Henry Hathaway

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

5.0 Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)
7.0 Peter Ibbetson (1935)
6.2 The Shepherd of the Hills (1941)
5.0 The House on 92nd Street (1945)
6.6 Dark Corner (1946)
6.2 13 Rue Madeleine (1947)
6.4 Kiss of Death (1947)
6.5 Fourteen Hours (1951)
6.0 The Desert Fox (1951)
6.4 Rawhide (1951)
6.3 Diplomatic Courier (1952)
7.3 Niagara (1953)
6.5 Garden of Evil (1954)
6.8 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956)
4.5 Legend of the Lost (1957)
6.5 From Hell to Texas (1958)
6.0 North to Alaska (1960)
6.5 How the West Was Won (1962)
7.0 Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
6.0 Seven Thieves (1960)
6.5 Nevada Smith (1966)
6.8 True Grit (1969)
6.5 Shoot Out (1971)

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Nato a San Francisco e cresciuto nel teatro, Henry Hathaway (1898) esordi' come attore di cinema a 10 anni con il regista Dwan. Assistente di Strinberg e di Fleming, tipico artigiano tuttofare senza professionalita', spreco` il suo talento in una serie sterminata di western dozzinali con l'attore Randolph Scott: Heritage of the Desert (1932), Wild Horse Mesa (1932), The Thundering Herd (1933), Under the Tonto Rim (1933), To the Last Man (1933), forse il migliore, The Last Round-Up (1934), etc. E al tempo stesso diresse drammi mediocri come Sunset Pass (1933), The Witching Hour (1934) e Now and Forever (1934).

His first western, Man of the Forest (1933), is an adaptation of a Zane Grey western novel.

Si rivelo' quasi quarantenne con Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), un kolossal bellico ambientato in India con Gary Cooper nei panni del lancere testardo e indisciplinato ma coraggioso e generoso, torturato da un raja ribelle che pero' riesce ad evadere e a mandare in fumo un attacco.
The plot is superficial and implausible. The characters are stereotyped. There is virtually no suspense, the humour is rather boring, the accent of the British officers is ridiculously American. The picture of India is postcard-ready but hardly accurate. But the film was very successful at the time.

McGregor (Gary Cooper) is a brilliant but indisciplined lancer, who is asked to welcome a new recruit, Stone, the young son of the colonel. At the railway station McGregor first meets Forsythe, another young recruit, who has met an attractive lady on the train. McGregor finds himself assigned to nurse the colonel's son. The regiment move towards the mountains, where a rebel prince, Khan, is stirring up trouble. They are received in Khan's palace and treated to a banquet, while secretly plotting against him. The young Stone is seduced by a (very white) girl who works for Khan, and is then taken prisoner by Khan's men. His father refuses to go after his son, which is what Khan would like him to do. McGregror and Forsythe refuse to obey the orders and try to rescue Stone, only to be taken prisoners with Stone. They are all tortured to reveal the location of some ammunition warehouse, and Stone eventually gives in. The rebels capture the ammunitions and prepare to exterminate the regiment that is about to launch an attack against their hide-out. McGregor and Forsythe find a way to escape and wreck havoc in the rebel camp. McGregor is killed, Forsythe is wounded. The young Stone completes their plan and, thanks to them, the lancers, led by Stone's father, can defeat Khan. At the end of the battle, the colonel awards a medal of honor to both Forsythe and to his son (despite the fact that he initially betrayed them).

Il film fu un successo internazionale e gli consenti' di girare Peter Ibbetson (1935), dal romanzo di George du Maurier del 1891, che narra la storia di un amore eterno tra Ibbetson (Gary Cooper) e una ragazza che ama sin dall'infanzia, nonostante la vita separi i due giovani e lui, come in un incubo psicanalitico, se la ritrovi davanti moglie di un duca. Nel tentativo di rapirla uccide il legittimo consorte e viene condannato al carcere a vite; finisce imprigionato e incatenato, ma continua a pensare a lei fino alla morte. Angoscioso farneticare sulla vita e sulla morte, sulla realta' e sul sogno, sull'odio e sull'amore, il film esula dalle convenzioni stilistiche "hollywoodiane" e va a situarsi tra i risultati piu' validi del cinema surrealista (l'idillio nel giardino dell'infanzia, gli incubi quasi psichedelici). Qui l'amore non e' un pretesto per strappare un po' di lacrime a buon mercato, ma una ossessione, una religione, una funzione vitale dell'organismo.

Dal 1936 al 1945 diresse film di consumo, per lo piu' melodrammatici: The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936); Souls at Sea (1937); Spawn of the North (1938); Real Glory (1939); Johnny Apollo (1940); Brigham Young (1940); The Shepherd of the Hills (1941), il suo western piu` fedele allo stile di Ford; e la commedia bellica Wing And A Prayer (1944).

Hathaway also directed star vehicles for Gene Tierney such as Sundown (1941) and China Girl (1942), typically about the fatal adventures of a mysterious exotic beauty.

Nel dopoguerra fu influenzato dallo stile documentaristico e dal neorealismo Italiano, lezione che mise a frutto con una serie di "gialli" basati su un oggettivo elenco di fatti, su una precisa e dettagliata spiegazione delle procedure seguite durante l'inchiesta e su riprese spesso fatte sul luogo (invece che in studio). Il primo fu lo spionistico The House on 92nd Street (1945), a mediocre war-time spy thriller that is mostly narrated by a voiceover.

A lengthy documentary-style introduction explains that before World War II the USA agency in charge of crime investigations, the FBI, is already working as a counterintelligence service to detect German spies on USA soil. One day a German-American graduate, Bill, is approached by German spies. He notifies the FBI and becomes a counteragent, pretending to be a spy for the Germans when in fact working for the FBI. He feigns interest, then notifies the FBI. FBI agent George An accident that kills an ordinary man leads the FBI to find out that the dead man was a German spy carrying a secret message: that a spy named Christopher is working on "Process 97", the secret ingredient of the atomic bomb. Christopher also turns out to be Bill's boss now that Bill is sent back to the USA, although he doesn't meet him. His instructions are on a microfilm. The FBI changes the instructions to order fashion designer Elsa to introduce him to every spy in her ring. She finds the instructions dubious and sends for clarification but meanwhile she has no choice but to obey them. (Most of the story is told by a voiceover). Bill opens an office as a consulting engineer that is surveilled by the FBI. They eavesdrop when he is visited by a German spy, a colonel who is a veteran of the previous war. When war erupts, the FBI arrests most of the spies but not the ones linked to Bill in order to give Bill time to find Christopher. One day Elsa, who is still suspicious of him, hands Bill the secret document about Process 97 that the Germans have been agonizing to get. Bill notices a cigarette butt stained with lipstick in Elsa's office: she doesn't smoke. The FBI traces the lipstick back to a girl who is dating an atomic scientist. Now the FBI knows who is leaking the secrets, but cannot arrest him until they find out how he does it. When Bill intercepts a message from Germany in which he is called a memory prodigy, they understand that the scientist is just very good at memorizing the formulas and sketches. The scientist confesses and points the FBI to a store where he has delivered material for Christopher. The FBI is filming when the mysterious ringmaster enter the store, purchase a book and exit, but can only see his shoes. The FBI is ready to issue arrest warrants for all the members of Elsa's ring. Meanwhile, Elsa has received a reply from Germany and knows that Bill is a traitor. She has him kidnapped and then beats him and injects some substance into him to make him talk. The FBI examines the film made at the store and decides that Christopher is Elsa's husband. They storm the place just when Bill was beginning to talk under the effect of the substance. Elsa tries to escape disguised as a man: she is Christopher. She is killed in the shootout between the police and her own agents.

The film noir Dark Corner (1946), influenced by the hard-boiled novel, relies on an intricate story but is ruined by an implausible ending.

Bradford is a private detective with an attractive secretary, Kathleen. He receives a warning from a police detective not to break the law. Then one night he realizes that a man in a white suit has been following him. Bradford tricks him into his office and then beats him up. The man, whose wallet has the name Fred, claims to be a private eye just like him, working for Bradford's former partner Tony. Later, with the same rude style, he warns Kathleen that she'll have to deal with rough times. However, she likes his rude manners and lets him kiss her. Meanwhile at the luxurious residence of middle-aged Hardy, the very Tony shows up, elegant and handsome, the exact opposite of the tough-talking and tough-acting Brad. The rich Hardy, an art dealer, is married to a gorgeous young girl, Mary, and has hired a band for a party to celebrate his third anniversary. During the party Tony meets a customer to whom he delivers the letters that she wanted. While the party is going on, the man in white suit makes a phone call to someone who is at the party, and tells him that he performed the act. Obviously it was a trick to let Brad know that Tony is stalking him. At a night club Brad tells Kathy to get out while she is still in time, but Kathy seems to be more attracted than scared by his warnings. Brad refuses to tell Kathy about his past dealings with Tony. Brad walks Kathy home but she doesn't let him in. When he walks back in the street, a car tries to run him over. The driver is the man in white suit, but Brad doesn't have time to see him. A child sees the accident and drives down the plate number. Brad guesses that Tony must be afraid of him. He finally tells Kathy the story: Tony was a rascal who seduced women and then blackmailed them (maybe that's what he just did again at Hardy's party), but one day Brad caught him stealing, and Tony engineered a car accident in which Brad killed a driver. Brad ended up in jail for manslaughter. Now he's trying to start a new life. Tony has become a respectable and charming attorney, the trusted friend of the rich Hardy. But he's passion for getting in trouble with women has not gone away: he is the secret lover of Hardy's young wife. Brad tracks down Tony and confronts him while Mary is hiding in the next room. They get into a fight and Mary calls the police. Brad hits Tony hard, so that he falls unconscious. Tony realizes that a lady is hiding in the next room but has to run away before the police arrive. Brad recovers and Mary also has to run away before the police arrive. Tony tells the police the name of the aggressor. During an exhibition Hardy gives a private tour to his rich customers and shows them a rare portrait worth a fortune: it's of a woman who looks like Mary. Hardy reveals that he was obsessed with the portrait and fell in love with Mary because she looks so much like it. Later Hardy overhears the two lovers (Mary and Tony) whisper to each other, but doesn't react, as if he knew all along. He then meets with the man in white suit, the one whom Brad knows as Fred but whose name is not Fred at all. This man gives him a report of how he has been trying to get Brad to kill Tony, as Hardy ordered. Now it is clear that Hardy has engineered the whole affair, to make Brad believe that Tony wants to kill him, so that Brad will kill Tony. Hardy suggests that "Fred" offers his services to Brad. Hardy arranges for Tony to be there at the same time. Brad has to cancel yet another evening date with Kathy in order to meet "Fred" at the office. When Brad enters his own office, "Fred" is already there and attacks him. While Brad is lying unconscious, Tony walks in and "Fred" kills him with a metal poker, leaving the body next to Brad's and the poker in Brad's hand. Then "Fred" breaks a few objects to make it look like the two had a fight. When Brad wakes up, he realizes what he has just been framed. He lets Mary in and tells her what happened. Mary believes him and cleans up the place. It's more maternal than sexual: she believes him and wants to help him like a mother with her child. Now Brad realizes that Tony had nothing to do with the man in white suit. Someone else is behind it, and Brad can't think of anyone else. The solution lies with the man in white suit, "Fred". Mary finds "Fred"'s address in the phone book. They hide Brad's corpse and set out to find their killer. Brad shows up at the address with a gun in his hand but it turns out that the man in white suit had stolen the wallet: the real "Fred" is a humble man. Meanwhile Hardy teases his wife Mary telling her that Brad is flirting with an older woman. Hardy is puzzled that the newspapers have no news of the murder. "Fred" wants to be paid anyway. Hardy gives him an appointment at a floor of a skyscraper. The little girl of the neighbors overhears the conversation. Meanwhile Brad and Mary have devised a new line of attack: they find the cleaner that is cleaning the white suit and get the address of the owner. Alas, Brad shows up after "Fred" has already left for the skyscraper. The little girl tells Brad where to go. Too late: Hardy has already pushed "Fred" down a window of the skyscraper. Overhearing that the taxi driver still has "Fred"'s bags in his cab, Brad steals it. In vain: there is nothing in the bags that can help. And then Brad remembers something the little girl said, something about an art gallery. Brad is now running against time because a maid found Tony's corpse and the cops want him for murder. At the gallery Brad pretends to be a customer who wants to meet the owner, while Hardy is enjoying the newspaper article reporting Tony's murder. Brad meets Mary and shows her the newspaper article. She immediately realizes that it was her husband's doing, and faints. Hardy shows up with a gun, ready to eliminate Brad, but Mary recovers and kills him. Brad and Kathy can get married. (It is not clear how Brad proves his innocence, nor how he figured out that the art dealer was the architect of the whole scheme).

13 Rue Madeleine (1947) e` un altro spionistico in cui Cagney e' a capo di un servizio di contro-spionaggio in Europa e, catturato e torturato dai nazisti, viene ucciso da un bombardamento premeditato dei suoi per evitare che parli.

Kiss of Death (1947), written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, is a film noir and social drama weakened by an implausible love story and amateurish acting.

A female narrating voice introduces us to Nick. On Christmas Eve he, an ex-convict who has been looking in vain for a job, rejected by all employers because of his prison record, robs a jewelry shop with help from three partners. Nick is caught before he can leave the high-rise building. He is shot in a leg. The assistant district attorney knows that Nick spent four years in jail refusing to disclose the names of his accomplices, but this time Nick has two children. Nonetheless, Nick refuses to betray his three accomplices and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. While he's awaiting for the sentencing he meets another criminal, Tommy (Richard Widmark), who is proud of him. Three years into his sentence, suddenly he stops receiving letters from his wife. After three months he finds out from the obituaries in the newspaper that she has killed herself and the children have been taken to an orphanage. The narrating voice reveals herself to be Nettie, a former babysitter of his. She visits him in prison. She reluctantly tells him that his wife was raped by one of his accomplices, Pete. Now Nick decides to tell the assistant district attorney the names of his accomplices. The authorities cannot reduce his sentence anymore but they allow him to at least see his children. The assitant D.A. architects a story that will make it look like Pete is the squealer so that Nick can continue to cooperate with the authorities without fear of reprisal from the criminals. Nick tells his corrupt lawyer that Pete is a squealer and the lawyer, sure enough, sends Tommy to kill Pete. Tommy only finds his handicapped mother in a wheelchair and brutally kills her. Nick is released on parole. He immediately visits Nettie, suddenly in love with her. They kiss right away. The assistant D.A. asks Nick to meet Tommy so that Nick can learn something about Tommy's criminal activities. Tommy still admires Nick as a role model and has no secrets for him. Nick passes all the information to the assistant D.A., which is enough to nail Tommy. Nick is finally released for good, marries Nettie, finds a job and gets his children back. But the quiet doesn't last long. The assistant D.A. wants Nick to testify at Tommy's trial, promising that Tommy will be sent to prison. Instead Tommy is acquitted. The D.A. pledges to protect him but Nick knows that Tommy will seek revenge. Nick spends the night asleep, watching his house. He sends Nettie and the children out of town. The D.A. would like to arrest him in order to protect him but Nick knocks him out and then looks for Tommy. When Nick sees Tommy in a restaurant, Nick calls the D.A. to set up a trap for Tommy. Then Nick provokes Tommy and offers himself as an easy target. Basically, Tommy shoots Nick in front of the cops. The cops arrest Tommy. Nick survives (of course) and Nettie's voiceover concludes that she got what she wanted: Nick. Nick e` un disoccupato che non riesce a lavorare per i suoi trascorsi criminali. Disperato, e deciso a comprare regali di Natale per la sua famiglia, compie una rapina. Ma viene ferito mentre scappa, e, visto che rifiuta di fornire i nomi dei complici, viene condannato a una pena severa. In carcere conosce un gangster psicopatico, Tom. Dopo tre anni un giorno apprende dal giornale che sua moglie si e` suicidata e i suoi figli sono stati affidati a un orfanotrofio. La ragazza che sta raccontando la storia di Nick fuori campo un'amica della moglie, va a trovarlo, impietosita dal suo caso, e gli rivela che la moglie si era messa con un altro. Nick, per poter rivedere i figli, va a confessare i nomi dei complici. Nick accetta di diventare un informatore della polizia e viene rilasciato. Nick e la ragazza si innamorano e decidono di mettere su casa, in modo che lui possa riprendersi i bambini.
Tom gli fa conoscere altri gangster e Nick li denuncia tutti. Al processo gli viene chiesto di testimoniare contro di loro: una volta che loro finiscano in carcere, lui sara` al sicuro. Ma la giuria li proscioglie. Nick rifiuta la protezione della polizia e decide di chiudere la partita alla sua maniera: va a trovare Tom nella sua tana, lo sfida, e chiama la polizia, che lo coglie in flagrante mentre sta per sparargli e puo` cosi` finalmente ucciderlo. Nick viene colpito, ma se la cava.

Call Northside 777 (1948) e` un detective-film tratto da un fatto di cronaca. Il film e` tutto girato in ambienti ombrosi. La colonna sonora e` fatta soltanto di qualche rumore di citta`, in gran parte e` soltanto silenzio. La vicenda contrappone uomini di buona volonta` a esseri senza morale. Da un lato l'innocente, sua madre e sua moglie, dall'altro i poliziotti corrotti, il reporter cinico, la testimone reietta. Nella visione manicheista di Hathaway, la vita e` semplicemente una lotta fra bene e male.
Hathaway e` anche morbosamente interessato ai dettagli tecnici dei processi che usa nella storia: il lie detector, la stampa dei giornali, l'ingrandimento di una fotografia.

The narrating voiceover introduces the lawless crime-infested Chicago of the 1930s and one specific murder, commited in the speakeasy of a woman named Wanda. Two men shot a cop that was drinking in the speakeasy. The cops search for a suspect named Tomek and arrest his best friend Frank, and eventually Tomek surrenders. Wanda recognizes them as the killers and they are sentenced to 99 years in jail. Eleven years later someone named Tillie offers a large reward for information about the killing. A newspaper editor is curious to find out why someone would do that and sends a reporter, Jim (Jimmy Stewart) to interview this Tillie. He is surprised to find a janitor, a poor immigrant, who washes the floors of a building. She saved the money all those years for this purpose: to prove the innocence of her son Frank. The reporter treats her like a madwoman but writes an article about her. The editor likes the story and asks the reporter to interview Frank. Jim's wife is moved too by the story of the poor mother. Jim interviews Frank in prison. Jim doesn't believe in his innocence but nonetheless he writes a story to make him popular with the public. Jim despises Frank as a copkiller, but the editor instead senses that the story can get them a lot of readers, so he sends him to interview Frank's ex-wife. The ex-wife too swears on Frank's innocence: Frank was home with her the night of the murder. She divorced him because he asked her to: he wanted her to have a nice life and find a man who would take care of their son. Jim is still skeptic but is touched when Frank asks him to stop writing about his family. Frank doesn't want any more publicity because it will hurt his son: the whole point of the divorce was precisely to give his son a new name, but now Jim put his face in the front page. Frank would rather spend the rest of his life in jail than jeopardize his son's future. Jim starts believing him. Furthermore, the prison warden tells him that the prisoners themselves think Frank and his buddy Tomek are innocent. Jim interviews Tomek. Tomek too claims that he's innocence and therefore cannot help Jim find the real killers. Jim now begins seriously investigating the original investigation even if the original judge is dead, the lawyer disbarred and witnesses disappeared. Jim passes a lie detector test but the police refuse to cooperate with Jim's investigation believing that he's helping a copkiller, but Jim manages to take a picture of a record that the police have hidden and that shows irregularities. The politicians get nervous that Jim's articles are discrediting the police department and ask for a quick settlement: Jim will be allowed to present his case to a pardon board. The newspaper's lawyer warns Jim that he doesn't have any convincing proof, just hints. Jim realizes that he needs to find Wanda, the original eyewitness. After searching for days all the dives of the Polish neighborhood, Jim finally finds the woman but she refuses to change her testimony even though she would get the large reward. Jim is ready to give up and the newspaper's lawyer is about to call off the meeting with the pardon board when Jim finds a way to prove that Wanda had seen Frank the day before the official identification, contrary to what she swore at the time. Jim has asked a photographer to enlarge a photo of Wanda and Frank together so that he can prove that it was taken the day before the identification thanks to the date of a newspaper visible in the same picture. Frank is released from prison: his son, ex-wife and mother are waiting outside. Una donna offre una ricompensa per scoprire la verita` sull'omicidio di un poliziotto di cui venne accusato il figlio, e a suo avviso condannato ingiustamente (e cosi` un suo amico). Un reporter viene incaricato dal direttore del giornale di scrivere una serie di articoli sul caso e riesce a generare interesse nel pubblico. L'uomo, che e` da undici anni in carcere, e` tanto orgoglioso da proibire al reporter di infastidire la sua famiglia, anche se quello e` l'unico modo di riaprire il caso. L'amico che e` stato condannato con lui rifiuta di cooperare non perche' non voglia aiutare il reporter ma perche' non sa nulla. Benche' inizialmente scettico, il reporter si convince presto che ci sia del marcio nell'inchiesta della polizia. Il condannato passa un lie detector, mentre invece la polizia e` riluttante a riaprire il caso e ad aiutarlo in qualsiasi maniera. Il reporter si scontra contro una parete di omerta` e di testimoni morti, ma riesce infine ad ottenere dalla polizia il diritto a un'udienza speciale. L'avvocato del giornale lo mette pero` in guardia, che non otterra` nulla se non riesce a screditare la donna che identifico` l'uomo al processo. Il reporter impiega giorni a trovare le tracce della donna, ma invano: lei rifiuta di cambiare la sua testimonianza. Stanno per arrendersi, ma all'ultimo momento il reporter riesce a dimostrare l'innocenza dell'uomo davanti alla commissione d'inchiesta.

The came Down to the Sea in Ships (1949), The Black Rose (1950) and another effective western, Rawhide (1951).

Un thriller e' anche Fourteen Hours (1951), in cui per quattordici ore un poliziotto tenta di dissuadere un giovane dal gettarsi dal grattacielo su cui si e' arrampicato; proprio quando lo ha convinto, questi mette un piede in fallo e precipita. Con questo film finisce la fase realista di Hathaway.

Con The Desert Fox (1951) inizia quella spettacolare; si tratta di un bellico sul generale Rommel che fece scandalo perche' riabilitava il Nazismo, dipingendo Rommel come un eroe martire e un umano padre di famiglia.

Diplomatic Courier (1952) e' uno spionistico sulla guerra fredda, con tutti gli stereotipi di colpi di scena a ripetizione, belle donne, codici segreti, uccisioni ecc. Trama canonica, che potrebbe andare avanti all'infinito, finale improvviso (soltanto per rispettare il minutaggio?), recitazione mediocre, stereotipi banali.

Controspionaggio. Tyron Power viene incaricato di una missione importantissima; da Parigi viene inviato in Austria a prendere qualcosa da un altro agente per poi portarla a Washington. Sull'aereo conosce una vedova avvenente. Arrivato in Austria, sale sul treno convenuto, ma l'altro agente lo evita perche' e' spiato da agenti comunisti e da una donna bionda. L'agente viene ucciso dai comunisti e il prezioso documento scompare. Gli americani incaricano power di ritrovare la bionda, una nota spia comunista, pur sapendo di mandarlo incontro a morte sicura; i comunisti non hanno trovato il documento e ora danno la caccia a Power. Questi scopre che qualcuno gli ha messo in tasca una foto della bionda con il nome di un hotel. La insegue fino a Trieste, ma lei e' gia' scappata. In compenso ritrova la vedova, e un benditore ambulante gli offre una traccia prima di essere ucciso. Scopre dove abita la bionda e scopre cosi' che lei lo aspettava con ansia, che era l'amante dell'agente morto, che lavorava per lui fingendo di collaborare con il nemico. Power dapprima non le crede e sospetta che sia l'assassina, ma lei lo convince di essere sincera. Non ha ricevuto nessun documento dal morto. Mentre parlano alcuni uomini irrompono e tentano di rapirlo; il loro capo e' in confidenza con la bionda...
Gli americani lo salvano e gli svelano che era stato proprio l'ucciso a smascherare la bionda come spia comunista: Power si sente raggirato e giura vendetta. Gli americani gli ordinano anche di fare la corte alla vedova per creare una falsa pista che confonda il nemico. E infatti lei lo chiama per dirgli che le hanno sparato e gli fa domande per scoprire chi e', cosa fa e in che cosa e' coinvolto. Ma non appena lui se ne va, la vedova incontra il capo delle spie russe, per il quale lavora. Power, intanto, rivede la bionda che di nuovo lo convince di essere sincera e gli rivela di aver trovato il documento. In cambio del documento la bionda chiede di essere perdonata dagli americani e spedita in America. In quel momento squilla il telefono ed e'... il morto! che sostiene di essere vivo e dice che sta per arrivare. Power teme un tranello ai suoi danni e scappa, proprio mentre arriva un'auto, convinto che nell'auto ci siano gli amici comunisti della bionda. si ricorda di averla vista uscire dal negozio di un orologiaio e va a ritirare l'orologio (che il morto aveva lasciato alla bionda prima di morire), ma l'orologiaio dimentica di dargli il microfilm che era dentro l'orologio... Power ha intuito la verita'; corre in albergo ad aprire l'orologio, ma in camera trova la vedova con una pistola in pugno, che glielo ruba. Un poliziotto amico la ferma. Il capo della polizia telefona, conferma che il morto e' vivo e gli da' un appuntamento. Ma li' viene rapito dai comunisti, che hanno gia' preso prigioniera la bionda.La telefonata era falsa. La bionda, in cambio della liberta', accetta di consegnare il documento. Power, gettato in mare, viene salvato da un peschereccio. Intanto la bionda e' andata a prendere i bagagli per partire e ha lasciato una busta alla portinaia. Questa busta indica l'orologiaio e li' gli americani recuperano il microfilm.
Gli americani sono soddisfatti cosi', ma Power vuole salvarla a tutti i costi, adesso che ha la prova della sua sincerita'. Corre alla stazione, salta sul treno, trova lo scompartimento in cui viaggiano lei e il capo delle spie russe, disarma l'uomo e fugge con la donna.

Venne poi il suo capolavoro, Niagara (1953), che applicava i metodi della suspense e della spettacolarita' di Hitchcock in un'atmosfera di morbosita` allucinata. Tanto la fuga spettacolare quanto la vendetta in cima a una torre, tanto il ritmo compassato quanto le inquadrature mozzafiato sono imitazioni di Hitchcock.

Un reduce di guerra squilibrato e la provocante moglie (ex-cameriera scollacciata) vanno in vacanza alle cascate di Niagara. La moglie lo innervosisce e fa in modo che lui si comporti in maniera sospetta davanti agli sposini della camera vicina. Monroe e` realta` in combutta con l'amante per uccidere il marito. Fanno in modo che li segua sulle cascate, poi l'amante lo segue da solo. Il segnale convenzionale e` che il campanile suonera` la loro canzone. Il marito non ritorna a casa e Monroe inscena la parte della moglie disperata e chiama la polizia. Il campanile suona la canzone.
Scoprono in effetti che qualcuno non e` rientrato dal tour alle cascate. Trovano il cadavere e chiamano Monroe per identificarlo. Monroe sviene e sembra confermare di aver riconosciuto il marito: invece e` svenuta perche' ha riconosciuto l'amante! Mentre lei e` ancora inconscia all'ospedale, il marito commette l'errore di entrare nella camera sbagliata, quella degli sposini, e terrorizzare in tal modo la donna che e` sola in casa. Nessuno crede pero` al racconto della donna, essendo tutti convinti che l'uomo sia morto. L'uomo la segue invece sulle cascate: lei fugge, pensando che la voglia uccidere, ma lui invece chiede il suo aiuto. Quando gli sposini rientrano, scoprono che Monroe e` scappata dall'ospedale. La donna tenta di spiegare alla polizia che l'uomo e` vivo e che Monroe sta probabilmente scappando per paura che lui la uccida, ma non le credono. Monroe sta effettivamente scappando. Si rifugia nel campanile, ma lui la incalza spietato. Alla fine la raggiunge in cima e la strangola. Quando tenta di uscire, pero`, scopre che hanno chiuso a chiave la porta d'ingresso. Passa la notte di fianco al cadavere. Il giorno dopo ruba un motoscafo per darsi alla fuga, ma proprio in quel momento sale a bordo la sposina che gli si avventa contro e nella colluttazione rimane svenuta. Lui mette in moto e fugge inseguito dal motoscafo della polizia. La corrente lo porta pero` pericolosamente vicino alle cascate. La momento di buttarsi per non finire nelle cascate, salva lei e rimane a bordo, suicidandosi.

Prince Valiant (1954) is an adaptation of a comic strip.

The Bottom of the Bottle (1956) is an adaptation of a Georges Simenon novel.

Ritorna al poliziesco con 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956), forte della lezione di Rear Window di Hitchcock e di Sherlock Holmes: uno scrittore cieco ascolta la conversazione di due persone che preparano un rapimento e un omicidio; avverte l'FBI ma non viene creduto, cosi' decide di indagare da solo con l'aiuto della fidanzata e della segretaria. Scoprono una gang, che dietro una agenzia di collocamento per infermiere, ha architettato il rapimento di un ricco storpio, e finalmente l'FBI interviene.

Venne poi il periodo western, durante il quale si rivelo' fedele discepolo della tradizione classica Ford-iana, in particolare con Garden of Evil (1954) e From Hell to Texas (1958), due eleganti esempi del genere.

Legend of the Lost (1957) is an exotic comedy full of stereotypes and directed/acted in an amateurish way.

A mysterious stranger, Paul, arrives at Timbuktu and demands the funny police chief for an experienced desert guide. He is robbed by a gypsy-looking beauty, Tita (Sophia Loren), but then forgives her and befriends her (she suddenly transforms into a depressed femme fatale). The police chief releases from jail a drunkard, Joe (John Wayne), who is an expert in desert exploration and introduces him to the stranger as his guide. Joe and Tita do not like each other. Joe is happy to take the job, and Tita is frustrated she can't join the expedition. She begs the stranger to take her with him (despite the fact that noone knows where he is going). Joe and Paul take off with the mules. Later, they are joined by the stubborn Tita, who begs Paul to take her with him. Joe threatens to turn back rather than continue with Tita. Then Paul reveals the secret of his journey: he is looking for a lost city that his father discovered before dying, and wants to use its gold to build a refuge for the poor in Africa. The two men are soon rivals for Tita's attentions, and Joe is skeptic that the city truly exists. Tita believes in Paul (or simply needs a man who doesn't treat her like a prostitute like Joe does). They do find the lost city. They also find three skeletons: Paul's father, killed by a bullet in the head, another man, killed by a knife in his chest, and a woman, hugging the latter. They figure that Paul's father was betrayed by the woman and her lover, and they ended up killing each other. Joe finds a Bible where Paul's father wrote where he hid the treasure. Paul finds the treasure and gets delirious. When Tita, suddenly unimpressed by his greed, rejects him, Paul begins to fear that she and Joe are going to do to him what the two lovers did to his father. Paul packs the mules and leaves them to die in the ghost city. Joe and Tita start walking in the desert with no food and no water. Now they can admit to each other that they love each other. But Paul hasn't gone far: they find him lying in the sand, about to die. Joe starts digging to find water. Paul thinks that they want to kill him. He grabs a knife and stabs Joe in the back. Tita shoots him. Now we know what happened to Paul's father: he got paranoid the same way that Paul got paranoid, and caused the death of everybody. But the past does not repeat itself because a caravan finds them (and because Hollywood mandates a happy ending).

North to Alaska (1960): durante la corsa all'oro Wayne vive con due amici; un giorno decide di sposare una entertainer ed e' l'inizio dei guai, perche' un poco di buono la vuole per se'; finisce in rissa e vince Wayne. Western comico, molto ridondante. Piu' che un western e' una commedia di paese.

Dopo un'ultima grande rissa, Wayne saluta gli amici in Alaska e parte per un viaggio a Seattle. L'amico George gli affida una lettera importante per la sua fidanzata, che non vede da anni: e' finalmente diventato ricco e vuole sposarla. A Seattle Wayne scopre che la ragazza fa la cameriera in casa di una famiglia ricca e si e' gia' sposata con il maggiordomo. Al saloon conosce la prostituta Capucine, se ne innamora e, dopo averne difeso l'onore a un picnic di amici, la convince ad emigrare con lui in Alaska. Lei pensa che lui la voglia sposare, ma lui le confessa che ha soltanto in mente di presentarla a George per consolarlo.
Nonostante la delusione, l'ennesima della sua vita, decide di rimanere in Alaska. Wayne le procura una camera all'hotel, che e' stato vinto alle carte di un suo amico imbroglione, Frankie. Si da` il caso che Capucine e l'imbroglione siano vecchie conoscenze e che lei non abbia conservato un buon ricordo. Capucine escogita allora uno stratagemma per convincere Wayne a ospitarla alla sua miniera. Wayne deve assentarsi per andare ad aiutare George contro dei briganti e la lascia con il fratellino di George, Billy, che le fa una corte spietata. George capisce subito che Capucine e' innamorata di Wayne e nota che Wayne la sta trattando in maniera diversa da come tratta di solito le donne. Con una messa in scena lo fa ingelosire, ma proprio in quel momento i soldati gli notificano che qualcuno ha sporto denuncia contro di lui rivendicando i diritti sulla miniera. Wayne viene scortato in citta' dai soldati, e Capucine ne approfitta per farsi dare un passaggio al porto.
In citta' Wayne scopre che dietro la denuncia c'e' la mano dell'uomo delle pulizie del saloon. Irrompe nel saloon, scopre che Capucine e' alloggiata li', litigano, scopre che Billy ha preso il posto dell'uomo delle pulizie pur di stare vicino a Capucine, Capucine gli dice che sospetta Frankie, Billy scopre che l'uomo delle pulizie e' nascosto in una delle stanze, sfondano tutte le porte finche' lo trovano, gli fanno confessare che il piano e' stato architettato da Frankie, lo trascinano giu' per le scale, in strada incontrano Frankie che sta rientrando, si scatena una scazzottata furibonda nel fango mentre suona la banda dell'Esercito della Salvezza. Risolto il caso, Capucine e' pronta a partire con la prima nave, ma Wayne le chiede di restare. Capucine rifiuta di ascoltarlo finche' lui le grida davanti a tutto il paese che la ama.

Woman Obsessed (1959)

Seven Thieves (1960), e' un caper film: Robinson e' un anziano studioso che vuole vendicarsi dell'indifferente cinismo della societa' compiendo un colpo clamoroso; il colpo riesce, ma lui ne muore di gioia e gli eredi restituiscono il maltolto.

Sons of Katie Elder (1965): i quattro figli di una pioniera morta in circostanze misteriose tornano sul luogo del delitto decisi a far luce; scoprono che l'ha uccisa il prepotente della zona e si vendicano.

In un villaggio del Texas, immerso in un paesaggio arido e desertico, e' morta un'anziana signora e il funerale si svolge in clima di tensione: tutti temono il ritorno di uno dei suoi quattro figli, Wayne, che e' diventato pistolero, e soprattutto lo teme l'attuale proprietario del suo vecchi ranch che, infatti, ha assoldato un pistolero per l'occasione. Clima da thriller: Wayne e' effettivamente arrivato, ma non cerca guai. Apprende dallo sceriffo che suo padre e' stato ucciso sei mesi prima da degli sconosciuti. Gli altri tre fratelli valagono poco: uno e' un ragazzino, un altro uno squattrinato, Dean Martin e' un fannullone. La giovane vicina rivela loro la verita', ossia che la madre sentiva la loro mancanza e si vergognava delle loro vite. PBen presto Wayne e i fratelli si rendono conto che il comportamento della madre dopo la morte del padre e' stato misterioso: ha subito venduto il ranch, ma in banca non si e' trovato nessun risparmio (il direttore della banca li ha addirittura rimproverati di non essersi accorti della miseria in cui la donna stentava). I ragazzi pero' non possono credere che il ranch non le abbia fruttato proprio nulla e Wayne comincia a sospettare che in paese ci sia dell'omerta' a proposito della morte del padre e la vendita del ranch. Wayne va atrovare il becchino e arriva quando il pistolero lo sta torturando per sapere cosa ha rivelato a lui; Wayne stordisce il pistolero e il vecchio gli rivela che il ranch e' stato comperato da un uomo d'affari che e' diventato il proprietario di quasi tutto il paese.

Il vice-sceriffo, giovane, scrupoloso e testa calda, mette i bastoni fra le ruote ai quattro fratelli che vogliono fare indagini al ranch. Il ricco sostiene che il padre dei quattro avesse perso il ranch al gioco e ha ben sei testimoni; solo che il padre venne ucciso la notte stessa della perdita!

Lo sceriffo, che gli vuole bene, cerca di convincere Wayne a lasciar perdere; e la ragazza, che e' stata vicino alla vecchia, scongiura Wayne di non creare nuove violenze. Intanto i tre fratelli maggiori decidono di rimandare a scuola il minore e, per procurarsi i soldi, accettano di condurre una mandria di cavalli in Colorado. Ma il ricco e il vice-sceriffo hanno scoperto che Martin e' ricercato per omicidio, e lo sceriffo deve andare ad arrestarlo. Il ricco si nasconde e spara allo sceriffo davanti alla casa dei fratelli, che sono gia' partiti con la mandria, facendo credere che siano stati loro. Invece i quattro fratelli si stanno divertendo e stanno diventando veramente amici. Gli inseguitori piombano loro addosso e il duro vice-sceriffo li arresta tutti, infischiandosene della mandria.La folla e' loro ostile e vorrebbe linciarli, ucciderli ma il vice-sceriffo, pentitosi, decide di portarli in salvo in un'altra citta. Il convoglio si mette in marcia attraverso il bosco, ma il ricco ha teso un agguato e corrotto gli aiutanti del vice-sceriffo; Wayne pero' se ne accorge in tempo e fa fallire l'agguato, ma uno dei tre fgratelli muore, nonostante Wayne riesca ad uccidere il pistolero. Invece di scappare, Wayne decide di ritornare in paese, tanto piu' che il fratellino e' ferito. I tre fratelli si barricano nel granaio e chiedono al nuovo sceriffo di chiamare lo sceriffo federale, al quale si arrenderanno per essere regolarmente giudicati.

Il figlio del ricco e' un debole oppresso dai rimorsi e dalla paura che le malefatte del padre vengano scoperte; Martin, agile e furbo, lo cattura. Mentre Wayne sta cercando di farlo parlare, irrompe il padre che, temendo una sua confessione, non esita a freddarlo; in punto di morte, pero', il giovane accusa il padre di tutti gli omicidi e lo sceriffo lo sente.

Wayne, finalmente scagionato, sfida il ricco e spietato corruttore al duello finale. Morto il cattivo, Wayne trova l'affetto e la comprensione della ragazza.

How the West Was Won (1962) is notable mainly for being one of the two films made with Cinerama.

Nevada Smith (1966), based on a story by John Michael Hayes, is a western that borrowed the brutal violence of gangster films instead of the traditional code of honor. At the same time it has a philosophical undercurrent, the cathartic journey of the hero through a number of putative parents (a gunsmith, a priest), each of which bestows on him a bit of adult wisdom.

Three men ride through the barren landscape. They meet a boy, Max (Steve McQueen) working on a gold mine and ask about the whereabouts of an old friend of theirs: it's his father they are looking for. Minutes later they are torturing the old man and raping his wife, who is an Indian squaw, because they want part of the gold he has found. When the boy sees the carnage, he sets the house on fire and leaves, determined to find the three killers. His only clue if the horse that they stole. The first trio he attacks are the wrong men, and in any case the kid could hardly kill any of them: he is too inexperienced. He continues his quest alone but almost dies of starvation until he meets a kind gun merchant who lectures Max on how he will have to think like a thug (who live in a world of whores, gamblers, gunfighters) in order to catch the thugs, and teaches him how to shoot. The gun merchant is a good psychologist: not only did he understand Max, but also understands where the thugs can be found (where there is money). Max has a vast country to scour, with only one clue to find them: one of the three has a scar on his neck and rides a white horse. One day he lands in a hotel and brothel, where a fellow half-Indian prostitute tells him that she saw a man with a scar on his neck. Max also sees the horse. The man, Jesse, tries to escape but Max corners him in the stables and kills him. The sheriff tells Max that he has to leave town but he's wounded and too weak to ride. So the Indian prostitute, suddenly turned into good squaw, brings him to her village, and initiates him to sex.
Once he can leave the Indian camp, Max breaks into the room of another prostitutes in order to find the names of Jesse's friends. The woman catches him in the act and reveals that she was Jesse's wife. Far from being angry at him, she thanks him and seems ready to have sex with him. She tells him the name of one of Jesse's friends, Bill, and that he was arrested for a bank robbery in Louisiana. Max takes a steamboat to Louisiana. The only way to get to Bill is to be sent to the same remote prison in the swamps. Max does not hesitate to rob a bank in order to be sent there, even if this means two years of forced labor. He is welcomed by a psychotic warden and learned that Bill has just tried to escape. Bill is flogged in front of all the prisoners. His unconscious body is then dumped into the lagoon. Max saves him from drowning, and Bill becomes a friend. Max talks him into trying to escape again. He learns that the prisoners are occasionally rented out to the local plantations, and the prisoners are rewarded with the women of the plantations. Max seduces one of the women, Pilar, and asks her to escape with them. Pilar guides them through the swamp, but she is bitten by a poisonous snake. She lives long enough to take them to safety and to see when Max tells Bill who he is and shoots them after getting from Bill the name of the third thug, Tom. Pilar understands that Max simply used her to fulfil his revenge and dies cursing him. Tom returns to the Far West, to the land of saloons and sheriffs, hunting his last victim. Tom reads about Max's executions of his two friends and panics. Max is almost killed by friends of Tom, after he pretends to be Tom, but saved by a priest who then tries to teach him the Christian value of forgiveness (his own family was exterminated). The problem is that Max has become one of them: drinks and tortures just like them. He tracks down Tom and then joins his gang. Tom is the psycho who enjoyed raping and torturing Max's mother. The gang sets out to rob some gold. On the way they pass by the gun merchant, who recognizes Max. Now Tom knows who he is, but decides to go ahead with the robbery anyway. Max watches coldly as they massacre the escort of the stagecoach. Then he starts chasing Tom, who tries in vain to escape with the gold. When Tom runs out of ammunitions, Max starts shooting at his arms and knees. Remorseless, Tom insults his mother, but then begs Max to finish him. Max throws his gun in the river and rides slowly away, leaving the agonizing Tom to live the life of a cripple.

Circus World (1964)

The Last Safari (1967)

5 Card Stud (1968)

True Grit (1969), from a novel by Charles Portis, is probably the best of his westerns. The chase of the bad man is simply a pretext to set in motion a journey through a hostile landscape (stunning photography) and the dialectics between three opposite characters. There is only one shootout in the entire film, but those few seconds epitomize the entire genre. The rest of the film is more interested in the sense of partnership, loyalty and justice in those lawless, anarchic times.

The story takes place post-Civil War in Arkansas. A man leaves his wife and his teenager daughter for a business and gets shot outside a saloon. The daughter, Mattie, a headstrong girl, travels to town to claim the body and asks the sheriff for justice, but the sheriff tells her that the murderer, Tom Chaney, lives in Indian territory, beyond his jurisdiction. The girl, determined to get justice, travels to meet with legendary cantankerous drunken old Reuben Cogburn (Wayne), better known as "Rooster", a one-eyed marshall with a terrifyin record of killings. While everybody shuns him, and Rooster treats her like a silly child, the girl decides to hire him.
Back home, her mother is taking care of the family, the workers and the servants. A Texas Ranger, La Boeuf, comes to visit them and tells Mattie that he is also after Tom Chaney, guilty of killing a senator. Mattie tells La Boeuf that she has hired Rooster and La Boeuf offers Rooster half of the bounty to help him capture the killer. Mattie is furious, especially when the two men decide to do without her. She joins them anyway and they start the journey together.
They learn that Tom Chaney has joined a gang led by Ned Pepper and set out to find them. They enter a lawless, sparsely populated territory, inhabited only by outlaws.
Rooster heads to the cabin of two outlaws. One would talk but the other cuts his fingers with a knife to shut his mouth. Rooster shoots him, but, before dying, the outlaw manages to stab his partner.
Rooster and La Boeuf set a trap for Ned but he escapes. They chase him and eventually the girl literally stumbles into them while she's fetching water at the river. Mattie shoots Tom but barely wounds him. On the other hand, the bandits take her as hostage. Rooster and La Boeuf have to retreat. Tom is a fool and a coward and Ned is glad to leave him behind with the girl.
La Boeuf frees Mattie and Rooster finds the other four bandits. Rooster gives one warning. He is facing the four riders like a knight in a medieval tournament. Then he charges head down against the four and hits them all. Ned, who is only wounded, shoots his horse and Rooster is trapped under the animal. Ned is about to finish him when La Boeuf kills him.
It is not over yet. Tom is hiding and knocks La Boeuf out with a rock. Mattie shoots him but falls in the hole with the rattlesnakes. Tom crawls to the rim of the hole and is about to shoot her when Rooster arrives and kills him. Then Rooster has to rescue the girl from the whole. But the rattlesnake has already bitten her. Rooster loads her on the horse and rides desperately towards town. When the horse collapses, Rooster takes her into his arms and keeps walking. He steals a carriage and finally reaches town. The girl is safe.

Raid on Rommel (1971)

Shoot Out (1971) e` una favola morale semplice e lineare. Ma e` anche un film violento, volgare, realista: le donne sono o prostitute o materialiste; gli uomini si combattono con ferocia.

Peck esce dal carcere dopo sette anni. E' finito dentro perche' il partner gli sparo` alle spalle durante una rapina e ora vuole vendicarsi. Si reca in paese dove incontra il barman paralitico, l' amica entreneuse e un trio di sbandati arroganti (di cui umilia il capo). Il partner, ora ricco uomo d'affari, ha pagato i tre giovani perche' spiino le mosse di Peck. Peck vede arrivare con il treno una bambina, rimasta orfana della prostituta alla quale Peck aveva affidato i suoi averi. Pur di non abbandonarla alla legge la prende con se', benche' sia terribile.
I tre sbandati abusano di una prostituta nel bar del paralitico, devastano i locali, picchiano e derubano la donna e, infine, uccidono l'uomo e rapiscono la donna. In punto di morte il vecchio mormora il nome del paese dove si nasconde il traditore.
I tre seguono Peck a distanza, ma lui se ne accorge e va nottetempo a disarmarli, umiliarli di nuovo e li fa parlare.
Durante un temporale trova asilo nella fattoria di una vedova che ha un figlioletto. La donna, disperatamente sola, gli confessa di aver bisogno di un uomo e di essere disposta a tenergli la bambina nella speranza che lui ritorni da lei.
I tre, che lo hanno seguito, irrompono nella casa terrorizzando donna e bambini, obbligano anche la prostituta a spogliarsi davanti a loro. Uno dei tre decide di tornare dal padrone per non invischiarsi. La prostituta resta uccisa nella colluttazione, quando cerca di impedire al piu' malvagio di sparare alla bambina. Peck ne approfitta per saltargli addosso e l'altro spara uccidendo il compare. L'altro si fa scudo della bambina e fugge, uccidendo anche il terzo quando lo incontra. Va dal padrone a chiedere la paga e lo uccide. Peck arriva in tempo a coglierlo sul fatto, lo sfida e lo uccide. Torna alla fattoria dove lo attendono la bambina e la donna.

Hangup (1974)

Il grottesco ("North to Alaska" e "True Grint") e il tema della vendetta ("Sons Of Katie Elder", "Nevada Smith", "Shoot Out") sono i suoi pretesti preferiti.

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