Brett Wade, gambler, gunslinger, and classical pianist, is wounded in a gunfight with the Ferris clan; the doctor finds signs of tuberculosis. En route to Colorado for his health, Brett stops in Socorro, New Mexico along with Ferris gunfighter Jimmy Rapp. Sheriff Couthen fears another shootout, but what Brett has in mind is saving waif-with-a-past Rannah Hayes from a life as one of Dick Braden's saloon girls. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
An Unusual Western of Ideas, Strong Characters and Authentic Scenes
A colorful western that is well-acted, unusually atmospheric and filled with intelligent dialogue and dramatic scenes is a rarity. The term "western" simply refers to a North American-based adventure or dramatic film wherein the central character acts in places where trains and modern technology are not the available norm. Those who would like to limit the term are obviously therefore wrong or worse. "Dawn at Socorro", with a literate script by George Zuckerman proves this point beautifully, I suggest. The stars of the film are attractive Rory Calhoun, lovely young Piper Laurie, powerful David Brian, charismatic tough guy Alex Nicol, graceful Lee Van Cleef, Edgar Buchanan as a harried sheriff and a raft of fine supporting actors including George Homeier, Ron Roberts, Paul Brinegar, Mara Corday and others. The unbilled star of the film is the state of New Mexico colors and the art director's, set designer's and costumer's achievements. This film feels like the real West where I have lived for many years, a countryside that is rough; it is being slowly civilized and lived in by men, but is still untamed as much as any zone in this country that I know. From the unforgettable opening narration in Lordsburg read by Roberts that sets up a fabled gunfight at the stockyards in Lordsburg through a memorable stagecoach ride, a long dramatic night at Brian's Bis Casino in Socorro to the climactic shootout and resolution, there is only only jarring element I suggest. This comes into the script because gambler Brett Wade, decently underplayed by Calhoun, probably the model for "Maverick", loved every minute of his notorious hell-raising past, yet now is forced to repudiate that vanishing time of which he says, "There'll never be another like it". When asked who is coming after him at the end, he says, "My past--every dark miserable day of it." But he triumphs in the end, as a cultured gentleman from South Carolina who plays classical piano ought to do; and despite his doubts and regrets for lost years, he manages to go on with hope. And what one remembers most of this terrific idea-level movie is the strongly-etched characters, the logic of their actions and motivations and the physical beauty of what is actually a "B" film production from Universal but looks more expensive at every moment. This is a movie that I claim is like a can't-put-it-down thriller, but with important ideas being expressed. Unusual, and powerful. George Sherman's fluid direction can be given much of the credit. This western is not to be missed.
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