Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Rounders

TCM is running a bunch of westerns with Glenn Ford tomorrow morning and afternoon. One that I don't think I've ever blogged about before is The Rounders, airing at 11:00 AM.

Glenn Ford, who was pushing 50 by the time he made this one, plays Ben, an aging ranch hand who goes from one job to the next but spends a fair amount of time working for Jim (Chill Wills). Ben is best friends, and generally works together with Howdy, played by Henry Fonda who was pushing 60 when he took this part. Together the two of them go through life never having much money but always hoping they can make a buck somewhere.

Much of The Rounders is a simple look at a period of time in these two men's lives, but there are two main plot strands running through the movie. One involves an old horse that Jim had was was unable to break to make suitable for riding. Ben is good at that, so he decides to take on that task. However, this is just about the orneriest horse you ever did meet, and it bucks everybody -- including Ben. Still, Ben wants to make a buck, so he comes up with the brilliant idea of putting this horse in the rodeo as a bucking bronco and taking wagers that people can't stay on the horse for the designated amount of time. Well, that among other schemes.

The other main plot strand involves a pair of women, Mary and Sister (played by Sue Ann Langdon and Hope Holiday respectively) whom Ben and Howdy meet along the way. There's a romantic spark between the men and the women, and the womenfolk wouldn't mind it if Ben and Howdy could finally settle down and do something stable that would alow the guys to be with the two women. But you get the feeling that it just about kill them to settle down.

The Rounders is a comic western, but it's pretty darn gentle in its comedy. I think I've mentioned before that Henry Fonda is more than capable enough at comedy, but is at his best when the players around him are being zany and he has to react to what's going on around him. (This, even though he did The Lady Eve and did a fine job in it.) I'd put Glenn Ford in the same vein, definitely the laconic, laid-back type when it comes to comedy. The script more or less allows both of them to play to their strengths with the horse providing most of the laughs.

The result is a movie in which not much really happens, but which is amiable, clearly well-made, and more than entertaining enough. Nobody would ever think to select The Rounders as the first movie to show if you wanted to introduce people who aren't film buffs to either Ford or Fonda, and maybe not even the tenth movie to show in that regard. But that doesn't mean the movie is not eminently watchable.

The Rounders did get a DVD release from the Warner Archive collection, so you should be able to get it without too much difficulty.

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