Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Angel and the Badman" (1947)

Happy birthday to my absolute favorite actor, John Wayne!


To celebrate the third May birthday boy from my blog header, I'm reviewing one of Duke's more unusual westerns, Angel and the Badman (1947).  It's easily one of the most romantic westerns I've ever seen, with a love story so central to the plot that the title itself refers to the pairing.



Angel and the Badman (1947) begins with a wounded stranger (John Wayne) falling off his horse and into the lives of the Worth family, peaceful Quakers who believe it is their duty and privilege to help anyone and everyone who needs them.


This stranger insists on sending an urgent telegram, so Mr. Worth (John Halloran) and his daughter, Penny (Gail Russell), drive him into town.  Once there, he sends a telegram stating he's filing a claim on a specific piece of land.  His signature reveals that he is Quirt Evans, once Wyatt Earp's deputy and now a man with a reputation for using his gun.  He then collapses in Penny's arms.


Before he loses consciousness, he startles her with a reflexive, passionate kiss.  Penny is astonished, but not angry.  Still, we get the feeling this is the first time she has been kissed by anyone, much less a handsome and infamous gunman.


Once back at the Worth farm, a doctor tries to tend to Quirt Evans' wounds.  He's been shot in the abdomen, and also has an injured leg.  But although the doctor gives Quirt as much laudanum as he dares administer, the gunman clings to semi-consciousness.


He tosses back and forth, hands reaching, grasping for something he can't find.


Mr. Worth fetches Evans' pistol, which they'd left outside the house since Quakers don't believe in violence.


After prudently unloading it, he places the pistol in Quirt's outstretched hand.


Immediately, Quirt stops thrashing and slips into a passive sleep.


I first saw this movie when I was a young teen, probably only 14 or so.  I remember this scene so vividly -- that wounded man unable to rest unless he has his weapon.  His instincts so strong they overrode a powerful sedative, like an addict who doesn't just crave his drug of choice, he's entirely in its thrall.  I didn't see this movie again for twenty years, but I always remembered it as the movie where "John Wayne is wounded and can't sleep without his gun."  In fact, I used that idea in at least two stories as a teen, and it pops up in some C! fanfic too, where Caje takes to sleeping with a knife in his hand.

Penny and her family nurse Quirt Evans back to health.  When he finally regains consciousness, Quirt flirts expertly with Penny, who has begun to fall in love with him, and rather a lot of this sort of thing goes on all through the rest of the film.


Quirt is taken aback by Penny's very sincere affection for him.  At first, he finds it flattering, but just as he finds himself beginning to return her feelings, plot rears its ugly head to interrupt them.


You see, those bullets he had in him when he arrived came from a guy named Laredo Stevens (Bruce Cabot) and his cohorts, all of whom Quirt blames for his foster father's death.  Quirt beat them to staking a claim on some land they want, and now they're after him to get the deed.


And before long, a nosy US Marshal called Wistful McLintock (Harry Carey) comes around too, checking on Quirt to see if he was involved in some mischief, which reminds Quirt and Penny of just what sort of a man he was before he came to the Worth farm.


From then on out, it's all about Quirt needing to chose between going back to his old ways of relying on his gun and violence to get him out of trouble, or giving them up to be with Penny.  I'm not going to dig deeply into that here because I'll have a whole article on that subject in the next issue of Femnista.

If you're scratching your head and saying, "Hang on, John Wayne as a romantic lead?  John Wayne?  Really?" then you need to watch more of his movies, because honey, he will smolder your socks off.


You can currently watch this entire movie for free here on YouTube with very good picture and sound quality, thanks to the Paramount Vault.  It's actually in the public domain as well, so there are a lot of inexpensive DVD versions out there, but not all of them are very good quality, and some of them are missing several minutes of the movie!  If you find it on DVD, make sure it has 100 minutes of movie on it so you get to see the whole film.  I have one put out by Olive Films that is very nice.


Angel and the Badman is the first film John Wayne ever produced, and I can see why he chose it.  It's an ambitious movie trying to stay more than just "good triumphs over evil."  That theme is there as well, but this focuses mostly on how a person's choices affect themselves as well as those around them.

There's a bit of embroidery hanging near the bed where Quirt convalesces, and he discusses it with Penny at one point.


Penny and her family believe this to be true.  Quirt begins the story by insisting he's been hurt by others, not by himself.  Laredo Stevens and his buddies hurt Quirt by killing his foster father.  They hurt him by shooting him.  But Penny gently brings him around to seeing that it's his vengeful grudge against Laredo that is hurting Quirt more than anything else.  And that their killing and shooting has hurt them morally more than it has hurt Quirt physically.

Penny herself makes some decisions that could hurt herself, but also many that preserve her moral integrity.  She unabashedly declares her love for Quirt, and says she would leave her family to be with him.  Had she blindly ridden away with him, unmarried... there's a world of hurt to be had down that road.  Later, she chooses not to lie for him.  And later still, she chooses to risk her life to save Quirt.

By the end of the film, both Quirt and Penny have matured.  Both have willingly sacrificed something they previously held dear in order to help the other, and against great odds, their ending is a happy one.


This is my 12th movie watched and reviewed for the Period Drama Challenge!  And that doesn't end until July 2, so I may get a few more in yet.  I was aiming for the 12-15 movie level, so yay!  I'm afraid I didn't take any extra shots of just costumes for this movie, sorry.  I think you can get a good feel for them with what I've shared, though.

Is this movie family friendly?  I think it's fine for older children, say age 8 on up.  There's some western violence involving guns and fists, including a raucous barroom brawl, and a somewhat scary/tense scene where a wagon goes over a cliff.  There's also a little bit of somewhat suggestive dialog where a delirious Quirt calls a woman he's remembering a "hussy."  Later, he gets drunk with a woman after she dances and sings in the saloon to attract his attention.  It's implied that he and she are planning to spend the evening together in her room, but they don't.  It's strongly suggested that Quirt was a "ladies' man" before he met Penny.

18 comments:

  1. I saw this movie when I was a teenager and probably haven't watched it since I married. I thoroughly enjoyed it than and enjoyed reading your review. I think I need to rewatch it because there's a lot I don't remember. I also know that I'm NOT watching it with my children because they already said "ewww" when I mentioned it. :)

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    1. I liked it waaaay better the second time I saw it, as an adult. And when I rewatched it for this review, I took 5 pages of notes, only about 2/3 of which made it into this post and the upcoming Femnista article. It's a meaty one.

      Your children are silly. It's not totally a romance -- there's some gunfire going on too, and some humor. Eva would like it, I think.

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  2. Love this movie!!! I always forget about it when I'm thinking of good John Wayne films though.. don't know why! And the Duke certainly knew how to kiss a girl so she would never forget it!! And now I have to go check the time length on my dvd!!!

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    1. Phyl, that kind of happens to me too! Yeah, for all his reputation as a tough guy onscreen, he could pull out all the stops for a tender scene too. Have you seen Tall in the Saddle? It's about this same era, and similarly good.

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    2. I haven't seen that one but I'm sure we have it!! My brother pretty much has every John Wayne movie :)

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    3. Phyl, your brother sounds like me :-D

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  3. This is one Wayne film I haven't seen yet! So I didn't read your review--not wanting the least spoiler. :)

    I did watch one of his films today in honor of his birthday!

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    1. Annie! See it! It's on YouTube here in the Paramount Vault, very nice quality.

      Which film did you watch instead?

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    2. Oh, thanks for telling me!

      I watched The Alamo for the first time. I've read so much about the battle for the Alamo through the years, and it was fun to see his film. I did cry though. What a heroic and noble group of men, and WHAT a sacrifice.

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    3. Annie, I really like The Alamo. Richard Widmark and Laurence Harvey just are Bowie and Travis to me. Oddly enough, I was just discussing that movie with a friend this week. Such a good one. Makes me cry too!

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    1. Jessica, I agree! She was only about 23 here, and Wayne was 40, but they worked really well together.

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  5. I watched this movie several years ago, but I loved it back then, and it still holds a special place in my heart, as a western with depth!

    I loved the theme of choices. And though I don't recall the details I loved Quirt's and Penny's relationship too.

    The DVD we watched it on had 2 versions: one in black and white, and one with added colours - though they were very pale. Which version did you watch?

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    1. Rose, good description! A western with depth. There are westerns, and then there are Deep Westerns. Yumm.

      I tend to stick to the original black-and-white whenever I can (and that's what I have of this). I grew up in the '80s and '90s when Ted Turner and his ilk were colorizing every black-and-white movie they could get their hands on to release to VHS because they thought modern audiences wouldn't want to buy and watch black-and-white movies. Which I find very elitist and pandering. But anyway, I endured so many badly-colorized movies as a child and teen that I really dislike them on a whole.

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  6. I just recently watched this, and I really enjoyed it! One of the things I found so fascinating was that Wayne was in a film that (at least partially) promoted the idea of pacifism. It's just so interesting and neat to see him stretch himself, as a prominent Western actor, in that way, because even though it's still a Western, it's a Western wherein the shoot-'em-up mentality is challenged.

    Awesome review, by the way! :) (Oh, and recently I got this combo-pack-thingamajig about John Wayne--it had a bunch of postcards with movie/production/publicity stills, and then a cool magazine about him, his work, and his life. I wish I could show it to you :D)

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    1. Olivia, how cool you've seen this! And oooh, that combo-pack-thingamajig sounds coooooool. I want to see it! Do you know what it was called? I could google for it and see pictures, maybe.

      You're right that this movie's message seems a bit at odds with the bang-bang-shoot-em-up genre that he's most famous for. Especially viewed through the lens of today's ideas about John Wayne, knowing how active he was in supporting American troops during Vietnam and so on, it looks almost out-of-character for him to play a character who embraces peaceful life, doesn't it? I think the image of John Wayne the macho warrior dude, which he himself projected (especially in later years), was very different from who he was in reality, an introverted, thoughtful, intelligent person.

      Looking at his movies as a whole, I see a clear pattern of using violence to bring about justice and promote peace. In The Searchers, his character goes on a quest to avenge his family and ends up finding forgiveness and the chance to stop the cycle of killing and vengeance. In The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, his character kills a very bad outlaw to save his friend, then lets that friend walk away with the credit for the killing as well as the girl Wayne's character loved. Most of his other westerns have him either as a lawman or as a gunman adhering to a strict moral code -- in fact, Quirt Evans starts off much less righteous than most of his characters, which of course is to emphasize his character's internal journey.

      So anyway, sorry I got a little long-winded there -- you're right, this role ends in a more peaceful place than we expect, which is nifty.

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    2. I saw this one back when I was in grade school and thought it was "icky" with all the love stuff! Watching it again as an adult I was amazed just how good it is. A fine production from start to finish. What a stunner Miss Russell was before the bottle took hold of her. Nice review too.

      Gord

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    3. Gord, I admit I found it too lovey-dovey as a kid myself. Now I stand in awe of it. Both Russell and Wayne are about as attractive as possible here.

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