Tuesday, June 4, 2013
The Naked Spur (1953): Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, and Two Old Crazy Guys
So, I have a lot to say. In fact, I ACTUALLY TOOK NOTES WHILE WATCHING THIS FINE FILM. I wrote random musings and quotes in my Kindle (name: Percy) as it went; but, apparently, I titled the notes with Broken Arrow instead of The Naked Spur. No idea why. I've never even seen Broken Arrow. JIMMMMYYY! *shakes fist*
And that brings me to why I have so much to say. I mean, I often have a lot to say. But, then I'm so lazy -- I never write it up. And, one would think that I really wouldn't need to blog this movie, because I did watch it with my mum. I really should have gotten all of my thoughts out while the movie was going.
My mum put a strict no-mocking-of-Jimmy-Stewart-in-any-way condition on the viewing of the movie. She threatened to walk out, if I so much as coughed bemusedly.
IT WAS KILLER.
I was dying, so I furiously typed all of my Jimmy-thoughts into Percy. Some of them were more immature than others (I may have described him as a twerp at one point), but I had to get my feelings out somehow.
Anyway. The intelligent critique of Jimmy Stewart will not make up the main part of this review -- not at all.
How could it? I'm gonna be too busy seriously fangirling over the greatness of Ralph Meeker and Robert Ryan. And, also discussing Janet Leigh's underrated strength as an actress.
Without further ado. (Expect spoilers!)
Can we stop for a quick minute (and by a quick minute, I mean the rest of the post) and talk about Ralph Meeker.
"Morally unstable." :')
That actual perfection of a mustache.
^If you guessed that he was actually twirling his mustache, you would be correct.
Oh, and the evil smile.
And, guhhhh, he was so great.
My mother has no appreciation for him. She kept going on and on about Jimmy Stewart being a "conflicted hero" (False. He was a weakling villain), yet when I suggested that Ralph Meeker was a conflicted hero -- this was her response: "No, he's just a creep." Seriously. HOW COULD SHE SAY THAT ABOUT THIS MAN?!
Ralph was seriously so great and fun and cheerful and a bit of hooligan. And, I'm almost certain he thought he was the lost Maverick brother (and/or trying out for a different Roy Huggins production).
And, oh my gosh. MORALLY UNSTABLE.
And the beautiful way that he jumped onto his horse. *tears*
(Nope, nope, nope. I did not make a gif of Ralph Meeker jumping on a horse. Nope.)
Okay, okay. I'm gonna move on now. I don't want you to think that this movie was JUST about a beautifully mustached, morally unstable Lieutenant.
Because, it was also had a perfect villain with a jauntily placed hat (all real villains have jauntily placed hats).
Robert Ryan is a huge favorite of mine. He's just so great in everything. I could never watch him enough. I remember being on a flight to London through Air Canada, and they had Men of War as part of their in-flight entertainment and I nearly died. It was a beautiful moment. (But, seriously though. Don't fly Air Canada. They are terrible.)
Robert Ryan's character is evil and brilliant and sooo smooth. Near the beginning, he actually appears to be more of a sympathetic character than our so-called protagonist. (I would submit that he is still more sympathetic -- even after killing the old guy -- because, if we are honest with ourselves, we all wanted that old guy gone.) And, as he slowly works on everybody -- PERFECTION.
Key line of coolness: "I remember what suits me." OH SNAP.
This brings me to Janet Leigh. Janet Leigh was a hugely talented actress. I don't think she ever gets her deserved acclaim, but she had a peculiar ability to make an emotional connection with the audience very quickly. (This is really why she is so effective in Psycho.) And this is also why she is so good here. She is given really very little to work with. Her character is basically just used as plot device, and she is treated as a prop throughout. BUT, SHE'S SO GOOD. I only wish that the movie had ended with her going off to be a strong, independent woman -- because the romance with Jimmy Stewart was hilariously non-credible and unnecessary and inexplicable. At least she got to be the catalyst to change her's and everyone else's outcomes (well, except old Jesse. But as we have established, literally no one cares).
Which reminds me, WHY WAS JIMMY STEWART NECESSARY?! Ralph Meeker's character did all the work. He captured Robert Ryan in the first place, and he killed Robert Ryan, and he went after the body. AND HE SHOULD HAVE SURVIVED TO GO OFF INTO THE SUNSET AND CONTINUE TO BE GLEEFULLY DISREPUTABLE, BUT HE WAS MORALLY UNSTABLE AND THEY KILLED HIM IN THE LAST TWO MINUTES AND WHY DOES THIS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO THE PEOPLE I LOVE. WHY CAN'T I HAVE NICE THINGS. WHY DOES DAVID JANSSEN ALWAYS DIE IN THE LAST FIVE MINUTES. WHY.
My mother laughed hysterically, as I screamed, "NOOOO! NOOOOOOOOO!"
She also chuckled while saying, "There goes $5,000." My mum's heart is two sizes too small.
Also, Jimmy Stewart was super quick to say that everyone's dead. He didn't even check on Ralph. He may have just been knocked unconscious. But, nope. Jimmy didn't care and just left him and that's just so not cool. HOPE YOU GET HAUNTED BY AN EVILLY SMILING, MUSTACHED GHOST, MISTER!
As much as I mock Jimmy Stewart, I can admit to times when he is a good actor. There are times, I am sure. Some days, even, I wake up and think, maybe today I will like Jimmy Stewart (note: I think in Charles Boyer's voice).
But, that day does not come when I am watching this movie.
He was uncharacteristically shouty and deranged (mostly uncharacteristically). I don't know if he suddenly realized that he was being out-charisma'd by Ralph Meeker and Robert Ryan and tried to counter-act that by darting his eyes around crazily and screaming. In any case, it was rather bad.
His screaming was ridiculous. The far-away look in his eyes as he talked about cattle was hilarious. And the way he fell down cliffs was just so amusing. I couldn't stop laughing on the inside.
I think my favorite scene was when he was calling out for "Mary, Mary!" And, it sounded just like he says it in It's a Wonderful Life (I really wanted him to mutter something about Zuzu's petals under his breath) and I may or may not have concocted an elaborate back-story where this is an alternate universe IAWL and Mary traipsed off without him and happily married Sam Wainwright.
Also, Jimmy was definitely wearing Kid Curry's coat. ROY HUGGINS, YOU ARE EVERYWHERE.
At least Ralphie didn't die 'till the end. I would have missed his lovely shenanigans. I was definitely rooting for him + Janet (I'm only joking, I know that he was terrible human being). I mean, if it had been reversed and it was he instead of Jimmy at the end -- things would have been different. First, he obviously would have just taken Robert Ryan and cashed him in. But, if for some reason, he was persuaded not to -- he definitely wouldn't have buried him. He would have just thrown him into any nearby canyon ala Big House, U.S.A. (classic Meeker).
No use crying over what can never be.
Goodbye morally unstable, evil smiling sir.
I actually had this written in my notes: "So smiley." I think I was referring to Ralphie, but it really works for both him and Robert Ryan. I have a terrible (literally; this is literally terrible) weakness for evil smiles. I mean, I HAVE A TAG FOR EVIL SMILES.
Look at this photo. Imagine the brilliance of this movie, minus the two crazy old guys (I swear if Jesse calls Janet "girlie" one more time, I'll-- oh, wait, nevermind, Robert Ryan beat me to it!):
Anyway, I quite like Anthony Mann and he did a beautiful job with this movie. The cast was wildly divergent, but A+ for Ralphie and Mr. Ryan and Janet Awesome Leigh. The cinematography was gorgeous. The story was iffy. And the ending was awful. I WANTED SEQUELS WITH THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF OUR MORALLY UNSTABLE HERO. But, I'm really okay now. I'm calm. It's okay. I can deal with this.
I would absolutely recommend the movie. Watch it for three talented actors.
P.S. I have decided to restart the Deanna Durbin: From the Beginning series. Expect a Three Smart Girls post soon.