Saturday, October 10, 2009

Glenn Ford, bad guy

TCM is airing the original version of the classic western 3:10 to Yuma at 6:15 PM ET this evening.

Van Heflin plays a rancher in the dry Arizona Territory who is trying ro fetch his herd along with his two sons. However, his attempt is interrupted when he comes along a stagecoach holdup in progress, committed by a gang of crooks led by Glenn Ford. It's a life-changing experience for all of them. Naturally, Ford is wanted by the law, and he's got a princely sum on his head. Nobody has the courage to turn him in to the authorities, though, because they know that his gang will come after them if they do so. Heflin, however, has rather more pragmatic concerns. It's those cattle in bone-dry Arizona. The place is going through a drought, and it questionable whether or not he'll be able to save the ranch. The reward money for turning in Ford would go a long way toward saving it. So, all Heflin has to do is apprehend Ford, and hold him until the authorities can come and take him away on the train -- the 3:10 to Yuma of the title -- where Ford has a date with the hangman's noose.

There's that pesky little word "all", though. It's really not that simple, or else we'd have a very different movie. Ford, despite being a remorseless killer, is also an exceedingly charming man, and quickly turns to trying to charm Heflin into letting him go, and trying to put doubts into Heflin's mind as to whether he'll even be able to succeed in turning Ford in. After all, Ford does have a gang to back him up, and they're bound to be waiting for the 3:10 to Yuma, too.

Glenn Ford has the looks of a leading man, and is definitely the lead here. He looks as though he's relishing his chance to play a bad guy, since many of the stars of that day didn't get the chance to play the bad guy all that often. Heflin, on the other hand, didn't have the looks of a leading man, and it certainly shows here, much to the film's benefit. Heflin looks uncomfortable, mostly because that's how his character should look: the man, it must be remembered, has never done anything like hold a criminal in custody awaiting transfer. (Who among us has?) He's not doing this because it's the right thing to do; he's doing it for the money. Both actors get great roles to play in a movie that has relatively little action: like the previously-mentioned No Name on the Bullet, it's more of a psychological suspense movie that just happens to be set in the Old West.

3:10 to Yuma was remade a few years back, and sadly, a lot of the search engine image searches yield more pictures from the remake than the original. The more important thing, though, is that the movie has been released to DVD.

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