Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Can you name this famous western movie?

American audiences have always been attracted to characters with shady pasts who have chosen to reform their ways. Equally attactive is that relationship with the woman who makes them changed their ways. This story depends upon a double act of reformation as represented by the budding relationship between Dallas and the Ringo Kid: in the climatic scene, Dallas waits while the Kid and outlaw Luke Plummer face-off in a showdown. Her entire future rests in the balance: if he doesn't return, she will no doubt return to prostitution, and if he does return, Dallas and the Kid will start their lives anew on his small ranch.

Director Ford expertly plays with our expectations in this scene: as the Ringo Kid approaches Luke Plummer (Tom Tyler) and his two sidekicks, the Kid lunges forward into the dust, firing his rifle while the camera captures him at ground level--but Ford cuts away. Instead of showing us the action scene through to its conclusion, Ford takes us back to the darkened street, where Dallas waits, half out of her mind in fear of what might be happening to the Kid. This is also a technique many writers use to create tension and keep pages turning.

Significantly, if the Kid and Dallas ride off into the sunset, they're headed for the wilderness, where in the words of Doc Boone "they'll be saved from the blessings of civilization." As the movie shows us with Platt's snobbish society lady and Churchill's banker who can't be trusted, society can't be depended upon for help. It's outcasts (as represented by Dallas, the Ringo Kid, and Doc Boone) and military force (as represented by the cavalry that rides to the rescue) who save the day and provide flashes of stability and nobility.

Any John Wayne fans out there?
Name this movie!


Wendy said...

Ha! It's Stagecoach! I'm not much for John Wayne but my father is a big fan. Because of that, I watched a lot of John Wayne movies as a kid....

CherylStJ said...

Whoo hoo! Wendy, You win. Where shall we send the cabana boy? :-)

Wendy said...

Ooooh, I love me a hot cabana boy. Just stick a stamp on his forehead and send him on out to Cali!