Marshal Silver is run out of town under suspicion of being a trigger-happy killer after shooting a hired gun of Honest John Barrett. A placid life in a new town is interrupted by the reappearance of Barrett, old enemies and the son of the hired gun from years ago, Anderson. Written by
Doug White <email@example.com>
Powerful and Memorable; Indicting Dishonesty, Celebrating Courage
"The Proud Ones" has an extremely fine script by Edmund H. North, veteran screenwriter; its plot vastly improves on the novel on which it was ostensibly based. Robert D. Webb's direction is taut, featuring dense images, helping his actors to achieve top-notch performances. Every element of this production works, from the art direction by classy Lyle Wheeler to the memorable theme song, the music by Lionel Newman, the sets, and the costumes by Travilla. Among the outstanding performances are those given by Robert Middleton as "Honest John", villain of the piece, George Matthews as his 'segundo', Whitner Bissell and others as townsmen and henchmen; the film is far-above-average in acting. This well-remembered dramatic western stars Robert Ryan, Virginia Mayo and young Jeffrey Hunter as a youth who is befriended by an aging marshal (who has been run out of a town poisoned by the lies of a delusive gambling joint owner). Hunter acquits himself well, as does Ryan, as the younger man tries to forgive the man he begins to admire, even after he has killed the boy's father in the line of duty. Virginia Mayo achieves considerable skill and charm as the woman who loves Ryan. The story's theme of honesty set against plausible pretense is unusual and difficult to carry off; the adjective "proud" has been forced to carry two contradictory meanings for years. Here it is used correctly in a secular sense to refer to men too honest to be bought off and too brave to be scared off, the sort of men who will fight when necessary, refusing to be intimidated. All-too-rare are films that celebrate objective minds, people who can be honestly wrong but act ethically when the chips are down. Whole genres are based on the betrayal of such commitments by people who argue they "can't help being what they are".As the beleaguered marshal in this story faces a town full of profiteers with the wrongness of their selling out to be opportunistic looters of unearned wealth during a boom, the film is raised to heights of thoughtfulness and of clearly-exampled good and bad behavior seldom found in the western genre. This is a very good and a very memorable achievement of cinema. Incidentally, it is physically beautiful to watch as well.
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