Anthony Mann


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La gavetta di Anthony Mann (Anton Bundesmann) fu assai lunga: dal teatro itinerante agli studi cinematografici, dal film noir Great Flamarion (1944), set in the milieu of the vaudeville,

In a vaudevelle theater of Mexico City the actors and the dancers hear a gunshot. Then they found the body of a woman, shot dead. The police investigate and arrest her husband, who was seen having an argument with her. When everybody has left the theater, an actor finds the body of an old man who had been hiding in the attic despite being wounded. Flamarion (Erich von Stroheim) is dying and tells the story of how he was killed. He was a tyrannical magician specializing in a gunshot trick. He had hired a beautiful assistant and her husband. The faithful assistant had a murky past and her husband knew it. The narrating voice (dying Flamarion's) confesses that he had no friends, he lived a lonely and pointless life. He focused only on perfecting his act, with the precision of a manic scientist. He was also a heartless misogynous, having been betrayed in the past by a woman. Tired of her husband, an arrogant drunkard, she was determined to seduce Flamarion, even after she found out his hatred for women. Eventually she won the old man's heart. As her husband's behavior became more and more erratic, she insinuated to the old man that an "accident" during his gunshot trick would allow them to get married. Flamarion tried to send the husband away by offering him money, but the husband refused to leave his wife. His wife, in the meantime, was doublecrossing both: she was secretely in love with an acrobat. Flamarion eventually couldn't resist anymore. She gave her husband as many drinks as possible, and Flamarion "missed" when the man made a mistake during the show. The husband died. At the trial Flamarion was found not guilty because the whole theater saw that he performed the usual show, and the doctor testified that the dead man was drunk when he was hit by Flamarion's bullet. Now the two lovers were technically free. But Flamarion waited in vain for the woman to show up at the hotel where he had prepared their honeymoon. He looks for her all over the country. Finally he got the right tip: that she had fled the country with the acrobat. He chased her south of the border, and finally found them in a vaudeville theater, performing as acrobatic act. She shot and wounded him, but he still managed to strangle her before dying. Then he climbed a ladder and hid in the attic. al musical Sing Your Way Home (1945) a Strange Impersonation (1946), il suo primo film di rilievo, alla mediocre commedia/detective film Two O'Clock Courage (1945), a very brief fast-paced remake of Benjamin Stoloff's Two in the Dark (1936), A man is bleeding and has lost his memory when he is almost run over by a cab driven by a pretty girl, Patty. She believes his story and helps him research his identity. Even when she learns that the police wants the man for the murder of a theatrical producer, the woman in love stays by his side believing his innocence even more than he himself does. They decide to explore the crime scene and are caught in the act by the dumb detective in charge of the case and his friend, a petulant reporter. Patty and the amnesiac pretend to be nosy newlyweds and learn a lot about the murder, but little that helps the amnesiac figure out who he is and whether he is the last man who saw the victim and that the butler heard threaten the victim. They find the manuscript of a play, "Two O' Clock Courage", written by a Lawrence. He finally finds out his name when he walks into a night club and is met by a girl who behaves like an old girlfriend and then by a playwright, Mark, who is a childhood friend. His nickname is Step and, alas, he had an argument with the dead producer the day he died and, alas, the girl saw him argue with him a few hours before the murder. The news eventually reaches the detective and the reporter. Step finds out in which hotel he is staying and searches his own room, finding a letter from the mother of Lawrence who thanks him for helping produce her dead son's play. The police is now looking for Step as the main suspect in the murder case. Step decides to return to the crime scene to check the mauscript but someone shoots him and steals the manuscript. As he is lying wounded on the floor, suddenly Step recovers his memory. He remembers how he met the dead producer and received some money for Lawrence's play. Then heard a shot and found the producer dead. The killer hit him with a gun and he lost his memory. He can now tell the police that he never argued with the producer: he was reading lines from the play. But the manuscript has disappeared. Someone stole it and Step knows who: Mark, who plagiarized it for his hit. Detective, reporter, Step and Patty rush to Mark's apartment. Mark denies killing the producer. Asked to get dressed, he seems to commit suicide. But Step realizes his gun never fired: he was murdered. They find the murderer in the building: it's Barbara, the star of the play. She killed the producer because of some compromising love letters. Throughout the screwball ending the reporter keeps phoning his boss at the newspaper new versions of the fact. Now that the murder has been solved, Patty and Step get married for real. al film noir Desperate (1947), un altro lavoro originale, Steve, an independent trucker, is a good man and a good husband, heading home with a gift for his wife. His lovely wife Anne is preparing dinner for their first anniversary. When he gets home, she tells him that someone called. Steve calls him. It's someone who offers him a lucrative job if he gives up his anniversary dinner. His wife agrees that the money is worth postponing the dinner. It turns out the caller, Walt (Raymond Burr), works for gangsters. Steve is forced by the gangsters to help with a hold-up. Steve tries to alert a policeman. The policeman shoots, the gangsters shoot back. The policeman is killed. One of the gangsters, Walt's brother, is wounded and arrested. Walt does not hesitate to frame Steve: he calls the police and gives them the plate number of the truck that was used in the hold-up. Then he and his men beat him in a dark room, hoping to force him to confess to the police that he killed the police officer so they will release Walt's brother. Steve refuses, but Walt threatens to hurt his wife. Steve escapes and rushes home. He decides to take his wife to her rural town, where she will be safe. They take the train. The following day she reads in the newspaper that Steve is wanted by the police. He tells her that he intends to clarify everything with the police once she is safe. She tells him a secret that he was supposed to learn during the dinner: she is pregnant. Steve needs a car to complete the journey and tries to buy one. Cheated by the car dealer, he steals the car. The car breaks down, but they are helped by a good man. He gives them a ride to town and tells them that he is... the sheriff. When the sheriff hears on the radio of the car theft, he turns the car to drive them back to the car dealer's town but runs into a tree. They leave the sheriff unconscious under the tree and take his car to complete the journey. Now that his wife is finally safe, Steve turns himself in to the police. Walt has hired a private detective, who has followed Steve and his wife all the way to the farm, and delivers the address to Walt. The police detective who interrogates Steve does not believe his incredible story, especially after he stole two cars, lets him go because he hopes to capture the entire gang by following him. His hopes come true when Walt is spotted in town, but the gang escapes after a shootout. Steve and his wife flee again, this time on a bus, but they have to stop at a hospital because his wife is about to have the baby. While his wife is having the baby, Steve meets a life insurance agent and gets a life insurance on his wife's name. They settle in town but one day Steve reads in the newspaper that Walt's brother is about to be electrocuted for killing the police officer. He doesn't finish reading the article that someone for a passing car tries to assassinate him. Steve sends his wife away on a bus. The police detective shows up and tells Steve that he knows he (Steve) is innocent. Walk kidnaps Steve: he intends to kill Steve exactly at the same time that his brother will be electrocuted (midnight). The police has followed them and attacks. Walt runs away but Steve chases him up the stairs. Steve kills Walt, who dies exactly at midnight. al gangster film Railroaded (1947) because, unlike Raw Deal and T-Men, it did not feature photographer John Alton Two armed thieves enter a beauty salon and hold two of the girls. Clara stays cool and cooperates with the thieves, but the other one screams and attracts a police officer. In the shootout, one of the bandits is wounded and the police officer dies. The detective, Mickey, comes to suspect the brother, Steve, of a girl he likes, Rosie. When the police arrest the wounded gangster, he confirms that Steve is the partner who shot the police officer. When they show Steve to Clara, Clara confirms that he is the one. Steve still refuses to confess, but he has no alibi. Only Rosie believes in his innocence. Rosie goes to confront Clara in her apartment and accuses her of lying. They fight while Clara's boyfriend Duke is hiding in the other room. Clara feels guilty that two people were killed, while Duke (the real killer) only wants to make sure he will not get caught. Clara and Duke were running an illegal gambling operation in the back of the beauty salon, and decided to rob the boss. That is why Clara did not oppose any resistance to the thief: it was Duke himself.
In the meantime, Mickey is beginning to believe Steve because they just cannot find the gun that killed the police officer. Both he and Rosie would like to find the other girl who witnessed the robbery, but Duke has already taken care of her. Rosie is surprised to be invited to a fancy club by the mysterious Duke, who pretends to have a tip on the hold-up. He tries to seduce her. In the meantime Mickey has found a picture of Duke in the apartment of the missing girl and, having recognized a known gambler, shows up at the same club and interrupts their conversation. The police recovers the body of the missing girl. Duke and Clara discuss the situation: Clara regrets they robbed the store, Mickey tells Clara that they found the body of the other girl, and that she, Clara, could be next if she doesn't dump Duke. Duke tells Rosie that she found the real killer. It is actually someone he paid to lie about being the killer. It is a pretext to get an appointment with her in a place where he can kill her. Mickey, partly jealous of their dates and partly worried, warns her that Duke is still seeing Clara. Clara has changed her mind, calls Mickey and admits that she lied about Steve. But when Mickey gets to her apartment, Duke has already killed her in cold blood. The analysis shows that the same gun killed the police officer. Duke also kills his boss, who ran the gambling operation. His next target is Rosie. As Duke meets Rosie and points a gun at her, Mickey drives like a maniac through the city. He arrives in time to save Rosie and, after a shoot-out, kill Duke.
al gangster noir Raw Deal (1948), an unusual noir with a love triangle and a female narrator, A woman, Pat (the female narrator of the film), walks into a prison to visit a convict. Another woman, Ann, is talking to the convict. She's a kind, generous social assistant worker who has been trying help reduce his sentence. The convinct, Joe, can't wait to get out of jail and take revenge on the gangsters who betrayed him and framed him. When it is her turn, the visitor, Pat, whispers to him that everything is set for his escape. Rick is the boss of the gang that sent him to jail and has arranged for his escape, but is planning to have him killed during the break-out, so he doesn't have to pay him the money that he (Rick) owes him (Joe). At night Pat waits outside. Joe runs out and jumps into her car. The car breaks down and he has to run. The only place where he can find shelter is Ann's place and, technically, he kidnaps her (although she hardly resists him). The three start driving together, heading for a secluded mountain hide-out. Rick is nervous when he hears that Joe is free and wants his money. In a fit of rage, he throws boiling alcohol into his girlfriend's face. At the hide-out, the women argue. Ann is repulsed by Joe's actions, although she obviously loved him in a Platonic way, while Joe is attracted to her and hurt by her resentment, and Pat, madly in love with Joe, is angry and jealous of Ann. Determined not to pay, Rick sends two trusted hitman to kill Joe. Joe avoids being killed thanks to Ann, who grabs a gun and kills one of the gangsters. She then runs away crying, but Joe finds her by the sea and they kiss. She can't hide it anymore that she is in love with him. In the morning Joe trades women: he puts Ann safely into another car, while he and Pat continue the dangerous journey on his car. Ann leaves in tears. Pat is cold as usual. But now Joe has final proof of Rick's betrayal and has to take his revenge. Pat begs him not to jeopardize everything for a silly sense of justice. But he can't be stopped. Desperate, she even curses against Ann. Hearing the curse, Joe instinctively slaps her in the face. Then, ashamed, promises to marry her. In the meantime, the gangsters have kidnapped Ann and tortured her to find out where Joe is hiding. She doesn't know, but another informer finds out. Rick calls Joe to blackmail him with Ann, but Pat picks up the phone and she tells Rick that it was nothing. They board a boat and Joe asks the captain to marry them. Pat should be happy that she is about to get what she has always dreamed, but she can't resist: she tells Joe that Ann is in the hands of Rick's gangsters. Joe walks in the fog to Rick's place. Rick can see the battle between his men and Joe from the window. Joe makes his way to Rick's room. Rick shoots him. Wounded, Joe still manages to kill Rick and free Ann, while the building goes on fire. But the wound is fatal: Joe dies in Ann's arms. Pat's voice closes the story, commenting the ending while Pat's face is wrapped in the fog. prima di approdare al western con Devil's Doorway (1950), nel quale un indiano che ha servito nell'esercito deve subire il sopruso dei bianchi come i suoi padri, Lance, an Indian wearing the USA uniform and a medal of honor, returns to his hometown. He is welcomed by the old folks (such as old trapper Zeke) who remember him as a fine boy, but the new lawyer, Vernon, is a racist who makes bitter comments on him and spits when Lance meets his old father. Unlike Lance, who smiles all the time and is optimistic about the future of the country, his father is disillusioned and very sick. When Lance runs to call the doctor, the doctor keeps playing cards with the lawyer, ignoring Lance's pleas. Lance eventually uses force to make him ride to his father's hut, but it's too late: his father is dead.
Zeke works on his farm and cattle business until be becomes a rich man. Zeke, now appointed marshall, tries to explain to Lance that the times have changed and "civilization" has brought a lot of people who are not interested in Indian rights. At the saloon he is refused alcohol. The lawyer openly derides him and tells everybody that the land owned by Lance (the best grazing land in the region) is open for everybody to grab. In fact he has already spread the rumour among sheepherders that they can use that land. Since Lance is still standing there among them, a friend of the lawyer pulls out his gun and humiliates Lance. Lance waits for the man to use all the six bullets of his gun and then beats him in front of everybody. The lawyer tries to shoot him but one of Lance's Indians stops him. None of the saloon's customers says a words. Even Lance's old friend Zeke stays out of the dispute. He finds another lawyer to file his claim in his land, and is surprised that she is a woman, Orrie. He is her first customer, and her mother thiks it's suicidal to take an Indian as their first customer. Orrie finds out that an Indian is not entitled to claim his land because Indians are not considered USA citizens. Orrie realizes the plight of the Indians and wants to mobilize the good people of the region to help them. But the evil lawyer has already brought down a handful of sheepherders from other regions to colonize Lance's land. He encourages them to use violence in order to get the land they are entitled to by the law. Lance is forced to shoot at one of them as they trenspass onto his land. The news of the shooting outrages the citizens, the petition is denied, the marshall is ordered to escort the sheepherders into Lance's land. Lance refuses to shoot on his friend Zeke, but is determined to protect his land from yet another white abuse with the help of his tribe that has left the reservation to help him. The Indians under his command, armed with dynamite, attack the sheepherders. The sheriff's men attack the Indians. The marshall is killed. The evil lawyer is appointed temporary marshall and organizes a posse to exterminate the Indians. Orrie telegraphs the nearby fort to send troops. The evil lawyer cannot be stop, though: he orders the attack against the Indians. After the first wave of attack, the Indians sneak behind his lines and kill a few of the whites. Lance personally strangles the evil lawyer. The troops arrive and, heeding Orrie's advice, they stop the posse and let her go in negotiate with Lance, offering a truce that would allow the surviving Indians return to their reservation. Lance refuses and fights on. Finally, he accepts to surrender if the troops let the women and children return to the reservation. The troops are shocked to find out that Lance is the only Indian who was still standing, and he dies of his wounds seconds after surrendering.
It was one of the first westerns to focus on politics and philosophy rather than action for the sake of action,

Furies (1950) narra l'odio violento che antepone padre e figlia dispotici in un ranch.

T-Men (1947) is a film noir directed in the semi-documentarian style that was fashionable at the time. The beginning is rather tedious, with the narrating voice explaining the premise of the film. The story is mildly realistic and drenched in chiaroscuro atmospheres. But the film never quite shakes from itself the propagandistic quality.

When an undercover agent (a "treasury man", or "T-man") is killed by the mob while investigating a gang of counterfeiters, two agents are sent undercover to take his place. They pretend to be street thugs and become members of a local gang. When they learn of a Los Angeles connection, one of the two moves west. He manages to track down the connection and then works his way up to the ladder of the gang, pretending to be himself into counterfeiting bills thanks to an inexistent Hungarian engraver. The gang trusts him enough to lend him some of the paper that they use, and he has it analyzed by the government labs. The analyses point to an Oriental source and a warning is issued to check all shipments of paper from China. His partner is flown into Los Angeles and joins the gang, but one day a friend who is walking with his own wife recognizes him. He denies knowing them and his wife, realizing that he is undercover, reproaches the friend. But it's a fatal encounter: the gang starts investigating him and soon finds out his true identity. He is executed in front of his partner. This one continues his mission, and his rise in the ranks of the gang, getting closer and closer to the very boss while collecting damning evidence. When the police finds the source of the paper, the chief tells the agent to get out immediately and tells his men to tail the top expert of the gang. But it is too late: the agent has already been granted an interview with the ultimate boss to work out a deal for his fictional engraver. The boss does not even see him: he judges the plate to be worthless. The gangsters are ready to kill him, but the agent invokes the opinion of their best expert, hoping that his fellow police officers are tailing him. Instead they have lost him. Luckily, the best expert looks at the plate and gives a favorable opinion. The agent, who was ready to die, starts breathing again. When they are alone, the expert explains that he lied to the gang because, just by looking at the plate, he realized that he must be a T-man. The expert is ready to surrender and testify against the gang. One of the gangster overhears the conversation and kills the expert. The agent is also wounded in the shootout. The police storm the place and arrest the boss: it turns out he is a well-known philanthropist.

Border Incident (1949) is a crime drama about illegal immigration.

Rich landowners in the USA take advantage of an illegal trade in laborers. Illegal Mexican immigrants are treated like slaves, lured to the USA with the promise of high wages and then forced to work for even less than the salary in their own country. A USA and a Mexican immigration agents go undercover to unravel the scheme. The Mexican agent is thrown with the other slaves and slowly educates them to the fact that they are being exploited. The USA agent pretends to be a criminal willing to sell hundreds of immigration permits. He is kidnapped by Mexican gangsters and then handed over to the USA landowner who runs the slave camp. He pretends to make a deal with him and wires a friend to send the permits. While he is waiting for the immigration permits to arrive, he meets the Mexican agent who lives in the huts with the immigrants. His wire was in reality meant for the police. They follow the man who comes to pick up the permits at the post office but lose him. The chief receives his permits and gets ready to dispatch his illegal immigrants to the various customers who buy them from him in the USA. But a friend tips him that the criminal is actually in contact with the immigration authorities. The chief orders his men to execute the secret agent in the fields. In the meantime the trucks with the illegal immigrants are starting their trip. The Mexican agent hijacks his truck and drives back to help the USA agent, but he doesn't make it in time and sees the gangsters drive over the USA agent with a plowing machine. The Mexican agent reaches a house and makes a desperate call for help to the USA police. The only person in the house is a woman and she fully understands that the Mexican is a police officer. But she grabs a gun and points at him. Then she calls her husband, who happens to be the chief's right-hand man. The police is on its way anyway. The gangsters try to make it through the border carrying their load of immigrants and the Mexican agent with them, but the latter manages to defeat them and kill them all. He is then saved by one of the immigrants while he is about to sink in quicksand. And the USA police arrive to rescue them.

Side Street (1950) is another gangster/noir

A man withdraws a huge sum from the bank. A mailman, Joe, tells his friend, police officer Charlie, how he dreams of a better life. As he delivers a letter, he sees a lot of banknotes in the office of an attorney. The attorney, Victor, is on the phone with a gorgeous woman, Lucille, who is nervous about their plan, but he reassures her that everything will go well. The woman is blackmailing a middle-aged man (the man of the first scene, because of some compromising photos), who comes to pay her the sum. The following day some fishermen spot a body in the water. Joe delivers the mail again to the same office but this time he can't resist taking the money that he saw. When he checks the amount, he realizes that he has stolen a huge sum (the sum paid by the blackmailed man). Joe is nervous at home. He and his pregnant wife live with his in-laws. The father-in-law is reading the article in the newspaper about a murder. Joe asks his friend Nick, a bartender, to keep the money for him. In the meantime, the police investigate the murder: the victim is Lucille, strangled and dumped in the water. After several days of guilt, he takes back the package and offers to return it to the man he had stolen it from. It turns out the money had been purloined by Nick. The situation deteriorates as Norson finds himself caught between the killer he stole from (James Craig) and the police. They also interrogate the attorney, who pretends that he barely knew the woman. Joe, in the meantime, feels guilty. His wife has given birth to their first baby.and he decides to return the money. At the bar Nick the bartender has disappeared, but his package is still there. Jow takes it to the attorney's office, but, to his surprise, the attorney denies he was ever robbed. When the puzzled Joe leaves the office, the attorney explains to his right-hand man George that admitting the robbery would be admitting the murder of Lucille. George kidnaps Joe later and takes the package from him, but finds out that it does not contain the money: Joe realizes that Nick stole the money. Joe, dumped from the car, tried to find out Nick's new whereabouts. He gets there too late: George has already strangled Nick. And there are witnesses who saw Joe looking for Nick, so he is a suspect in the murder. And the police soon realizes that Nick was strangled by the same person who strangled Lucille. The other suspect is George, who is quickly identified as the other man who was looking for Nick. He visits his wife at the hospital and tells her that he needs to find George. Joe threatens a bank clerk to find out if anyone withdrew that sum of money, and learns the name and address of the blackmailed man. But George got there first: the man is dead, and the police is arriving. The police detective has realized that the attorney knew George too, which is suspicious. Joe is living in the streets, running away from the police and looking for George. His next lead is a photograph that was in the package of a gorgeous singer, Harriette, George's former girlfriend. Joe tracks her down and she takes him to George. George thanks her for delivering Joe to him and then strangles her. George is taking Joe to the waterfront to dispose of him, but the police has followed their trail and is waiting for them. After a high-speed car chase (during which the brutal George does not hesitate to kill his own driver who is panicking), the police kill George and finally retrieve the money. Joe is only wounded.

The Tall Target (1951) is a rather mediocre detective film set in the Far West.

At the beginning of the Civil War, with the public opinion divided over the president elect Lincoln, a humble detective, John, learns of a plot to assassinate Lincoln. His superior is indifferent (and possibly delighted) at the news. John resigns and decides to foil the plot. His friend, and inspector, has already boarded the train with their tickets, but John cannot find him. John eventually finds his dead body: the inspector has been murdered. John returns to his seat only to find that a stranger is wearing his coat and therefore his ticket and his gun. He swears to the conductor that be is the real John. The conductor asks John to identify himself and John has to ask a Northern colonel for help: he was at the meeting with his superior and has decided to help him. When the train stops, the stranger catches John off guard and escorts him in a place where he can conveniently kill him. He killed the inspector by accident, mistakening him for John. John manages to disarm him and tries to extort from him the name of the sender. The colonel seems them fighting and kills the stranger, thus saving John's life (but also eliminating an important witness). John keeps an eye on the passengers, trying to find out who might be planning to kill Lincoln. Danger is near him: the Northern colonel himself tries to assassinate John, but John had disabled the gun. At the first stop John tries to have the colonel arrested, taking advantage of the fact that the train is being delayed for one hour, but instead the chief of police telegrams that it is John who has to be investigated (for the murder of the inspector) and the colonel can continue undisturbed his journey. While John is being escorted out of the station, the young black slave Rachel of a Confererate soldier tries to talk to him. John frees himself and jumps on the train again. Now he is also hunted by the police. Rachel lets him hide in her compartment and tells him that the Confederate soldier has lied about his destination even to his sister Ginny. Ginny finds and holds John, and her brother stops her from turning him over to the police: Ginny realizes that John is right about her brother being one of the conspirators. The Confederate brings John, unconscious, to the Northern colonel's compartment. At the following station they learn that Lincoln has canceled his speech and therefore their plot is pointless. The colonel gets off the train but then, as the train restarts, he realizes that they have been fooled: the train was delayed by one hour to allow Lincoln to board it. The colonel manages to alert the Confederate, who is still on board. But John has freed himself and eventualy throws the Confederate off the train. Lincoln is safe, and is indeed traveling on that train.

Il suo primo capolavoro e' Winchester '73 (1951), con il quale ha inizio la collaborazione con James Stewart.

Stewart arriva con il suo partner in una cittadina dove, per celebrare il 4 luglio, e' stata indetta una gara con in palio un prestigioso fucile Winchester 73. Lo sceriffo li disarma in quanto le armi sono proibite in citta'. Nel saloon Stewart incontra un suo acerrimo nemico. I due finiscono pari la gara al tiro e solo un tiro prodigioso assegna la vittoria a Stewart. Ma l'altro gli tende un agguato e gli ruba l'ambito premio, aiutato da due complici. I tre fuggitivi incontrano un rinnegato che vende armi agli indiani e che gli vince il winchester. La notte il rinnegato viene ucciso dal capo indiano con cui commercia, che si prende l'arma. Un uomo e una donna vengono assaliti dagli indiani; lui la abbandona nel calesse dicendo di andare a cercare aiuto; quando scorge la cavalleria torna indietro a prenderla. Stewart e l'amico capitano li' la notte. All'alba gli indiani attaccano, ma Stewart guida i soldati e gli indiani vengono messi in fuga. Quando Stewart se n'e' gia' andato, un soldato scopre il cadavere del capo indiano e il Winchester 73. Il capitano lo regala al vile che aveva quasi abbandonato la donna; questi la accompagna in paese; si fermano in una casa, la padrona della quale gli offre ospitalita'. Irrompono quattro banditi che conoscono l'uomo: sono inseguiti dagli uomini delllo sceriffo, che circondano la casa. I banditi rifiutano di far uscire la padrona e i bambini: e' la ragazza a intercedere per la loro liberazione. Il bandito si accorge del Winchester, il vigliacco non vuole venderglielo, ma il bandito lo umilia finche' questi non impugna la pistola; uccisolo, fugge portandosi dietro la ragazza e il fucile. Stewart continua la caccia al suo nemico personale, caccia che dura da quando questi uccise il loro comune maestro, loro padre. La porta al rifugio del fuorilegge, dove lo aspetta il capo: il nemico di stewart. Questi si riprende il fucile e gli spiega il suo piano per assaltare la banca. Stewart e il suo amico arrivano al saloon, riconoscono la ragazza che racconta loro l'accaduto. Stewart capisce che il suo nemico e' li', ma questi riesce a defilarsi nella sparatoria e colpisce la donna che sta riparandoun bambino. Stewart si lancia al suo inseguimento nel deserto. Duello fra le rocce, Stewart vince, si prende il Winchester e poi la ragazza. E' l'affresco di una societa' violenta e spietata, dove l'equilibrio viene ristabilito solo con la forza.

The character at the center of Bend of the River (1952) is a reformed outlaw who wants to be an idealist, but, no matter how far he goes and how hard he tries, fate is against him. Emerson is a Shakespeare-ian type: his past does not hunt him (he hardly feels any remorse for his crimes) but it is he himself who reveals his past to the people who will judge him and may reject him, and he does so in order to save their lives, their project, and to become part of them/it. Precisely because he wants to be one of them, he gives them the reason to reject him.

Glyn (John Stewart) is escorting a caravan of farmers towards the Far West, through vast valley and forests against the backdrop of majestic mountains. As he is checking the trail, he meets a group of people who are about to gang a horse thief. He pulls out the gun and force them to let him go. He doesn't know the man: he's against hanging. When they introduce each other, they realize they have never heard of each other. Neither has a clean record. Glyn, in particular, is a famous outlaw, but he now declares that he wants to settle down with the farmers. When the Indians attack the wagons, Emerson can return the favor by saving Glyn's life. Emerson finds it hard to believe that someone like Glyn truly wants to become a farmer, but Glyn is dead serious about changing life. The caravan reaches a riverport town, where they are welcome by the good citizens. Unlike the stereotypical pioneer town, this town is pretty, neat, safe, lively, prosperous, friendly. The leader of the farmers, Jeremy, signs a deal to have supplies ready for the fall. In the meantime, Glyn and Emerson meet handsome gambler Trey, who decides to challenges the town's chief gambler. Right when the latter recognizes Emerson as an outlaw, Trey accuses him of cheating. A shootout ensues in which Emerson kills the man. Emerson then decides to part ways from the caravan, because he is more interested in trying his luck in California. Jeremy's young attractive daughter, Laura, who was wounded by the Indians, also remains in town. The farmers board a steamboat and head north. They reach their land and start building. Months later, they have two worries: the supplies have not arrived, and they have not heard from Laura. So Glyn and Jeremy ride down to town. The town has changed dramatically. It has become a violent, noisy and dirty place. Gold has been found. People have become greedy. Prices have skyrocketed. The supplies are at the dock, but they are now worth a fortune, and the trader wants to sell them to others who are willing to pay a lot more than what the farmers paid. At the saloon, Glyn finds both Emerson and Trey, and learns that Laura now works as the cashier of the saloon and is Emerson's girlfriend. Glyn always pretended he didn't care about Laura, but resents the events, and sends Laura to the dock to tell her father that she doesn't want to be a farmer anymore (she's been corrupted by Emerson). Glyn confronts the trader (and owner of the saloon) about the supplies, but he wouldn't get anything without a shootout and the help of Emerson and Trey. The three men run to the dock, where Jeremy has loaded the supplies on the steamboat with the complicity of the steamboat captain and with the help of a bunch of hired misfits. The steamboat sails off, despite the men of the trader shooting at them.
Jeremy disapproves of Laura's engagement to Emerson, because he thinks that outlaws never change, but getting the supplies to the settlement is a higher priority. The men of the trader catch up with them, but Glyn, Trey and Emerson easily defeat them. When the hired misfits try to steal the supplies, Emerson saves the caravan. But Jeremy still refuses to accept Emerson because of his past. This is Emerson's excuse for staging a new, and more serious, mutiny. He, Emerson in person, leads the misfits who attack Glyn and steal the supplies. Those supplies are worth a lot because of the gold rush, and manage to corrupt even friendship. As Emerson departs with the loot (and an ashamed Laura and a wounded Jeremy), Glyn swears revenge. Laura is ashamed, but has no choiceremains with her father and Glyn.
Glyn left him no gun but he starts following them at a distance. And he starts eliminating the traitors one by one. Eventually, Emerson loses control and starts beating the old Jeremy. Trey tries to stop him and Emerson shoots him (but only wounds him). Emerson and the misfits go look for Glyn, and Glyn surprises everybody by stealing the caravan with the help of Laura, Jeremy and Trey. Trey and Jeremy annihilate the men, but Glyn has to fight it out with Emerson in the river. As Emerson's body is dragged away by the waters, Glyn reemerges as the winner. But in the fight he has lost his cravat, and now Jeremy can see what it was hiding: the marks of an attempted hanging. Glyn has to confess that he too was an outlaw. But the stern Jeremy forgives him and still accepts him in the community.
This sets the tone for the other westerns. It is a poem of imposing nature, but it is also a tragedy of human passions. The characters descend from the genre's cliches, but new psychological facets appear: neurosis, duplicity, temptation, corruption.

Naked Spur (1953) mette in luce il lato nevrotico dell'eroe di Mann; Stewart e' qui dipinto come un uomo dalla psiche malata, alla ricerca di un'identita' (soffre di incubi, perde il controllo, scoppia a piangere).

A cold loner, Howard (John Stewart), meets an old gold digger, Jesse, in a forest and hires him to help him track down a Kansas killer. They find the man, who is hiding on the top of a hill. At that moment, a well-dressed deserter, Roy, shows up to inquire about the shooting. Howard, who appears to be a typical greedy bounty hunter, is determined to catch the killer at the risk of his own life. The deserter helps him capture the outlaw, Ben, who keeps laughing even while he is being tied up, despite the strenous opposition of the young wild girl who is with him, Lina, who claims that Ben is innocent of the murder. Now that they know he is a bounty hunter, the gold digger and the deserter demand a third of the bounty and decide to accompany him to the city. Howard can't refuse, but then spends all the time distrusting the deserter, and knowing that the girl wants to free the prisoner. Ben knows Howard from Kansas, and brings back facts that hurt him: there is a woman behind Howard's tough and cold behavior. Eventually they realize that Indians are following them, and the deserter confesses that they are looking for him: he raped one of their women. The deserter proves his cowardice by attacking the Indians while Howard was trying to talk to them, and causing a shoot-out. Howard risks his life to defend the woman and the prisoner. He gets wounded by an Indian and this time it is the girl who helps him take shelter. During the night Howard is delirious, and the girl hears him talk to his fiance', and understands that she didn't wait for him when he went soldier. When he wakes up, Howard hears that the girl has been sleepless nursing him. The girl, who initially only wanted to help the prisoner escape, is getting attached to Howard, now that she knows his secret dream. She tells him that she is not his lover, but only someone whom he helped when she was left alone, an orphan. She dreams of a ranch, and Howard laughs at the idea that Ben would settle down in a ranch. She retaliates that he, Howard, has become a despicable and heartless bounty hunter. But they do share the same dream.
Howard doesn't trust his partners and continues the trip despite his wound. The old gold digger is an honest man, but naive. The prisoner, always smiling, tries to pitch his captors one against the other, and causes Howard to fall from his horse and further hurt his wound. The micro-community of the five people continues its lonely journey through the mountains, the rivers and the forests. The journey becomes a psychological game.
One night Howard is romancing Lina. He basically proposes to her and she lets him kiss her. Ben takes advantage and tries to grab a gun. Howard stops him in time. Then, furious, almost shoots him dead. Roy would, but Jesse stops him. Howard thinks that Lina was being tender with him just to help Ben escape: one more betrayal from a woman. He hates Ben out of jealousy, because he believes Ben is now the reason he can't have his dream (a ranch with Lina). Tempers flare again later, when Roy and Howard get at each other's throat, and Ben watches them smiling. Howard barely avoids being killed by Roy.
The prisoner manages to convince the old man to free him in return for the secret of a gold mine. Ben, Lina and Jesse take off, but then Ben kills the unarmed Jesse despite Lina's protestations. Ben kills him because he wants to set a trap for the others: he knows they will come as they hear the shots, and will approach the cadaver. He is ready to kill them both, but Lina has learned Ben's true, murderous nature, and she fights Ben when he is about to pull the trigger. Bitten by a snake, he is killed by Roy. Ben's body falls into the rapids, and Roy dies in the desperate attempt to rescue it (for the bounty) while Howard's first instinct is to check if Lina is all right. Howard instead succeeds in recovering the corpse, determined to get the money he needs to start a new life. Now she accepts his proposal. And he breaks down, disgusted that he is about to sell a dead body for money.
Stewart, aiutato da un anziano cercatore d'oro e da un soldato disertore, cattura un ricercato, nonostante la strenua resistenza opposta dalla ragazza che e' con lui. Scoperto che Stewart e' un cacciatore di taglie, i due che lo hanno aiutato chiedono di dividere equamente e decidono di accompagnarlo fino al paese in cui si riscuotera' la taglia. Stewart e' duro e spietato; in realta' cerca la rivincita sulla vita, dopo che la sua fidanzata lo tradi' mentre era soldato in guerra. La ragazza, che dapprima pensa solo a far fuggire il prigioniero, (che l'ha presa con se' quando e' rimasta orfana) piano piano se ne affeziona, perche' hanno lo stesso sogno: mettere su una fattoria. Ma Stewart vuole riuscirci con la taglia e a llei questo ripugna.
Il disertore e' infido; e' inseguito dagli indiani perche' ha violentato una squaw, e nello scontro che segue Stewart si ferisce ad una gamba per salvare il prigioniero. Non fidandosi di nessuno, decide di continuare stringendo i denti. Il vecchio e' un fallito, tanto leale quanto ingenuo; il prigioniero cerca di seminare zizzania per approfittarne. Nell'insieme, la micro-comunita' dei cinque prosegue il suo viaggio attraverso montagne, fiumi e foreste, nella piu' completa solitudine, in un lacerante confronto psicologico. Il prigioniero riesce a convincere il vecchio a liberarlo, illudendolo di rivelargli una fantomatica miniera; poi lo uccide a sangue freddo, per tendere un agguato agli altri due presso il cadavere. La ragazza ora capisce la vera personalita' dell'uomo che difendeva, uno spietato assassino e al momento dell'agguato gli fa sbagliare il tiro. Cosi' gli altri due riescono ad ammazzarlo. Ma il corpo cade nelle rapide e il disertore muore nel tentativo di recuperarlo. Ci riesce invece Stewart, tenace nel voleere i soldi per la sua fattoria. Alla fine pero' le suppliche della ragazza a ricominciare una vita con lei vincono i suoi rancori.

Con questo western le caratteristiche di Mann sono definite:

- caratterizzazione precisa dei personaggi e del maturare della loro personalita';

- giustificazione dei personaggi negativi alla luce di personalita' altrettanto complesse (non semplicemente "il cattivo");

- il paesaggismo inteso a stabilire un legame fra uomo e natura; uno stile visivo austero;

- la violenza dei comportamenti umani;

- costruzioni drammatiche grandiose per trame che in realta' sono poco consistenti;

- adattamento della topografia del western al grande schermo.

Far Country (1955) e' l'odissea di un cowboy che sta portando la sua mandria in Canada. Il film e` una parabola dell'individualismo nomade che accetta la vita sedentaria e comunitaria quando ne riconosce i vantaggi. E` anche un pretesto per affrescare gli entusiasmi e le incertezze delle nuove terre, paesaggi sconfinati e villaggi di pionieri, un ritratto tanto fedele della Frontiera da poter essere un documentario. Al centro c'e` un eroe neagtivo, solitario per scelta, scontroso, cinico, egoista, insensibile alle donne, che mira unicamente a raggiungere il suo scopo. Il suo anziano partner e` la sua voce morale: ha il coraggio di dire cio` che l'orgoglio impedisce all'eroe di pensare. L'eroe conduce la sua piccola truppa per valli e monti, convinto di poter fare a meno di tutti, insensibile all'amicizia.
La prima parte e` descrittiva: il ritmo e` lento, la trama si sviluppa in maniera casual, le personalita' vengono messe a fuoco. La seconda parte e` invece pura azione.

Alla fine del secolo, negli anni della corsa all'oro, il cowboy Jeff (John Stewart) e il suo anziano partner Ben arrivano all'ultimo paese prima del confine con il Canada alla ricerca di fortuna. Ben, che si comporta come una fidanzatina, dice a tutti che hanno intenzione di comprare una casa in Utah.
Lo sceriffo del paese, il prepotente che terrorizza la regione, esige un pedaggio per lasciarlo transitare e, al suo rifiuto, gli sequestra la mandria. Invece di scappare, Jeff si stabilisce in paese, deciso a riprendersi il maltolto alla prima occasione. Una ragazzina mascolina, Renee`, si innamora di lui. Approfitta di una donna, altrettanto dura e testarda, Ronda, che ha bisogno di un helper, per lasciare il paese. Poi torna nottetempo con il suo partner e ruba la mandria. Lo sceriffo li insegue, ma Jeff uccide tre dei suoi uomini e tiene a bada gli altri finche' i suoi uomini e la mandria passano il confine del Canada. Lo sceriffo si ferma al confine, gli augura buon viaggio e promette di impiccarlo quando tornera` in paese (non c'e` altro metodo di far ritorno). Renee` si unisce a loro.
Arrivano in Alaska in un paese dove la gente mangia carne di orso perche' scarseggiano le mucche, e la donna del saloon vuole comprare la loro mandria, ma commette l'errore di offendere Ronda, che si prende la rivincita comprando la mandria da Jeff a un prezzo piu` elevato di quanto il saloon possa permettersi.
Venduta la mandria, Jeff e Ben si rimettono in marcia.
Capitano in una comunita' che si e' appena formata. Nel saloon incontrano di nuovo lo sceriffo, che qui non ha giurisdizione ma tenta di espandere il suo impero usando come arma un celebre gunslinger. Jeff e Ben assistono a un omicidio a sangue freddo: un pover uomo esige che il gunslinger paghi il suo debito, e il gunslinger lo uccide senza dargli una chance. Ben e` sconvolto, ma Jeff e` del tutto indifferente. Quando lo sceriffo della comunita`, Rube, amico di Jeff e Ben, si presenta per arrestare l'assassino, un celebre gunslinger, Jeff gli intima di lasciar perdere, umiliandolo davanti a tutto il paese piuttosto che aiutarlo contro il gunslinger. Indifferente alle sorti della comunita`, Jeff preferisce andarsene a cercare l'oro con il suo vecchietto, l'unico essere umano che sopporta.
Ma non fanno molta strada. Una banda capitanata dallo stesso gunslinger si avventa su di loro mentre si stanno accampando presso un lago. Il vecchio viene ucciso e Jeff, gravemente ferito, torna in paese a cercare aiuto. Ronda impedisce al gunslinger di freddarlo in pubblico, e Renee` e` l'unica che si faccia avanti per aiutarlo. Renee` si e` stabilita` in paese e condivide una casa con Rube, che pero` e` diventato un ubriacone.
Lo sceriffo prepotente ha un piano per impossessarsi dell'intera comunita`. Gli abitanti vengono avvertiti che le loro proprieta` adesso appartengoo a lui. Renee` guida una delegazione al saloon per protestare, ma lo sceriffo ride loro in faccia. Jeff ha ancora un braccio fasciato e non puo` fare nulla. I pionieri, demoralizzati dallo strapotere del prepotente, decidono di abbandonare il paese. Jeff non e` piu` cosi` indifferente alle sorti della povera gente, ma adesso non puo` fare nulla. Ronda, disgustata da cio` che sta accadendo, gli confessa il suo amore, facendo ingelosire Renee`, che lo ha salvato e curato.
Jeff imbraccia il fucile e annuncia che difendera` la proprieta` di Renee`. Annunciato dal campanello che gli aveva regalato Ben e che ha appeso alla sella, Jeff avanza verso il saloon. Il gunslinger e i suoi uomini hanno preparato un tranello, ma Jeff non e` sul cavallo, e li elimina facilmente. Adesso lo sceriffo e` pronto a ucciderlo. Ronda tenta di avvertirlo, ma lo sceriffo la uccide. Jeff la vendica.
Ispirati da Jeff, gli uomini del paese imbracciano le armi e scacciano tutti i gangster dal paese. Renee` lo abbraccia.

Man From Laramie (1955)

Stewart parte come guida da Laramie per vendicare la morte del fratello ucciso dagli indiani con fucili venduti da un rinnegato. Quando giunge a destinazione viene aggredito dal figlio del patriarca, che gli brucia i carri della carovana e gli intima di andarsene, invano moderato dal soprintendente del ranch. Stewart rimane e alla prima occasione si vendica picchiandolo. Il padre lo risarcisce dei danni causatigli dal figlio, ma anch'egli gli ingiunge di andarsene. Il vecchio e' malato, ma e' ancora un duro e spietato tiranno. Il soprintendente e' quello che manda avanti il ranch e il vecchio gli affida il figlio, debole e vile. Nelle parole del vecchio si sente vicina la morte e un destino che lo rende infelice. Il vecchio domina domina quelle terre e vive in pace persino con i bellicosi Apaches. Eppure un intero reparto di cavalleria e' stato massacrato dagli Apaches, e il mistero da svelare e' chi ha venduto loro i fucili a ripetizione.
Il soprintendente e' un buon uomo, attaccato alla terra, che spera di ricevere in eredita' del ranch, per poi sposarsi con la cugina del rampollo.
Stewart viene aggredito da un sicario; se ne libera, ma il sicario viene trovato morto e Stewart e' accusato del suo omicidio. Il vecchio va a parlargli in cella; gli dice di un sogno ricorrente in cui uno straniero uccide suo figlio. E' per questo che vuole che se ne vada dal paese. Il figlio e' un perfido che vuole liberarsi del soprintendente. Il vecchio sta diventando cieco e si confida con il soprintendente: ha paura che i nemici e gli stranieri ne approfittino per rubargli le terre. Il figlio origlia ed e' invidioso. Il giorno dopo fa un'altra bravata: tenta di uccidere Stewart, ma Stewart lo ferisce ad una mano. Per vendicarsi il giovane lo fa tenere fermo dai suoi uomini e gli buca la destra a freddo. Poi decide di scatenare gli indiani contro la fattoria della vecchia, e attira gli Apaches al carro dei fucili, incurante delle donne e dei bambini che verranno massacrati in paese. Il soprintendente cerca di fermarlo, ma il giovane e' impazzito e lo avrebbe ucciso se il soprintendente non avesse sparato per primo. Nel frattempo la cugina, fidanzata del soprintendente, scopre di essersi innamorata di Stewart. Il soprintendente porta il cadavere al ranch, ma non ha il coraggio di dire la verita'. Dopo il funerale il vecchio va a vendicare la morte del figlio, convinto dal sogno che l'assassino sia Stewart. Stewart lo disarma e gli giura la propria innocenza. Facendo dei conti, il vecchio scopre che il figlio acquistava qualcosa di nascosto, e vuole scoprire che cosa. Il soprintendente, che sa che si trattava di armi per gli indiani, vuole impedirglielo, ma invano. Lo accompagna, e quando il vecchio sta per scoprire il luogo del delitto, tenta di fermarlo. Nella colluttazione il vecchio precipita in un burrone. Nel frattempo anche Stewart e' sulle tracce del carro e scopre cosi' il corpo del vecchio. Quando si riprende e' cieco. Stewart e' certo che il vecchio sia stato buttato giu', ma il vecchio non parla. Il vecchio chiama Stewart e gli dice che il soprintendente e' l'uomo che ha organizzato la vendita di armi agli indiani. Stewart si mette alla sua caccia. Lo raggiunge e lo condanna a morte; ma arrivano gli indiani. Stewart distrugge il carro e gli indiani, pensando che sia stato il loro complice, uccidono il soprintendente. Giustizia e' fatta. Il vecchio e la vecchia si sposano. La cugina promette di passare da Laramie...

Man from Laramie

Stewart era capitano dell'esercito a Fort Laramie. Suo fratello e' morto in un massacro indiano ed ora Stewart va in cerca del responsabile che armo' gli indiani. Arriva in un villaggio dominato da un vecchio despota che e' riuscito a scacciare tutti i rivali e a farsi amico degli indiani. Suo figlio e' un arrogante vigliacco che coglie di sorpresa Stewart e gli distrugge tutti gli averi, muli e carri. Stewart resta in paese per farsi risarcire e ci riesce: il vecchio sembra aver paura dello straniero per via di sogni premonitori. Il vecchio vive solo per il figlio, ma chi manda avanti il ranch e' il soprintendente, fidanzato della nipote del vecchio, che gestisce un negozio. Stewart non si lascia intimidire dalle minacce, da un attentato e da una infondata accusa di omicidio. Accetta un posto di soprastante nel ranch della vecchia zitella che da anni e' la sola a tener testa al vecchio.
Il vecchio e' un padre patetico, in ansia per le bravate del figlio: sta diventando cieco e puo' fidarsi solo del soprintendente; ma il giovane pupillo diventainvidioso, pensa che l'altro miri all'eredita' di tutto il ranch. In sua assenza attacca Stewart, ma questi lo disarma ferendolo alla mano; arrivano gli uomini del ranch e bloccano Stewart: il giovane lo fa tenere fermo e gli spara alla mano. Vile e stupido, ha ormai perso la stima di tutti. Poi li lascia e va a consegnare duecento fucili agli indiani, affinche' attacchino il ranch della zitella e completino cosi' la vendetta contro Stewart. Il soprintendente, suo complice, che cerca di farlo ragionare e di impedirglielo, lo uccide nella lotta.
Le due donne, la vecchia zitella e la nipote del vecchio, curano Stewart.
Il soprintendente non ha il coraggio di dire la verita' al vecchio e il vecchio cerca disperatamente di uccidere Stewart, ma e' cieco, e Stewart ne ha compassione. Poi il vecchio scopre che il figlio vendeva armi agli indiani e decide di rintracciare il carro con i 200 fucili; il soprintendente cerca di fermarlo, perche' non vuole che scopra la verita', e il vecchio rotola in un burrone. Stewart trova il corpo e lo porta al ranch della zitella. Il vecchio si salva ma resta cieco. Il soprimtendente ha sempre fatto il proprio dovere nei confronti del vecchio, e ora non vuole perdere cio' a cui ha diritto: quella terra. L'avidita' che nasce dalla coscienza di essere stato il piu' giusto, di averla meritata, lo spinge all'omicidio, persino al "patricidio".
Per vendicarsi dell'assassino di suo figlio, il vecchio non esita a rivelare a Stewart che il soprintendente e' l'uomo che vendeva i fucili agli indiani. Stewart si lancia alla sua caccia per compiere finalmente la sua vendetta, anche se quell'uomo e' il fidanzato della bella giovane che lo ha tanto aiutato. Lo trova proprio mentre sta per consegnare i fucili agli indiani; lo obbliga a distruggerli, ma poi non ha il coraggio di finirlo: lo faranno gli indiani, con i fucili che aveva venduto loro.
Tensione drammatica e psicologica da tragedia greca, con odio fra fratelli, parricidi, vendette ancestrali.

Stewart e' lo straniero che arriva a perturbare una comunita' apparentemente stabile, ma in realta' retta da un equilibrio precario e fittizio. Dopo la sua venuta nulla puo' piu' essere come prima: ne' l'amore della giovane per il soprintendente, ne' la virile certezza della vecchia.

Lo stile di Mann e' classico nell'affrescare la comunita' patriarcale e nelle grandi scene da western (sparatorie, zuffe, inseguimenti). Nello svolgimento Mann e' debitore del detective novel, del romanzo psicologico e della Bibbia. Questo e' l'eroe classico del western, caratterizzato da due elementi: lo spirito di vendetta e il contrasto/armonia con i grandi spazi naturali.

The Last Frontier (1956), also known as Savage Wilderness, his only cavalry Western

Two Irish trappers, Gus and Jed, and their "Indian" scout Mongo are stopped by a tribe. The chief tells them that they are no longer welcomed and takes both their rifles and their horses. The reason is that the cavalry has invaded their land and cut trees to build a fort. The trappers are as outraged as the natives by the intrusion of "civilized" man. They are tired of their nomadic life, though, and the captain of the fort convinces them to enlist as scouts. They celebrate their new life by getting drunk, and Jed stumbles into the house of the colonel's beautiful wife Corinna (Anne Bancroft). She tells him that the colonel is out on a mission to another fort. He tells her that the natives have probably already killed her husband, because that other fort is deep into their territory. She calls him an animal and kicks him out. The following day he learns that the captain has sent his pals to the doomed fort. Furious, Jed leaves the fort and reaches his friends. Sure enough the fort has been overrun by the natives, and the colonel had to hide in the forest, where he found them. The colonel is an obnoxious idiot, who is determined to retake the fort and orders Jed to return to his fort and ask for reinforcement. Jed laughs at his determination because his soldiers are inexperienced rookies, whereas the natives are experienced fighters. The colonel has to accept defeat and take his men to Jed's fort. There he orders the much more reasonable captain of the fort to obey his orders: train the inexperienced man so that they can retake his fort. He comes through as a despicable human being, who is desperate to command r espect at any cost. That's also what he tells his faithful wife. The colonel seems on a quest to regain his self-respect after having lost a battle in the civil war. The captain has no choice but to obey. Hearing from Jed that another tribe might join Red Clouds' tribe, the colonel plans to attack as soon as possible. Gus thinks that the snow is overdue, and the snow would stop the natives anyway. The doctor joins the captain in telling him that his plan amounts to suicide because the soldiers are untrained. His own wife is upset and walks out of a meeting. Jed is outside, grabs her and kisses her. She drops any pretense of dignity and listens to Jed's proposal of taking her away and marrying her before her husband has them all killed. She makes love to him. The older Gus warns Jed that she can cause him a lot of trouble. In the meantime the good captain secretely sends Mongo to another fort to ask for real orders that could override the colonel's orders.
The colonel insists on Jed taking him to see where Red Clouds is camped. Jed does so but the colonel falls into a trap. Jed laughs at him and asks him to cancel the attack. The colonel refuses and Jed decides to leave him to die in the hole. When he returns to the fort alone, though, he learns two tough lessons. First, the captain is ready to hang him, because discipline is more important than reason, and Jed just caused the death of a commanding officer. Second, Corinna is now disgusted by him. Jed leaves the fort again and rescues the colonel from the hole.
The colonel orders one of this officers to kill Jed in his sleep, but Jed is alert and, after a long fight on the roof, kills the officer. The colonel orders the captain to arrest and hang Jed for killing an officer. The captain, though, hesitates to shoot and Jed can flee the fort. The day of the attack the captain is still hoping to stop the colonel. Mongo comes back with the reply from the general: the general denied the captain's request. The colonel is actually impressed by the captain's guts and leaves him in charge of the fort (and therefore of his wife) while he marches out, led by Gus. Mongo brings the news to Jed, who is hiding in the forest.
Jed joins the attacking cavalry to avenge the death of his friend Gus and becomes their leader after the colonel is killed. He leads them back to the fort. It starts snowing. The natives have to retreat. The danger is over. Jed rejoins the cavalry. And Corinna is now a widow...

The Tin Star (1957) e' il film piu' nostalgico e autunnale di Mann. Ancora una volta un vecchio eroe disilluso compie un'ultima impresa a favore della civilta`.

Fonda e` un cacciatore di taglie che arriva in un paese portando il cadavere di un gangster. Lo consegna all'inesperto sceriffo che sta tentando di imparare a usare le pistole e poi cerca un posto dove dormire. Il paese lo accoglie con diffidenza e ostilita`. L'unica a offrirli una camera e` una vedova che vive ai margini della citta` con il suo vispo figliolo. Fonda e` a sua volta vedovo: perse sia la moglie sia il figlio La donna e` emarginata dal paese perche' suo marito era un indiano. Fonda assiste a una scena che gli rivela la situazione del paese: il maniscalco uccide un uomo a sangue freddo, lo sceriffo tenta di arrestarlo, lo sceriffo quasi viene ucciso. Lo salva proprio Fonda, che disarma il maniscalco con un colpo da lontano. Ma e` stato un gesto inutile: tutti i testimoni sono dalla parte del maniscalco, che il giudice rimette pertanto in liberta`. Nel paese regna l'anarchia. La fidanzata dello sceriffo e` la figlia del vecchio sceriffo, che venne ucciso. Lo scongiura di dimettersi perche' non vuole una vita da vedova.
Fonda e` un cinico che vuole soltanto incassare il suo denaro e rimettersi in marcia. Fu anche lui sceriffo, ma, deluso dagli uomini che serviva, divenne cacciatore di taglie. Il giovane e inesperto sceriffo va a trovarlo dalla vedova e gli chiede aiuto. Fonda lo addestra a sopravvivere, somministrandogli un po' della sua saggezza. Ma la loro amicizia irrita i paesani, e qualcuno comincia a domandare le dimissioni dello sceriffo. Il giovane e` invece determinato a compiere il suo dovere. Quando arrivano i soldi della taglia, i cittadini invitano Fonda a lasciare il paese. Fonda non ha alcuna intenzione di rimanere. La diligenza e` stata assalita e lo sceriffo deve organizzare una "posse" per inseguire i banditi. Il buon dottore del paese, che e` come un secondo padre per lo sceriffo, viene assassinato dagli stessi banditi proprio il giorno del suo compleanno, che tutto il paese e` pronto a festeggiare: il calesse ritorna in paese sfilando fra due ali di folla festosa, ma lui e` morto. Si organizza subito una folta posse per vendicare il dottore. Fonda vorrebbe restarne fuori, ma il bambino della vedova e` scomparso e Fonda lo ritrova proprio nella zona in cui la posse sta dando la caccia ai banditi per ucciderli. Lo sceriffo e Fonda si trovano soli contro i banditi, e lo sceriffo e` determinato ad arrestarli vivi, come la legge prescrive. Fonda riesce ad arrestarli vivi.
L'arresto umilia pero` la posse. Il maniscalco comanda le teste calde che vogliono un linciaggio. Lo sceriffo protegge i criminali, che hanno diritto a un processo. Fonda e` l'unico a restargli al fianco. Lo sceriffo, diventato uomo, affronta impavido il maniscalco e lo uccide.
Fonda se ne va in calesse, portandosi via la vedova e il bambino.
Il film e` decisamente minore, piuttosto lento e prevedibile. Affastella temi tipici del western (l'eroe solitario, la coppia dell'esperto e del pivello, lo sceriffo che deve proteggere il criminale dal linciaggio), e li esamina dal punto di vista di un "veterano" delle sparatorie, dal punto di vista di un uomo che ha raggiunto la saggezza proprio vivendo quegli stereotipi.

Man Of The West (1958) si muove anch'esso nel contesto dell'eroe a riposo che ritorna un'ultima volta nel vivo della battaglia.

Il treno su cui viaggia James Cooper viene assalito dai banditi. Cooper, brevemente riconosciuto da uno sceriffo che pero` non ricorda il suo nome, dice che sta andando a reclutare un insegnante per il suo villaggio, e un anziano viaggiatore sta cercando di truffarlo con l'aiuto di una soubrette. Cooper, la cantante e l'anziano ciarlatano vengono abbandonati sulle rotaie e si avviano verso il primo villaggio. Cooper lo riconosce e dice che un tempo visse li`. I tre vengono fatti prigionieri e portati nella baracca in cui si e' relegata una banda di fuorilegge. Cooper ora e' un onesto fattore che porta in banca i risparmi della comunita', ma un tempo era stato un bandito anche lui, e i malviventi in cui si imbatte sono proprio quelli di suo zio, l'uomo che lo considerava il suo braccio destro, e che lui "tradi'" scappando e diventando onesto. Lo zio e' dibattuto tra la nostalgia, il desiderio di tornare insieme come ai bei tempi, e la realta', palese, che Cooper in realta' non e' tornato per lui. Cooper in effetti finge di volersi unire a loro per salvare se stesso e gli altri e proteggere la ragazza dalla prepotenza di un bandito. Il cugino ha capito tutto e lo ucciderebbe, se il rispetto per l'anziano capo non lo trattenesse. Dopo che gli sottraggono il suo gruzzolo, Cooper non ha scelta: deve riuscire a sgominarli, altrimenti non puo' far ritorno a casa, dove lo crederebbero un ladro recidivo.
Il vecchio organizza un assalto alla banca e manda in avanscoperta Cooper e un altro. Ma il paese e' disabitato e la banca non esiste piu'. L'altro ha ricevuto dal cugino l'ordine di ucciderlo dopo il colpo; ci prova subito ma Cooper ha la meglio. Aspetta gli altri che vengono a finire l'opera. Nella sparatoria Cooper ha la meglio. Tornato al carro, trova pero' che il vecchio ha violentato la ragazza ed e' pronto per lo scontro finale: evidentemente aveva previsto tutto ed e' andato volontariamente incontro all'auto-distruzione. Barcolla ubriaco, rotola giu' nel burrone e si uccide. Addosso Cooper gli trova il sacchetto di denaro che gli era stato rubato.
Odi covati fin dall'infanzia tra cugini che esplodono ora che l'autorita' del vecchio despota vacilla. Il vecchio e' una figura feroce e patetica, ha bisogno di riavere al fianco il suo figlioccio, anche se in fondo sa bene che si tratta del suo giuda. Vive fuori del tempo, comanda un assalto ad una banca che non esiste piu' da anni.

In Night Passage (1957), finito di girare da James Neilson, un impiegato delle ferrovie al tramonto della sua carriera difende le paghe degli operai da una gang guidata da suo fratello.

Grant (James Stewart) is an ex-railroad employee who is bitter because the railroad fired him unjustly. In town, he meets Charlotte, a nice woman who is in touch with the Utica Kid. Now the boss wants to hire him again for a difficult mission: bring the payroll money to the railroad men who are working against the time to complete the railway. A lady wishes him well: she married the boss, but before he got fired she was engaged to him. Grant gets on the train, accompanied by a kid he rescued on the way, and begins his trip, watched by the boss' right man who doesn't trust him. On the train the kid talks about the legendary gunslinger, the Utica Kid. The Utica Kid is Grant's brother. His gang decides to attack the train. They don't find it, but take the boss' wife hostage, kidnap the child and throw Grant off the train. The boss reaches the railroad camp alone, without the money. The gang has reached their hideout. The Utica Kid is an unlikely outlaw: a sweet intelligent gentleman. His rival within the gang is Whitey, a gross, arrogant fool. They almost shoot each other the lady, but the Utica Kid knows that it is precisely what she wants them to do. They don't know that they actually have the money: it's in a shoebox that Grant gave to the child. Both Grant and Charlotte are following the gang: Charlotte wants to save the Utica Kid's life, Grant wants the money back. Grant pretends that he wants to join the gang. Then tells the Utica Kid the truth and tries to redeem him, but in vain. Charlotte tries too, using the argument of marriage, but, again, in vain. A spy recognizes Grant as the man hired to carry the payload, and hell breaks loose. The Utica Kid runs away with the child (and the money). Grant chases him with the two women. The gang chases Grant. The Utica Kid watches as the gang surrounds Grant. The child runs to help Grant and gets wounded. Finally, the Utica Kid pulls out the gun and goes to help his brother: he has been the kid brother all the time, and this is the first time that he can live up to his elder brother. The two brothers now fight together against the remaining members of the gang, led by Whitey. At the end, Whitey kills the Utica Kid, and Grant kills Whitey. Grant buries his brother and brings the money to the railroad camp. The railroad hires him back. Charlene and Grant hug, watching the child.
The story is told in a rather amateurish way, with sudden jumps.

Poi c'e' il rapporto platonico fra Cooper, sposato con figli, e l'avventuriera pudibonda, una fallita senza speranza.

Protagonista del film e' la violenza piu' disperata: Cooper deve uccidere tutti i banditi per poter continuare ad essere una persona rispettabile; il vecchio deve mandare tutti al macello e soccombere alla fine di un'era, ecc.

God's Little Acre (1958) was a mediocre adaptation of Erskine Caldwell's novel.

Cimarron (1960) is a remake of a 1931 film, directed by Wesley Ruggles from a novel by Edna Ferber, a rather mediocre and uninspired film, the worst western that Mann directed.

Gli eroi di Mann sono esserei nevrotici, tormentati dal dubbio, insoddisfatti, segnati da un passato eterno e catapultati senza difese in un presente ignoto e ostile. Lo scenario grandioso e paradisiaco non fa che accentuare il loro isolamento, la loro straziante ricerca di pace. Invece il caso si accanisce contro le loro povere vite, costringendoli a ricorrere di continuo la giustizia. L'assurda armonia del mondo, che proietta la cupa tragedia umana su sfondi tanto meravigliosi, rende "naturali" tutte le storie: non sono episodi eccezionali, ma vite qualunque. Ogni uomo e' condannato a questa lotta perenne. Le parabole morali di Mann assurgono a riflessioni sulla storia dell'uomo, ambientate nello spazio immane del suo habitat naturale: la Terra.

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