|Page 2 of 2:|| |
|Index||14 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are just enough accurate historical elements to make this story
interesting, but don't go betting the ranch on Buffalo Bill Cody and
Wild Bill Hickok working together to help establish the Pony Express.
Cody did work as an Express rider, but he was only fifteen years old at
the time! A young Hickok met Cody once prior to 1860, and later joined
him in a stage production in 1873, but quit well before Cody formed his
'Wild West Show' in 1882.
I've seen a handful of films now with the Pony Express as the principal theme, and was intrigued by the story's mention of the numbers involved - a hundred ninety relay stations, five hundred seventy horses and eighty riders making the trip between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. Virtually the same math showed up in the 1939 film "Cavalcade of the West" starring Hoot Gibson. The newspaper headline in the movie dated April 3rd, 1860 was historically correct, that was the day the first rider took off from St. Joseph westward bound. What wasn't mentioned, and it wouldn't have worked for this story, was that a Pony Express Rider left San Francisco on the same day heading East to St. Joe! That relay made it in ten days as well.
Adding some intrigue to this story was the idea that there were behind the scene elements who wanted to see the Pony Express concept fail, for both political and financial reasons. Stage companies delivering the mail saw a threat to their business because delivery time would be virtually cut in half. There was also a political motivation involved with those who didn't want California to join the United States, particularly on the Confederate side. That was given some prominence in the story with each rider on the maiden run voicing California's rejecting slavery.
As far as the principals involved, Charlton Heston made for a resolute Buffalo Bill Cody, while Forrest Tucker was pretty much Wild Bill Hickok in name only. Neither portrayal was physically accurate to the historical characters, but if you didn't know that, it's not a deal breaker. Jan Sterling's 'Denny' character immediately brought to mind Calamity Jane, while Rhonda Fleming brings some credibility to her turn from the anti-Express faction to those supporting Hickok. The romance angle between them doesn't get very far in the story, which is just as well; I liked Sterling better as the tomboyish Denny.
If you'd like to explore some more films dealing with the Pony Express, there's the one mentioned earlier, along with another picture from the same year, 1953, with Gene Autry titled "Last of the Pony Riders". Roy Rogers did one as well early in his career with the 1939 movie "Frontier Pony Express". That one's interesting from the standpoint of the story line in this film, it has Roy's character as a Pony Express rider who's approached by a Confederate Senator who's attempting to establish California as a separate republic. Even Trigger gets in on the action, as a reliable Pony Express mount he's requested by fellow riders by name!
Fairly ordinary 1860s Western tells a fictional account of how the Pony Express Mail Delivery System was founded, helped along by Buffalo Bill Cody (Charlton Heston) and Wild Bill Hickok (Forrest Tucker). A young Heston's determined and self-assured characterization makes for some enjoyment early on in the picture, though the second half becomes somewhat routine with typical "Cowboys and Indians" confrontations. Forrest Tucker doesn't invest as much in his Hickok personage. The leading women are Rhonda Fleming and Jan Sterling, both of whom are rivals who are sweet on Buffalo Bill. Sterling's is the more engaging of the two, and we can't help but feel sorry for her as the young tomboy whose infatuation for Heston goes unrequited. ** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film may feature some real characters they weren't involved in the
founding of the real Pony Express... still as a work of fiction it is
entertaining enough. The film opens with 'Buffalo' Bill Cody left
stranded in the middle of the prairie after his horse is killed in an
Indian attack. Luckily for him the stage coach passes by not long
afterwards and he gets on board. There are two people inside already;
Evelyn Hastings and her brother Rance. They haven't been travelling
long when they meet what appears to be a group of soldiers; they claim
that they have been sent to arrest the Hastings for treason but Bill
realises that they aren't who they claim to be. The Hastings do however
wish for California to break away from the United States as they
believe their state is too distant from the rest of the country to be
cared about. Bill, and his friend 'Wild' Bill Hickok, however are doing
something about bringing it closer to the rest of the Union... not in
distance but in the time it takes news to get through. They are working
on setting up a string of relay stations across the country so that
news may be passed from rider to rider rather than relying on the slow
stage coach. Rance Hastings and his collaborators are determined to
prevent the express running, and to make matters worse a local Indian
chief is determined to kill Cody. Not surprisingly there is also a
romantic subplot; tomboy Denny Russell is clearly in love with Cody but
gets jealous when he appears to be more interested in Evelyn.
Charlton Heston was not yet a major star when this was made although he is clearly the star of the film; he puts in a solid performance... although I don't know how somebody in 1860 could have a smile like that; he looked like he was in a toothpaste commercial with his brilliant white teeth! Rhonda Fleming, playing Evelyn, was clearly meant to be the leading lady however she was upstaged by the short-haired Jan Stirling who played the feisty Denny. There was a good amount of action spread throughout the film including plenty of gunfights, a fight between Cody and an Indian chief using tomahawks and even an explosion. The story is fairly standard with separatists and Indians clearly meant to be viewed as the bad guys, although the latter are at least bad guys with honour; while those wishing to do their bit to preserve the Union being obvious heroes; the final shoot out did feature one surprise but I won't spoil that here. At a hundred and one minutes it is clearly too long for a B-western however it does have a B-western feel to it; it might be best looked at that way as it passes the time well enough but it will never be a classic of the genre.
Charles Marquis Warren is one of the worst western scriptwriters.Responsible(also for directing it) for the very mediocre -and a bit racist-
"Arrowshead"-which featured Heston as well,he wrote an even more dreadful
story here.Will Cody must be turning in his grave!
The story is incoherent,every sequence seems to be the beginning of the
film,there's the de rigueur (check "Arrowshead") Heston/Indian fight,and Jan
Sterling's part is so thin it's a wonder she can do something with it(This
actress found her best role in Wilder's masterpiece "the big carnival").Only
the last sequences of the mail might redeem that,but the "writer" wanted a
"moving" ending so he spoils everything .
You'll always be better off with Cecil B.De Mille's "the plainsman"(1936)with Gary Cooper ,Jean Arthur and James Ellison,as far as Buffalo Bill is concerned.Hickock 's character is also featured,and on top of that ,Calamity Jane in the flesh.
|Page 2 of 2:|| |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|