The Violent Men, Great Western, Awful Title

I was doing the usual chores in the kitchen, chopping veggies for dinner, stuffing loot bags for my youngest daughter’s friends, when I realized, something was missing. That something was the TV; it was off; that was just wrong. Such chores demanded some entertainment. Then I remembered that I had recorded a movie on TCM that I had remembered enjoying some time ago. In my years of multi-tasking while watching a movie, there are inevitably gaps that leave me frustrated. So a familiar story was a perfect way to make mundane chores more pleasant.

“The Violent Men” (1955) wins the award for the best movie with the most terrible title. Truly, the title is the worst part of this otherwise entertaining western that boast an all-star cast of Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck and Glenn Ford.

Ford plays Parrish, a rancher who is trying to return east with his fiancé, as he promised her. That is the plan, as long as he can sell his ranch for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned and Parrish finds himself in the middle of a range war. Edward G. Robinson plays Wilkison, a big shot who owns most of the surrounding land. Parrish’s friends and neighbors are bitter at the thought of Parrish selling out to the enemy. Unfortunately, Wilkison is the only one who can afford to buy. Wilkison is clearly a bully who has been running a range war with the surrounding smaller outfits. Parrish does his best to avoid conflict.  However when he is low-balled in his negotiations with Wilkison and then one of his hired hands is ambushed and killed by Wilkison’s thug; he understands the pleas of his neighbors. He finally decides to step up to the plate. This comes at a price, as he loses his fiancé’s affection; it seems she was more interested in moving east than spending her life with him. Poor Wilkison is getting it from both sides. He really under estimates a foe such as Parrish in his quest for supremacy over the land. And to make matters worse, his brother (Brian Keith), whom Wilkison depends on to help run things on the ranch is carrying on with Wilkison’s wife (Barbara Stanwyck). Let the fight begin.

I really enjoyed this movie. The plot is layered but not too complicated. The viewer is treated intelligently. The history and context of the range war is revealed organically without clumsy exposition. We learn about the characters’ motivations during realistic conversations. The film shows the underdog using clever strategy and tactical maneuvers in dealing with a bully. Dealing with a bully is a timeless subject that is especially well handled in the Western genre. As a bonus, this film highlights a buff Glenn Ford,

one of my favorite actors from classic Hollywood and the quickest draw in Hollywood (oh yes, quicker than John Wayne). Barbara Stanwyck is dynamite as the cold, calculating, two-timing, rancher’s wife. Edward G. Robinson is simply great, as a man obsessed with controlling as much land as possible.  Probably because he realizes he is losing his wife. It is beautifully filmed in Cinemascope and Technicolour, the way a Western should be.

“The Viloent Men” is a great movie with an awful title; don’t let that stop you from watching it. So how would I have titled it? I don’t know; I probably would have named after the ranch that Parrish lived on or the title of the book it was based on, “Smoky Valley” by Don Hamilton. Not exactly genius, but marginally better than, “The Violent Men”. It plays on TCM from time to time and it is available on DVD. Or you can try watching it at this link .


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 8teen39
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 16:46:06

    I was never a Glenn Ford fan. But I did get to know Edward G. Robinson a little when I worked as a film editor way back when and he was the nicest man. And a very good artist.


    • annhall
      Jun 05, 2012 @ 19:27:52

      I have no rational explanation for being a Glenn Ford fan. The shape of his head reminds me of my husband’s and I think he is talented and pretty versAtile. He does noir, comedy, drama, westerns and he is Superman’s father;) I enjoyed reading the biography his son wrote. Ford was the total opposite of his wholesome family-man big screen persona.


  2. annhall
    Jun 05, 2012 @ 21:03:15

    Btw which film did you meet EGR on? Film editting sounds like an interesting job.


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