Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews. Soon, I will be launch a podcast about Westerns and I am also working on a book about Western film directors. Click Here to learn more about my 12 Westerns project.
Week 140: Rachel and the Stranger
This is an unusual take on the Western genre. The film focuses more usual on the female perspective. It deals with a topic that is rarely discussed: indentured servitude. It represents marriage and romance in a much more realistic way than films of its day.
Starring William Holden (one of my favorite actors) and Robert Mitchum (who is the focus of my current Western study) as the two men vying for Loretta Young’s attention, the film could have easily fallen into a silly love story but in the hands of Norman Foster, it is much more complex. Holden’s character is sometimes a jerk, often controlling, but also sympathetic, a man whose true feelings are hidden deep beneath the surface. They are so deep that it takes a lot for even he to understand them. Mitchum is charming but brings that same dangerous energy that makes so many of his classic roles work. I can see why Loretta falls for him but I can also see through his persuasion at the same time. And as for the leading lady, she balances shame, timidity, and defiance with perfection. I believed her as a real woman in the West which is something I can’t say very often for Westerns, new or old. Even the boy, played by Gary Gray, is a realistic portrait of a child on the frontier and the filmmakers resist trying to make him cute.
The location photography is also excellent and used more often than sets. The final battle with the Natives is one of the bests I’ve seen. This is definitely one to add to your list.
Watched on Criterion Channel.