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The title role in The Missouri Traveler is played by young Brandon
DeWilde, his last role essentially as a child star. Soon he'd be doing
such adult stuff as Blue Denim, Hud, and In Harm's Way.
It's a nostalgic look at life at the turn of the last century in a small Missouri town where orphan kid Brandon DeWilde stops and decides to stay a while.
This is a nice easy to take film, moving along at a leisurely pace, but actually it has some serious issues. This is an orphan kid making his own way in the world, a world I might add without child labor laws. Young DeWilde is working for his keep, both as a sharecropper and as a horse trainer, well at least an assistant trainer.
Paul Ford gets a preparatory performance in this film for his later role as the mayor of River City in The Music Man. DeWilde has a couple of adult role models, the cynical Lee Marvin the guy who worked his way up to the top and the loquacious Gary Merrill who is the town newspaper editor. Both give DeWilde some good lessons about life.
In fact both Merrill and Marvin get into a knock down drag out fight that was copied, but lovingly from John Ford's The Quiet Man.
The Missouri Traveler was released through Buena Vista Productions in the beginning years of that company before it exclusively was the distributor for Walt Disney. It's a nice film, especially for family viewing with a lot of good lessons in it.
This movie shows us how "the boy from Shane",has matured, still a soft talking very polite youth. He is a runaway in this movie and is groomed by Lee Marvin, a hard taskmaster who has made a name for himself as the poor boy who made good in this story. He takes unfair advantage of Brandon, but in the process, really teaches the youth some valuable lessons about life and how to take care of himself. These are lessons we can all learn from, and Gary Merrill provides care, comfort, and guidance for Brandon as he overcomes the hard "teaching" of Marvin. The film is anchored by the fine acting of Paul Ford, as usual, a leader of the business community, but with a soft heart for the troubled. This is a great family film, free of Hollywoods blood, guts, sex, and profanity.
Missouri Traveler is an okay movie; you and your kids can enjoy it at least once. Biarn is a runaway from an orphan's home who happens across the small town of Delphi, where he ends up staying and making a life on his own, with the help (and interference) of various of the townsfolk. Brandon DeWilde's performance as Biarn is rather underplayed, almost to the point of making him seem a bit dull; this is probably his weakest film performance but even so he's okay in it. There were so many differences between the book and the movie though, and I wonder why the movie version was changed so much. In the movie, most of the theme seems to be Biarn rising above Tobias Brown's taking advantage of him, but in the book the themes are much deeper and more numerous; just by being himself, Biarn deeply affects many of Delphi's townsfolk to an extent nobody realizes until the end of the story. This depth of plot has unfortunately not made it from the book to the movie. Even so, watch The Missouri Traveler - and if you and/or the kids like the movie, get the book. Read it, have your kids read it, or read it to them at bedtime... it's nearly 300 pages and you'll enjoy every last one. The movie is 'nice' but only a taste of the actual story; I would really like to see this one remade, staying faithful to the actual story. It would be so much better.
Nearly every scene of this featherweight film set in the early 20th century is directed at an andante tempo, its story concerning a youth named Byron (a lacklustre Brandon DeWilde), a runaway from an orphanage who finds a home in a quiet Missouri town named Delphi, thanks to the editor of the local paper, played warmly by Gary Merrill. Byron is not, however, a favourite of wealthy but harsh land owner Tobias Brown (Lee Marvin), who teaches the lad lessons of life the hard way; their conflict forms the kernel of a torpid work which does benefit from a strong performance by always reliable Paul Ford as proprietor of a small cafe but which is sunk by the flaccid direction and hackneyed dialogue.
I usually like turn of the century (1900), small town America movies. But this one had no zing to it, nor did it make you care about the characters. Who's fault was it? The director? The writer? The actors? I'm thinking the writing, but who knows what happened during production. There were some top actors in this movie too. Brandon de Wilde still had a big name from his earlier years but his acting was a little flat in this one, in my opinion. Lee Marvin was Lee Marvin with his strong, stony acting style so can't blame him. Gary Merrill did a decent job as the local newspaper editor but not as good as I've seen him in other movies. The actor who really made this movie any good at all was Paul Ford who played the cafe/restaurant owner. He was the only one who seemed to know how to carry a scene, and with pizazz. He has always been a great character actor. Another great character actor is Frank Cady who should have been given a larger part in this movie to help bring it along. I remember him as the store owner in Green Acres and more-so, I remember him as Doctor Williams on Ozzie and Harriet. He has always been a quiet yet competent actor. The female lead was someone named Mary Hosford, as in the credits it said she was being introduced, and I don't think she ever made another movie. She was OK but you didn't have any feelings for her part. One thing I liked was how the men stood and took off their hats when the flag went by in a parade. That was commonplace at one time, but I notice teenagers today often not bothering to take off their hats for the National Anthem at sports games. I don't think they are being ignorant, I think many ARE ignorant. Ignorant of what is proper, as no one ever taught them to respect the freedom represented by the US Flag. So, I'd say take a look at the movie if you don't have to go out of your way, and if you like the good old days and or horse or sulky racing. It's not a memorable movie, but worth seeing once I guess.
An odd look back at "simpler" days where things really weren't really
so simple, at least for the mysterious young boy (Brandon De Wilde) who
shows up in Missouri, getting much attention as he passes through a
small town. He catches a ride with the dark souled Lee Marvin and meets
a kind, caring stranger in the noble Gary Merrill who, being reminded
of himself as a youngster, begins to look after him. Strange agreements
with Marvin see Dr Wilde taking residence in an abandoned house on
Marvin's property and taking care of a wild horse that Marvin gave to
Merrill to settle a debt. Marvin cruelty teaches De Wilde the hard
facts of life, constantly reneging on verbal deals he made with him,
repeating over and over, "It's not worth anything unless you have it in
Often disturbing, thus is a surprisingly adult for a supposed family coming from Walt Disney's Buena Vista studio. Some folksy elements make this almost a Currier and Ives painting, with dark twists and turns. Paul Ford adds both humor and pathos to the role of the lovable old tavern owner who was forced to stop selling beer and start selling chili that nobody likes. Others among the ensemble are Kathleen Freeman and Frank Cady. But with Marvin's constant darkness, it's difficult to see the light at the end of the horse race. An odd example for Disney to try more serious themes, presented in a way that leaves the taste of sour grapes in the viewer's mouth.
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