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It was made to a formula and revolves around most of the cliches in the
Western handbook but it was hard not to enjoy this film.
It is based on the life of the famous Texan John Wesley Hardin. His youth was shaped by the Civil War and by his preacher father. When his father forbids him to practise shooting young Wes reckons its about time to leave home and seek his fortune. Almost immediately he kills a local gunslinger and plunges into the life of a rootin tootin cowboy, gambler and outlaw.
It has a classic opening a dignified man walking out of the prison gates, shaking hands with the warden and sniffing the air of freedom. It has an equally recognisable ending, back at the ranch to see how his wife and family have managed during the long years of incarceration.
The final scenes of the film are lovely, it won't spoil the film to say he learned from his experiences and lived a long and happy life.
There is nothing new in this film. Although it claims to be an autobiography, it is one of countless 1950's Westerns with a theme of a young man seeking adventure and finding redemption. The real strength of the movie is its star Rock Hudson, barrel chested and manly, who shoots, rides, kisses, gambles and drinks as well as any of his contemporaries. One of the baddies is a young Lee Van Cleef who easily steals scenes from his fellow wrong-doers.
It won't change your life, the way "Shane" might have done but it won't hurt you to watch it, and to remember Rock Hudson in the way he should be remembered.
"The Lawless Breed" attempts to tell the life story of John Wesley
Hardin, the misunderstood gunfighter, from his point of view.
The story begins with Hardin (Rock Hudson) being released from prison after serving 16 of 25 years for murder. He goes to the local newspaper and presents the editor with a hand written story of his life. The film then flashes back to his youth where young "Wes" is practicing his fast draw. His father, Preacher J.G. Hardin (John McIntyre) takes a whip to him, condemning his life style. Wes decides to leave home and pursue his dream of earning enough money to buy a small horse ranch for himself and his sweetheart Jane Brown (Mary Castle).
The rest of the film can be summed up with the phrase, "I never killed anyone who didn't try to kill me first". He is forced to gun down gambler Gus Handley (Michael Ansara) which brings upon him the wrath of his three brothers, Ike (Hugh O'Brian), Dirk (Lee Van Cleef) and Ben (Glenn Strange).
While trying to escape a posse, Hardin hides out with his uncle John Clements (McIntyre again) and his sons Jim (Dennis Weaver) and Joe (Richard Garland). When he returns home to fetch Jane, she is killed during his escape from the farm. Hardin takes solace in the arms of "saloon girl" Rosie (Julia Adams) whom he later marries.
Ready to surrender to the law after his planned marriage, Hardin is double-crossed and...........................................
Rock Hudson, on the verge of becoming a super star, turns in an excellent performance as the troubled Hardin. He plays the character over a 20 year period. This was one of his first starring roles. He benefited greatly from the direction of the veteran director Raoul Walsh who managed to expose his real talent for the first time.
As in most of Universal's fast paced little eighty minute color westerns, there is plenty of action and beautiful Technicolor photography. It also had the benefit of a cast of recognizable supporting players, most of whom had appeared in countless "B" westerns. In addition to those already mentioned above, Steve Darrell appears as Sheriff Jenkins, Robert Anderson as Wild Bill Hickcock, Dick Wessel, Emory Parnell and I. Stanford Jolley as various bartenders, Francis Ford (brother of John) as a saloon sweeper and George Wallace as a saloon bully.
An entertaining western.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is part of the "Classic Western Roundup Vol. 1" released by Universal and it is quite a difference to see a film I had seen a long time ago on TV ,late at night, dubbed, and with faded colors. I can't think of anything more colorful than the Universal International westerns of the fifties and this DVD brings all those colors back. The director is Raoul Walsh, whose westerns were always above average. Rock Hudson is very good as J. Wesley Hardin, a man that could not keep out of trouble, so there is no lack of action here. Julie Adams is at her best, more sexy than usual. Only after I saw the credits did I notice John McIntire played a a dual role, the strict and often cruel father, and the good hearted uncle. It is wonderful to see Lee Van Cleef as the tough bad guy. For those who enjoyed the westerns of the fifties, this Universal release is a great experience. It is an unusual western, the story told from an outlaw's point of view, in flashback. When Hardin, wounded, is talking to his son, it reminded me of the last scene of "The Gunfighter"(1950). This film did not age.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Lawless Breed, a western very loosely based on the life of John
Wesley Hardin, was a milestone film for young Rock Hudson. Rock was 28
when he made this film for Universal and for the first time he was
given first billing in a film. Universal also gave him veteran action
director Raoul Walsh and a supporting cast that knew its way around the
set of a western.
John Wesley Hardin(1853-1895), one of the most notorious of bad men in the old west was also one of the few who actually got to put his story down for posterity. The film that you see is based somewhat on some of the incidents in Hardin's life. He was not as noble a character as The Lawless Breed would have you believe, but a whole lot of things attributed to him were probably pure hokum. The dime novels of the day worked their way into the popular culture for just about every character of the old west, good and bad.
As shown here, the real John Wesley Hardin was shot in the back in a saloon after his release from prison. But the story goes that during a preview of the film, the audience reaction was so negative to seeing Rock Hudson shot down like a dirty dog that Universal felt compelled to tack on a happy ending. The film was really supposed to end with him dying on the floor of the saloon telling his son played by Race Gentry not to follow in his footsteps. What was added on was a scene with wife Julie Adams and Gentry loading the wounded Rock on the back of a buckboard and after a bit of dialog they ride off in the sunset.
So one western legend got scrapped to start the career of a movie legend. Only in Hollywood.
John McIntire has a nice dual performance as Hudson's circuit riding preacher father and as his uncle, a cattle rancher. And there was a gang of brothers that Hudson kept tangling with the entire film, the Hanleys played by such western familiars as Lee Van Cleef, Michael Ansara, Hugh O'Brian, and Glenn Strange.
It's not a bad film despite the obviously tacked on happy ending for Rock's fans. John Wesley Hardin probably would have liked how it came out.
Decent if a bit overdone western competently directed by Walsh. Rock Hudson, right on the cusp of big time stardom with his next film Magnificent Obsession, is solid in the lead. The always reliable Julie Adams, a most underrated talent that Hollywood never figured out how to use properly, is terrific if stuck with the thankless part of the whore with a heart of gold who is redeemed by the love of a man. John Ireland appears in a dual role, he's fine in the one, the trusted uncle and a bit much in the other as Hudson's father although with the purple prose he has to deliver who can blame him for trying to make something out of it by going over the top.
The Lawless Breed is directed by Raoul Walsh and written by William
Alland (story) and Bernard Gordon (screenplay). It stars Rock Hudson,
Julie Adams, John McIntire, Mary Castle, Hugh O'Brian and Dennis
Weaver. Music is supervised by Joseph Gershenson and cinematography by
Story is based around the life of outlaw John Wesley Hardin (Hudson), itself adapted from his own memoirs. It finds Hardin released from jail and recounts his life outside of the law and his time on the run. It proclaims that Hardin was very much a victim of circumstance, his life spiralling out of control after killing a man in self defence.
OK, forget the proud boast from the makers that this is a true story, this is Hollywood and its best so take in the film as a piece of entertainment only. Where, in truth, it's rather good stuff for the Western fan to gorge on. A tacked on "happy ending" aside, this is mostly interesting narratively speaking, and as a production it is always easy on the eye. Hardin's time on the run throws up a number of scenes to pump the adrenalin, letting some fine stunt work come to the fore in the process. Be it escaping from "Texas Rangers" laid traps, or well constructed horse races (Hardin was a well renowned gambler), Raoul Walsh and his team work real hard to keep this out of B movie territory.
Shot in vivid Technicolor out of Andy Jauregui and Janss Conejo ranches in California (some exteriors also filmed at Vasquez Rocks), film always feels airy, something that's not exactly at one with what should be the claustrophobic feel of an outlaw constantly on the run and looking over his shoulder. There's also a big ask of the audience to accept that Hardin is pretty much indestructible, which is OK once or twice, but more?
However, the film is ultimately about entertainment and forgiving it its irritants is not hard to do. Character interactions always remain of interest, and cast are doing more than decent work. McIntire stands out in a dual role, Hudson is stoic and Adams beguiles with her beauty and sexuality. This is one of the better productions for bringing the radiant Adams to the attention of red blooded lusters. A better pair of legs in Westerns there is not, and in one scene she induces wolf whistles and heart palpitations in equal measure. With prolific Western scorer Gershenson providing easy listening and photographer Glassberg keeping the colours rich, The Lawless Breed rounds out as a better than average viewing experience for the Western buff. 7/10
Lawless Breed, The (1953)
*** (out of 4)
Solid Western has John Wesley Hardin (Rock Hudson) walking out of prison and handing over a book with his life story in it. A publisher then reads the story, which starts as a young Hardin battles with his preacher father (John McIntire) and soon he's on his own and on the run from the law. If it's history you're after then you will want to stay away from this film as it turns the cold-blooded killer into a misunderstood, nice guy and the film even goes as far as to change a real-life ending (apparently test screenings didn't like the truth). With that said, if it's entertainment you're after then this here is a real gem as we get to see the young Hudson in his first top-billed performance. It was smart for Universal to surround him with some great character actors but to also put a veteran like Walsh on the film. We're dealt a pretty typical story in terms of Westerns but Walsh brings some nice style to the production and certainly keeps it moving a lot better than it deserves. One of the best moments in the film happens early on as Hardin is about to get in a shoot out with a large gust of wind blows dust all over the place making it hard to see what's going to happen. This was a wonderful little sequence as was the made up ending. What really keeps the film moving are some wonderful performances by the star-studded cast. Hudson is terrific in the lead role and you can view this and see why he would become a major star. The character has some dark moments, which the actor captures just fine but the sweet side is where Hudson really shines. He really does make this a complete character and makes Hardin someone to care for. Julie Adams plays the woman he eventually marries and does a nice job even though she doesn't have much to do. The Hanley family are the ones Hardin does battle with early on and we have Lee Van Cleef, Glenn Strange and Hugh O'Brian playing the brothers. McIntire, Forrest Lewis and Richard Garland also turn in fine performances. We even get a young Dennis Weaver in a small role. Once again, those who are wanting a history lesson are going to hate this film due to have many facts it twists and turns but either way, the movie is solid entertainment that has enough going for it to make it worth seeing.
Many motion pictures work on two levels the way they read and the way
they look. This is especially true of B-movies in the 1950s, when the
studios would buy any old pulp screenplay and allocate a minimal budget
with recycled sets and costumes, and yet turn over total creative
control to a seasoned and professional director who used to be a big
shot. This was the situation with virtually every Raoul Walsh picture
from this period. He'd long since had his day, and his bosses gave him
little more than turkey-material to shoot, and yet he continued to
imbue every picture with the intensity and romanticism that had always
been his hallmark.
The Lawless Breed supposedly chronicles the career of real-life outlaw John Wesley Hardin. It announces itself as the result of "new research", and just as they used to say in Police Squad, only the facts have been changed. Hardin's two love interests, the names of people he killed, the number of children he had, not to mention his general character are all completely made up. Writers William Alland and Bernard Gordon have essentially invented a fictional character and given him Hardin's name. But the point of this is not to tell it as it really happened this is a classic Western after all. The point is to give you a picture of the Old West and a typical Western hero as posterity has remembered them.
And this is what makes it the sort of project Walsh would really get his teeth into. For Walsh, there was romance and nostalgia in the open plain. Look at how he begins the picture with rather confined shots of the town, with foreground business and buildings bordering the frame. Then when we cut to Hardin's childhood we are hit with the beauty of the wide open spaces. As opposed to the yellows and browns of your average Technicolor horse opera, this is an abundantly green West, and Walsh seems to have worked closely with cinematographer Irving Glassberg and art directors Bernard Herzbrun and Richard Riedel to bring this tone to the fore. Green here represents freedom, hope and the good life, and it either covers the screen or retreats to a distant corner as appropriate, even worked in as a reminder during indoor scenes, such as the tree outside the window when he visits Jane by night. In his monochrome pictures Walsh would often use lighting to chart the hero's rise and fall (They Died with their Boots on (1941) is a good example), and here he uses colour to the same effect. The bold greens give a warm and homely feel to Hardin's cherished dream of a farm, and whenever he drifts away from that dream we turn to stark off-whites.
In the leading role Rock Hudson is a middling success. He's just too steady and self-assured to convince as the young, hot-headed outlaw. On the other hand, he develops very well into the older and wiser Hardin, and as he would later show in Giant (1956) his forte seems to have been playing middle-aged. As is typical in a Walsh Western, the rest of the cast are an appropriately motley bunch, with no shortage of dusty faces and grizzly whiskers. Even though their performances aren't exactly outstanding, John McIntire hits the right notes in his dual role as Hardin's father and uncle, and Julie Adams is tough and unglamorous enough to portray both the saloon lass she starts out as and country wife she becomes. Also worth a mention is a young Lee Van Cleef, in one of his numerous third-baddie-on-the-left appearances before he became a big star in Italy. Although Hugh O'Brien is ostensibly the leader of the Hanley clan, it's clear Van Cleef's menacing presence was being noticed, as he is given all the most threatening lines and bits of macho business.
There's no escaping the fact however that as written The Lawless Breed is a rather lacklustre affair. The dialogue throughout is either corny or simply dull. A set-piece like Hardin continuing to play cards after being given an hour to get out of town doesn't seem able to decide whether it is being played for tension or for laughs. And yet there is a precious handful of moments which Walsh has been able to stage with pure and compelling visuals, such as the confrontation with the Hanleys on a windswept street or the ageing hero's bittersweet return to his home and family, and these are absolutely stunning. And such is Walsh's devotion to the feel of the picture even the most boring of scenes looks nice and fits in with the tone of the whole piece. The story may be a poorly-written rough-shod ride over the truth, but in its imagery The Lawless Breed has a beauty that is engaging and sincere.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If there's a clunkier line in a film than the one in my summary above,
I've yet to hear it, and I have a pretty good ear for dialog. If I was
watching this on a DVD instead of Encore Westerns, I certainly would
have replayed it to hear again.
"The Lawless Breed" is loosely based on the life of Western outlaw John Wesley Hardin. I'm no expert, but the way he's portrayed here makes him out to be a somewhat misunderstood hero, all the while attempting to stay one step ahead of the law. Even in this picture, the number of his self-defense victims seemed to challenge the law of averages, and it's probably safe to say that the real Hardin, with over forty dead men to his credit, probably killed a few of them under questionable circumstances.
Rock Hudson, who I generally wouldn't call to mind as a Western movie hero, comports himself well enough in the film's lead role. However his age and matinée good looks probably work against the picture's credibility, as the character he was portraying was supposed to be only about twenty years old at the beginning of the story. Likewise, he seemed to get over Jane Brown's (Mary Castle) death rather quickly, conveniently having saloon gal Rosie (Julie Adams) to run off with when the heat was on.
At least the picture had some of the high points of the historical Hardin's life correct. In 1874, he killed Deputy Sheriff Charlie Webb in Comanche, Texas. Using the alias John Swain, he did open a grocery store, but in Gainesville, Florida, not Polland, Alabama. For Hardin, it was a quick line of work, as he was recognized on the very first day his store was open by a couple of cattlemen.
As the movie depicts, he was captured by the Texas Rangers, spent time in Huntsville Prison, and was pardoned after roughly fifteen years. However he used his prison time to study law, and actually became a lawyer upon release. His practice floundered though, prompting him to write his autobiography. On August 9th, 1895, John Wesley Hardin was shot by a lawman with a grudge, an event the film makers wouldn't put Rock Hudson through with his leading man charisma and future star potential.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Technicolor seems all wrong for this leaden western, allegedly based on the life of John Wesley Hardin, a brutal, trigger-happy outlaw who murdered at least forty or fifty people, was pardoned after serving little more than half a 25-year jail sentence, but was then shot down by some lawman who had a grudge against him for murdering their kin. This factual ending was actually shot for the movie, but then scrapped and replaced by an everything-is-coming-up-roses fade-out instead. In the Hardin role, Solid Rock Hudson blacks out most of the screen while he exhibits an amazing ability to read the script's dreary, purple-laced dialogue from the idiot board without giving the game away by moving his eyes, but charismatic he most certainly is not. Nor is hammy John McIntire the least bit convincing as Hardin's bible-bashing dad. Unfortunately, many of the better players such as Lee Van Cleef, Buddy Roosevelt and Dick Wessel are lost in tiny roles. In all, it's mighty hard to believe that this dreary movie was so leadenly directed by Raoul Walsh who did such a magnificent job with 1951's The Enforcer.
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