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This film was thought lost, but re-discovered recently and restored in
France. The story is simple. Cheyenne Harry, a cowboy, gets engaged to
the ranch boss' daughter, Helen. Unfortunately, a city slicker comes to
town and quickly steals her heart away. She skips town to the surprise
of Cheyenne and her father. However, New York does not work out very
well for her.
Although this is a cheap Universal western, it has plenty of John Ford touches and themes that fans of Mr. Ford will appreciate. There is the typical drinking after work scene, and a big fist-fight involving cowboys. There is typical Ford humor also, such as when Harry tries on a new pair of pants in the general store, or he mistakes a hissing radiator for a rattlesnake.
The "horse-breaking" scene was unimaginatively filmed in extreme long shot. On the other hand, the proposal scene was shot at night with either simulated or actual firelight and it is beautiful. There are also unusual close-ups (for the time) of Harry Carey's face as well as his boots and a valentine charm he carves. Although the story is nothing special, the direction shows how talented John Ford was early in his career. Recommended for silent film and John Ford fans!
Farm hand Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey), is engaged to Helen, his boss'
daughter. When a rich trader from the city arrives, he charms her off
her feet and whisks her away. Poor Helen soon learns that them city
folk ain't decent (this is a red-state-movie) and it's up to Cheyenne
and his buddies to set things straight.
It could have been a run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen comedy western but Ford's mastery is ever present, using deep focus composition in the wide landscape shots, or striking chiaroscuro lighting in the romantic scenes, proving that he never learned to be a great director: he was one right from the start.
Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey) is a ranch hand who gets engaged to the owner's
daughter Molly. However, she falls for the charms of city dude Thornton and
runs off to marry him. When she finds that neither Thornton nor New York
City high life to be to her taste, she sends a letter to Harry, who comes to
New York and rescues her with some help from the other ranch hands.
A very well done movie, with a nice mix of action, drama and humor, though the beginning is a bit slow.
The French digital restoration is very nice, with scratches and most other damage to the print removed.
The second John Ford film after Straight Shooting (1917) known to survive.
The scenario of "Bucking Broadway" is full of clichés: the Baddie dude
lures the girl from the West to go East with him under the proposal of
marriagebreaking her prior engagement to the good Western hero. The
hero goes east to rescue her. Yet, past the story moviegoers have seen
numerous times is some exceptional cinematography for 1917. There's
some beautiful photography of the Western landscape, including long
vistas, with hilly countryside, misty horizons and lovely compositions.
The application of lighting is also quite expert, including nighttime
photography and use of low-key lighting for mood. Additionally, there's
a mirror shot of Helen reinforcing that she's in a reflective state of
mind. And, there are some shots through doorwaysa John Ford trademark
from the beginning (he also had them in "Straight Shooting" (1917)).
I was taken aback by the photography in this film, despite it being made by would-be great western filmmaker John Ford, because his earlier 1917 film, "Straight Shooting" was rather static and this was early in his careerfilming cheap westerns at a then relatively small company. "Bucking Broadway" seems a vast improvement photographically over "Straight Shooting", if my memory serves me correctly. To be fair, "Straight Shooting" appears to have been Ford's first feature, but the advancement within one year is still impressive. "Bucking Broadway" doesn't entirely rely upon long shots, as there are a good number of close-ups. Some moments are dated, such as the aforementioned horse-breaking scene statically filmed from a long-shot stationary camera. If anything else, Ford and his cinematographers may have somewhat overused low-key lighting, such as in dark scenes where the mood is light. Nevertheless, it's a good-looking film, especially when it's set in Wyoming. Nice tinting and a quality print also help.
A couple further remarks: Harry Carrey had a nicely rugged face, which is more evident here than in 'Straight Shooting' and elsewhere. His looks are comparable to the biggest silent era western star William S. Hart, and that's probably why they employed Carrey in the genre, with the screen persona of "Cheyenne Harry" (in the "Broncho Billy" tradition of having a consistent character and name).
There are quite a few humorous moments in "Bucking Broadway", including the hasty, farcical brawl. Mostly, they aren't bad here, which is praiseworthy considering how often that isn't the case in comical westerns. Ford would often inject comedy relief into his films, which is a notable difference from some other early Western filmmakers, like Hart, Thomas H. Ince, or D.W. Griffith. The more important beginning here for John Ford, however, was in beginning to master excellent cinematography.
At the Europa Film Treasures site: see
As they say:
"Film Treasures safeguarded by important European film archives are finally on the net! Thank you for visiting our site in such great numbers."
I had not previously seen a very early John Ford film, but his directorial tropes are clearly evident here. The plot, though simple, is effective and I was happy to watch it all through (which is not something I could say about the last multiplex film I went to.
Running time in this version is 52:11, and it made me watch 'The Searchers' again to see if I could spot William Steele as he was 40 years after this film!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saturday July 15, 11:00am The Castro, San Francisco
A cowpoke has his promised gal snatched away to the big city by an underhanded dude who comes to the ranch and somehow tames the stallion that's already killed four men. Harry beats a hasty path to New York intent on winning his girl back. Ford's easily recognizable style is quite intact even in this early feature. A beautiful opening shot shows a lone cowboy on his horse, standing on a cliff with the winding river below as riders cross. When Carey loses his girl and ponders what he must do next, Ford places him in the foreground rise of a low valley, with a look of steely-eyed determination, while the heard grazes below in the distance. The finale includes an all-out brawl between the dude, Carey and their respective gangs.
In the post-show discussion with Harry Carey Jr. and Ford biographer Joseph McBride, Mr. Carey described Jack Ford's directorial style and fight scenes. "He just let you go and said 'fight!' I broke three ribs once."
Bucking Broadway (1917)
*** (out of 4)
Considered lost for many decades, a print of this film would eventually show up in a French vault and making it one of the earliest films by John Ford to survive. In the film Harry Carey plays Cheyenne Harry, a simple cowhand who asks the woman (Molly Malone) he loves to marry him. She says yes but a few days later a city man (Vester Pegg) comes to town and steals her heart with a bunch of lies. She runs off to NYC with him before learning what a jerk is so it's up to Harry to show up and save the day. At just 52-minutes there's quite a bit wrong with this film including the middle sections that pretty much bring the thing to a complete halt. The scenes involving the city man wooing the girl were pretty bland and boring in my opinion and I think the scene with all the cowboys crying was pretty over dramatic as well. Outside those scenes this is a pretty good little Western that has the perfect mix of action and comedy. The scenery early on is downright breathtaking as Ford clearly showed his ability even at an early age to pick beautiful locations and do them great justice on the screen. You can't help but want to pause the film just so you can admire some of the terrific location shots here. Another major plus is some rather nice bits a comedy that are added in the second part of the film when the cowboy heads to NYC and doesn't understand too much about the city. It's even funnier when his friends show up and start a major fight with some of the city folks there. Carey was one of the biggest Western stars out there and it's pretty easy to see why. He's got that certain look that the best of the best had in this era and he's also quite believable in the tougher spots. You can't help but believe he's going to beat the crap out of anyone who gets in his way and that's always a plus. Malone is pretty good in her role as well but the character is so bland that you'd have to wonder why the cowboy would even bother going after her. Pegg is a delight as the city guy and L.M. Wells is good as the girl's father. Again, at just 52-minutes you'd wish that there weren't any slow spots but in the end this is a pretty solid little film that fans of Ford or just silent buffs will want to check out.
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