grey feeling about the storyline–a man (Ford) hoping to redeem his crooked past joins forces with a lawman (Scott) and helps him capture the thieves behind a bank robbery. Sure, it’s all been done before but the pace is quick, the dialogue brisk and the action is sometimes quite spectacular.

    Particularly exciting and novel is the use of a stampede started by a blast of nitro, all designed as a distraction while Ford rushes to the aid of a wrongly imprisoned sheriff (Scott). Guinn "Big Boy" Williams plays his ‘Nitro’ character with his usual blustery charm.

    Nice performances from a cast including Edgar Buchanan, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Raymond Walburn and Irving Bacon as a bartender whose saloon keeps getting blasted and destroyed by gunfire battles.

    Entertaining all the way through.

  2. IMDBReviewer

    September 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    "The Desperadoes" (1943) is a genuine classic, not for its story (which is fairly routine), but for its technical production elements. This was a landmark western, the biggest ever at the time of its release and all the more unique because it was a Columbia production-a lightweight studio with a bottom feeding reputation. Only Fox's "Jesse James" (also starring Randolph Scott) from a few years earlier gave anywhere near this lavish a treatment to the genre. Although it would be eclipsed in a few years by "The Searchers" and "High Noon", "The Desperadoes" was a ground breaking effort and a historical treasure.

    In 1863, the economy in the town of Red Valley, Utah is based on rounding up and selling wild horses to the Union Army. The script gets a little messed up here with references to the railroad (which was several years away in Utah's future) and Custer's Last Stand (Custer was busy fighting Stuart in Pennsylvania at the time) but these are not important plot elements.

    Red Valley has an honest sheriff, Steve Upton (Scott), but the banker and several citizens are corrupt; robbing their own bank each time the government pays for a herd of horses. The town is visited by Cheyenne Rogers (Glenn Ford), a famous outlaw who is an old friend Steve's. He wants to go straight, especially after falling for the pretty livery stable owner Alison McLeod (Evelyn Keyes). Cheyenne's partner "Nitro" Rankin (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams) is mainly there for comic relief as are Uncle Willie McLeod (Edgar Buchanan) and the town judge (Raymond Walburn who models his character on Frank Morgan's "Wizard of Oz" crystal ball faker).

    Taking no chances with their huge budget Columbia packed this thing with tons of action and every western movie element but Indians and covered wagons. There is the best wild horse stampede ever filmed, a spectacular barroom brawl, an explosive climax, romance, and three-strip Technicolor. All this stuff doesn't necessarily fit together but who would have cared back in 1943. Unity is a problem as it tries to be both a serious action western and a comedy.

    The cinematography was probably the best ever at the time of its filming. The indoor scenes are solid but it is the naturalistic outdoor photography that is truly impressive; both the lyrical static shots and the moving camera filming of the action sequences.

    Scott and Claire Trevor were top billed, but the studio clearly wanted to promote Ford, who would soon be their biggest star. And Director Charles Vidor utilized the film to showcase his new wife Keyes (whose portrayal of Scarlett's sister in "Gone With the Wind" had connected with audiences more than any small part in the history of films).

    The Ford-Keyes dynamic is "The Desperadoes" most unique and important feature. Rather than go for the cliché "love triangle" with Scott and/or Trevor (which it first appears will happen), the entire romantic focus is on the two younger actors. This was probably the best role Keyes ever got and she makes the most of it. Playing a tomboyish but extremely sexy young woman who looks great in both leather pants and dresses, and who rides and fights like Kiera Knightley's character in "Pirates of the Caribbean". This was revolutionary at the time and coincided with the 1942 formation of the WAAC for WWII military service.

    "The Desperadoes" is one film that has been well taken care of and the print looks like it is brand new. Unfortunately there are no special features on the DVD.

    Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

  3. IMDBReviewer

    September 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    "The Desperadoes" although released in 1943, was Columbia’s first color feature. Director Charles Vidor gives us some dazzling outdoor scenes and plenty of action to boot.

    "Respectable" citizens Banker Clanton (Porter Hall) and Postmaster "Uncle Willie" (Edgar Buchanan) stage a phony bank robbery and plan a second robbery when a herd of horses is sold to the army. Gunman, Cheyenne Rogers (a very young Glenn Ford) was hired to carry out the first robbery but is delayed and Jack Lester (Bernard Nedell) and his gang substitute. After "borrowing" Sheriff Steve Upton’s (Randolph Scott) horse, he rides into town and meets Uncle Willie’s daughter Allison (Evelyn Keyes) with whom he falls in love.

    In town, saloon madame, "The Countess" (Claire Trevor) turns out to also be in love with Cheyenne. There Cheyenne hooks up with partner "Nitro" (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams). Lester exposes Cheyenne as an outlaw to the town and a slam-bang saloon brawl ensues. Following the fight, Steve orders Cheyenne and Nitro out of town. Unbeknownst to Cheyenne, Nitro robs the bank on the way out of town. After being cornered, the boys surrender and are sentenced to be hanged by Judge Raymond Walburn.

    Steve helps the boys to escape but is himself imprisoned as an accomplice. Naturally, Cheyenne and Nitro return to help their friend and the final showdown ensues.

    Although Scott and Trevor are top-billed, this is really Ford’s movie. He and Williams form the usual western type hero and sidekick and Keyes is the real heroine. Scott and Trevor are really in supporting roles although Trevor does have a couple of good scenes. Irving Bacon provides some comic relief as the nervous saloon keeper. Also, watch for western veterans Francis Ford and Bud Osborne as townsmen and Glenn Strange as one of Nedell’s henchmen.

    A fast-paced and entertaining western.

  4. IMDBReviewer

    September 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Blimey, this movie is nearly 60 years old. As it’s filmed in "glorious technicolour" it gives it a much more modern feel. The story is of some ‘insider trading’ at the local bank and the need to bring those responsible to justice.

    There are some fine performances throughout and the mix of drama and comedy (featuring great stuff from ‘Nitro’ and the bartender) is spot on. The story is a good one and it is entertaining from start to finish. Definitely a superior Western.

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