fri 14/08/2020

DVD: Abilene Town | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Abilene Town

DVD: Abilene Town

Rousing Randolph Scott Western with a semblance of truth

Hearts are trumps: Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak, and Edgar Buchanan in 'Abilene Town.'United Artists

Randolph Scott had ridden long in the saddle before Budd Boetticher directed him as a driven loner with a painful past in the six harsh “Ranown Cycle” Westerns (1956-60). His apprenticeship began with ten 1930s Zane Grey oaters, mostly made by Henry Hathaway, and concluded with the B-Westerns he starred in for Edwin L. Marin and André de Toth after World War II. Marin’s rousing Abilene Town (1946), newly released on Blu-ray, augured Scott’s becoming a genre icon.

Though it lacks the melancholy poetry of John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (also 1946), Marin’s Western similarly evokes postwar social instability. Scott is cool and affable as Marshal Dan Mitchell, who uses his fists to quell troublemaking cowboys in the rowdy cattle town at the end of the Chisholm Trail. (Ernest Haycox’s source novel was based on the heroic exploits of Thomas “Bear River” Smith, who seldom used a gun while cleaning up Abilene in 1870.) The fragile peace between the god-fearing townsfolk and belligerent cattlemen is destroyed by the arrival of homesteaders seeking to fence and farm the range. Dan inevitably straps on his gun belt.

His main dilemma is romantic. Should he stay with fiancée Sherry, played by Rhonda Fleming, the beautiful but pious daughter of a merchant? Or should he take a chance with fiery saloon entertainer Rita, played by Ann Dvorak, whose habit of kicking Dan’s shins suggests she thinks sleeping with him warrants a commitment? Dvorak supplies the film’s oxygen, especially when she sings. Edgar Buchanan excels, too, as a rascally Kansas sheriff; Lloyd Bridges is the virile-looking farmer attracted to Sherry.

Marin wasn't a stylist like Ford, but he or his editor cleverly integrated lyrical stock footage of a wagon train, while the two lawmen’s hunt for a killer in the hills expanded the film’s visual girth. It’s not a classic, but it helped clear the land for High Noon and must have been a touchstone for Silverado. The booklet for the Blu-ray package includes 92-year-old Fleming's reminiscences.          

Ann Dvorak supplies the film's oxygen, especially when she sings

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Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Please note headline is wrong - this is a Blu-ray - not available on DVD.

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