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Not a single shot is fired nor is one punch thrown in director Phil Green's "Four Faces West", starring Joel McCrea and Frances Dee. This is just one of the remarkable features of this absolutely first rate western. A down-and-out cowboy "borrows" $2000 from a reluctant banker in Santa Maria, New Mexico. During his escape he earns the attention of a lovely railroad nurse (played by real-life wife Frances Dee), who tries mightily to save our hero. His escape into the New Mexico badlands and his ultimate redemption (he stops to help a critically ill family at an isolated ranch, thereby insuring his capture) form the exciting climax to the story. Fine performances by Charles Bickford (as legendary lawman Pat Garrett) and Joseph Calleia are among those of a distinguished supporting cast, including William Conrad and John Parrish. An exciting and uplifting cinematic experience. Highly recommended!
This is one of those independent films that turns into a classic. A
previous reviewer had noted that not a shot was fired nor a punch
thrown in this western and I ran it again to be sure. Absolutely
Joel McCrea is the prototype strong silent western hero, his Virginian character now moved to the southwest. He's an amiable cuss, not a bad guy, a cowboy down on his luck who needs some quick cash. He robs the bank in a town where down the street, Pat Garrett is giving a speech about law and order. The embarrassed federal marshal, played by Charles Bickford gets together a posse and pursues McCrea across New Mexico.
Along the way, McCrea meets nurse Frances Dee and gambler Joseph Calleia who has a very ambiguous part. Because it's Joseph Calleia whose stock and trade is movie criminals you expect betrayal. Actually Calleia turns out to be McCrea's friend.
When McCrea goes back on the run the plot then turns into a mini-version of Three Godfathers. I won't say any more other than with Joel McCrea as hero, you're not going to be let down.
The film was produced by Harry "Pop" Sherman who was the original producer of the Hopalong Cassidy series. Hoppy was a noble a western hero as you can get and that's what Sherman gives us here.
This is one of the few films that Mr.and Mrs. Joel McCrea did together. And it's a work they can be proud of.
First rate story, production, and cast. Not a shot is fired is this wonderfully low-key story.
There is an incredible chemistry between McCrea and his real wife Frances Dee. They meet on a train, as McCrea is running from a posse, she takes care of his arm which was bitten by a rattlesnake and soon they are riding together among other people on a carriage and he has his arms around her. A little later they fall in each other's arms and kiss and that may seem too soon with another couple, but with them it could even have been sooner. There is this nice place (a rock?) where it is written "they passed this way" in Spanish (paso por aqui) and it seems only special people deserve to write their name there. McCrea robbed a bank and there is a high reward for his capture, but all through the film you feel he is a great guy.
Nicely paced Western with different kind of story line and excellent
use of wide-open vistas. First half is surprisingly easy-going, even
with the brief robbery scene. My guess is that McCrea had a lot to do
with putting together this independent production. It certainly
provides his real life wife Frances Dee with a plum part. Their growing
attachment during that first half appears both real and rather
charming, and also makes good use of the quietly observant Calleia and
an obnoxious little boy who should be riding next to W C Fields as
punishment. Then too, the apparently authentic legend of 'paso por
aqui' is skillfully integrated into the movie's basic theme.
The second half is more routine as the posse tries to track down McCrea while he flees across the badlands. The afflicted ranch scene is rather overdone as is the heavenly choir at the end. All in all, we don't need to be hit over the head since the movie's intentions have been clear for some time. An interesting question concerns whether the story would have achieved more clout had we not known early on that McCrea was stealing the money for noble reasons, though I don't believe we ever find out the details. Two good unexpected touches-- the bull ride to throw off the posse, and what a sight that makes! Also, despite all the eager bounty hunters with their six-guns in evidence, I don't believe a single shot is fired throughout the 90 minutes.
Perhaps that last point is not too surprising since the personal McCrea appears to have been very much his own man, and not exactly the flashy Hollywood type. One thing for sure, he never overplayed any of his many roles. In fact, his presence here does nothing that would call attention to himself. In a part that calls for an air of quiet nobility, that's exactly what we get and to fine effect. Too bad, those quiet manly virtues from overlooked performers such as McCrea are largely absent among today's many over-sized movie egos.
Joel McCrea and Francis Dee are exceptional people. They made this one of the best family westerns of all time. To bad there are not anymore actors or actresses like this anymore. We have hit a low in good clean acting, and good movie plots.
Four Faces West (AKA: They Passed This Way) is directed by Alfred E.
Green and collectively adapted to screenplay by C. Graham Baker, Teddi
Sherman, William Brent and Milarde Brent from the novel Paso por acqui
written by Eugene Manlove Rhodes. It stars Joel McCrea, Francis Dee,
Charles Bickford and Joseph Calleia. Music is by Paul Sawtell and
cinematography by Russell Harlan.
Ross McEwen (McCrea) robs the bank of Santa Maria but requests only $2,000 and issues an I.O.U. to the bank manager with the promise of paying back the money. The bank manager, aggrieved and agitated, puts a bounty of $3,000 on McEwen's head and quickly finds the law, in the form of Sheriff Pat Garrett (Bickford), aiding his cause. But McEwen is no ordinary thief, and as he makes his way across the lands during his escape, revelations and relationships will reveal something quite extraordinary.
All the things are in place here for a conventional 1940s Western movie, with the robbery of a bank followed by a posse pursuit, a serious sheriff on the case, a pretty gal turning heads and some card playing of course. Yet this is far from being a conventional Oater. Old fashioned? Yes! Definitely, but it's a beautifully crafted picture that relies on characterisations - locations - and a story of such humanistic redemptive qualities; it demands to be better known.
It has rightly been pointed out before that no blood is shed here, no bullets are fired; in fact bullets play a key part of the story for a different reason, but the action quota here is still very high. With blazing fire tactics used at one point and pursuits through the rocky terrain very much in evidence, the pic often raises the pulses. Tension is also provided by the efforts of McEwen to evade the attentions of the posse and the law, with some intelligent and believable methods put into action. The romance angle is also thoughtful and never cloying, given credence by real life lovers McCrea and Dee, while non white actors play South American characters without charges of stereotype or fodder being brought into play.
With first grade black and white photography from Harlan (New Mexico Tourist Board done a favour here), unfussy direction by Green, and a quartet of great performances by the principal players leading from the front, Four Faces West (not the best of titles to be fair) is a treat for the Western fan. It may lack a "shock" outcome but it sure as heck fire casts off cynicism and makes you feel better about people in general. Bravo! 8/10
This is a great Western. McCrea shows off some great horsemanship as does Frances Dee, something rarely seen in female leads. I was intrigued with the authenticity (for the time) of the Hispanic and Native Americans portrayed in this movie. Joseph Calleia, playing against type, is a middle-class Hispanic, rather than just a poor Mexican, with property and a very large extended family in the region, something that was very common in New Mexico but rarely understood outside of its borders. There are surprising Spanish phrases used throughout and I was even impressed with the McCrea character's good Spanish -- so different from other Westerns of the era. The Native Americans, shown only in the opening scene at the Pat Garrett welcome, look like they could have been Mescalero Apaches from southern New Mexico. This movie really respected all the different cultures of southern New Mexico. Finally, El Morro aka Inscription Rock, now a national monument, was a significant symbol in this movie, a testament to its importance to the many different people and cultures that "Paso por Aqui" over the ages.
¨Four faces West¨ or ¨They passed this way¨ is an enjoyable film with
spectacular outdoors , emotion , a love story and agreeable acting
strengthen this low-key Western . Cowboy Ross McEwen (Joel McCrea) is
an honest rancher when he arrives in town. He asks the banker for a
loan of $2000 , then he robs the local bank in order to save his
father's ranch from foreclosure . On the run he is helped by a nurse
(Frances Dee) and an upright man (Joseph Calleia) . Ross is
relentlessly pursued by the famous Sheriff Pat Garrett (Charles
Bickford) . His humanity in helping a diphtheria-ridden family leads to
his capture , since he is not an ordinary nasty guy . Based on Eugene
Manlove Rhodes' novel titled "Paso Por Aqui": ¨He grew to manhood in
this valley , most of the stones which helped build his fame as a
writer had their setting in Southern New Mexico . One of the best known
¨Paso Por aquí¨ was based on actual occurrence at the Little Choza
which his friend have set aside as a monument to his memory. The film
is the story of this monument¨ .
Interesting Western without gunshot but with good feeling , romance , go riding , thrills and results to be pretty entertaining . Nice acting from Joel McCrea and Frances Dee , both of whom real-life husband and wife . Thoughtful performances from support cast such as Joseph Calleia , Charles Bickford playing a merciless Pat Garrett who did something else with his life apart from chasing Billy the Kid all over the immense territories . Furthermore , William Conrad , pre-Cannon , another bulky presence even at this early stage of his fruitful career , here performing another deputy chasing the protagonist . Atmospheric cinematography in black and white by Russell Harlan , being shot on location in El Morro National Monument, Ramah, New Mexico,Gallup, New Mexico, Red Rock Canyon State Park , Cantil, California, San Rafael, New Mexico, USA . Appropriate as well as evocative musical score by Paul Sawtell .
The motion picture professionally produced by Harry Sherman was well directed by Alfred E Green . Alfred was a good craftsman expert on all kind of genres such as Musical : ¨The fabulous Dorseys¨ (47) , ¨The Jolson story¨ (46), ¨Copacabana¨ (47) , Drama : ¨Dangerous (35) , Baby Face (33) , biography : ¨The Jackie Robinson story¨( 1950) , ¨Disraeli¨(30) and adventure : ¨South of Pago Pago¨(40) , A thousand and one nights¨(40) . Rating : Better than average . The film will appeal to Western buffs .
A decent man facing a desperate situation robs a bank and leaves an IOU. This is a strange Western in that not a single gunshot is fired or a punch thrown. It is not dull, however. There is enough action to keep it interesting, but the script, based on a novel by Western specialist Manlove (cool name) Rhodes, seems to be all over the place, including a hokey episode involving a dying Mexican family. McCrea is as earnest as ever as the hero (why he robbed the bank is not really explained) and gets to ride a cow across the desert! Dee (real-life Mrs. McCrea) makes a comely love interest. There are good performances from Bickford and Calleia.
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