Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews. For more of my movie reviews, click here to follow me on Letterboxd.
Week 192: Bucking Broadway (1917)
This early John Ford effort is not a traditional Western in terms of focusing on pioneer life and gunfights. It is what I’d call a “Ranch Western”, focusing on the life and work of cowboys separate from any question of law and order. Now, it would be a period piece but at the time it also could have been considered a “Modern Western” as well since Ford was working in more of a contemporary setting when he directed this in 1917.
What makes Bucking Broadway is the acting which is surprisingly subtle, especially from the leading man Harry Carey. No one hams it up and Ford captures their truth in select close-ups. In terms of his shot choices, I found the inserts more compelling than the wides. The master chooses just a few moments to get that close and when he does, they mean a hell of a lot.
But the whole story of Bucking Broadway is pretty contrived. Its romantic comedy/drama plot is fine enough until it launches into a final five minutes of non-stop action, set in the city of New York. However fun the sequence is (it certainly recalls some of Ford’s preoccupations), it doesn’t fit the rest of the picture which would have been suited with a more quiet ending. I do like that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, finding no need for a concluding sequence when the conclusion has already been reached.
In general, this is a solid early Western from the great John Ford, not one that will turn many heads but a film that shows him finding his way and playing with the elements for which we know him best.
Watched on Criterion Channel