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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"All the beasts in the forest are mine and the cattle on these thousand
THESE THOUSAND HILLS was a Fox western made in 1959! But calling it a western in the true sense is something of a misnomer! For although it is set in the west in the 1880's it contains little or no familier "western" action to speak of. In fact you could count on one hand the number of shots fired in the entire picture! That said, and despite all of its western trappings, it is still a reasonably good drama well played by a good cast. Based on the best selling novel by A.B.Guthrie Jr. a decent screenplay was fashioned from it by Alfred Hayes and it also had some beautiful Cinemascope location Cinematography by Charles G. Clarke. The solid direction was by the gifted Richard Fleischer for Davis Weisbert's glossy Eastmancolor production.
An ambitious cowboy (Don Murray) longs to make something of himself and his dream is to have his very own ranch. A dance hall girl Callie (Lee Remick giving the film its best performance) who falls for him gives him the money to get started. This together with some help from the bank sees him becoming one of the biggest cattle ranchers in the territory. But he wants to become more. He begins to avoid Callie. He is elected to the school board and woos and marries the banker's niece (Patricia Owens) and now he is well on his way to becoming a senator. But when his good friend (Sturt Whitman) is lynched and Callie is beaten up by her boyfriend Jehu (Richard Egan) he realises his ambitions now mean little. In the picture's climactic set piece near the end he confronts Jehu for a well executed fist fight.
Don Murray is fine in the lead! Although he didn't make a lot of them Murray was an acceptable western hero! His best one was "From Hell To Texas" (1958)! His shy reticent persona could be likened to a young Glenn Ford but the actor never really distinguished himself in film. His senator Brigham Anderson in Otto Preminger's brilliant political drama "Advise & Consent" (1962) is probably the best thing he did! Hard to believe he celebrated his eightieth birthday in 2009.
Despite a couple of appalling indoor exteriors for night camp scenes and stock footage of cattle drive sequences from the studio's earlier "The Tall Men" (1955) THESE THOUSAND HILLS is an absorbing enough tale well told and well played. The film is also well buoyed by a marvellous score by the underrated Leigh Harline. A haunting title song by Harry Warren and Ned Washington is sung over the opening and end credits by Randy Sparks. Harline interpolated the song into his score which orchestrally is quite beautiful...............
THE MOON WHEN IT'S PALE
LIGHTING THE TRAIL
TUGS AT HIS HEARTSTRINGS
HE LEARNED TO LIVE
AND LEARNED TO LOVE
THESE THOUSAND HILLS.
Lat Evans (Don Murray) is an ambitious lonesome cowboy who is figuring
on hanging around for a while in Fort Brock, Montana
He is a good name
He is out to make it mean something here
He saves some
money and wants to buy a ranch
So he went to the bank to see about
making a loan
But Marshal Conrad (Albert Dekker) can't afford to back
For him, it's too much of a risk
He advises Lat to get
himself some securitya piece of land, a deed, something to put upthen
they'll talk about a loan
But Callie (Lee Remick), the dance hall girl, who is doing it to keep him with her, gave him her savingswith the promise to pay it back to buy the ranch he wants
Meantime another girl appears, the pretty Joyce (Patricia Owens) She's the niece of the banker Tidy, educated, she has been to college and all that Of course Lat owes his start to Callie but he got to finish by himself What he wants is a starched wife and a starched home and a starched reputation and Callie is spoiling his chances of getting it
Murray is fine as the man with a future He doubts if he goes in there his political chances are finished
Lee Remick hasn't cared for anybody in such a long time She's honest enough to say she's not worth risking anything for
Richard Egan is the man who breaks his word, double-crosses his friends and beats up his woman
Filmed in CinemaScope and color, this big-scale Western is very entertaining with enough action around
Terrific production values. Great cast. Lackluster script. Terrible
soundtrack. Something missing. Too clean and tidy. Not realistic in a
strange sense. A melodrama western? Not a bad film just not a really
good one and certainly not as good as it should have been given the
great cast. Lots and lots of clichés. Main character is not really
likable. Many loose ends. Underdeveloped characters. Worth watching for
Lee Remick and Patricia Owens.
I can't put my finger quite on the reason why this film falls flat. There just isn't any sizzle or scenes that grab you. Perhaps it is because the role of Latt (the main character) is not sympathetic. He seems to change from a decent guy to a heel almost overnight, forgetting about his true friends. Then he redeems himself instantly at the end. People don't change back and forth and back again like that.
A TCF western means it's well produced on a bigger budget than most
oaters. On the whole, it's a good movie, a little slow and talky, but
then the story's a strong one. I like the way we follow Lat's (Murray)
climb up the economic and social ladder. He's a 19th century
entrepreneur, starting out with very little but with some good
moneymaking ideas for becoming a rancher. Still, he needs start-up
money, which he gets from dance hall girl Callie (Remick), who he
With money in hand, he embarks on becoming a success, along with buddy Tom (Whitman). The trouble is that success causes him to lose some perspective, and he starts looking down his nose at Callie and Tom, and romancing society girl Joyce (Owens). Thus his challenge is not only in confronting bad guy Jehu (Egan), but in recognizing the moral debts he owes to those folks who helped him along the way. Thus, the story is more rewardingly complex than with most westerns.
Murray's boyish charm reminds me of a young Jimmy Stewart, and wisely the script doesn't require him to be the toughest guy in town. The movie also looks like an effort at promoting him into a studio star since he gets a lot of screen time on top of a strong supporting cast that ranges from a poignant Remick to the always commanding Dekker. There's also some of the most compelling scenery this side of the Happy Hunting Grounds (too bad IMDb doesn't credit the locations!). On the whole, it's a good western if you don't mind a lot of talk along with some good action, especially the dramatic lynching scene.
Average western with advantage of good cast. Don Murray is okay in the lead, he never really had that elusive something to be a great movie star but is a fine actor but a more magnetic actor, Robert Mitchum or Burt Lancaster for example would have raised the film up a notch. The supporting cast is full of familiar faces that all provide excellent work, the real standout is Lee Remick who offers up a delicately shaded performance of a girl whose life has been full of bad breaks and hard luck. It a shame her part is relatively small since she's the most compelling character and actor in the film. The color and cinematography are also noteworthy. Not a bad movie just not great.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Don Murray plays Latt Evans, an ambitious cowboy who puts himself in the
fast lane for success in Montana's cattle country. There is a very good
supporting cast in this story with Stuart Whitman as his friend, Albert
Dekker as a banker and Patricia Owens as the banker's niece. Lee Remick
plays her usual strong role as Callie, another friend of Evans. Richard
Egan plays an uncharacteristically villainous role and does it pretty
"Remember", Evans' trail boss tells him, "people change. They don't turn out like they started." He realizes that people make decisions and that these decisions have implications for them and others around them. The boss knows Evans better than he knows himself.
In his desire to get ahead Evans loses sight of what's important in life. He works two jobs on the cattle drive that brings him to Montana. He spends a hard winter poisoning wolves. In the end it is a friend's generous loan which gives him what he really wants, his own ranch. Almost too late, he realizes in a scene reminiscent of "The Virginian" that it is friends that really matter.
There are two women in Evans' life and both Remick and Owens do well in their roles. Remick's character is much better developed in the script. She is more than slightly tarnished woman in the traditional Western morality. Albert Dekker advises Evans to stay away from the bordello if he is serious about making something of himself. Callie appreciates her status in the community. "I'm not worth it," she advises Evans at one point when he is about to pick a fight for her. Although she loans Evans the money to get him started she expects nothing for it. The loan is repaid and he owes her nothing more. Even the note Evans receives at the end asking for help was written by someone else.
Patricia Owens plays the banker's niece and eventually becomes Evans' wife. Her character is respectable compared to Callie. She doesn't understand Evans' friendship with Callie, but she tries to do so. Unfortunately, the film does not do her character justice. Evans says that he loves her, but her character gets such short shrift that it's hard to tell why. Is it because she's respectable and Callie's not? I'd like to think there's more to it than that and Owens' role certainly hints at some depth to her character.
The fight at the end probably ranks in the top ten in screen fist fights. It is reminiscent of "The Spoilers", except that this time the mud is in glorious color.
The ending is only partially satisfying. There are too many loose ends. The relationship between Evans and his wife is clarified in the ending, but Callie's fate is left to the imagination. Evans will testify at her trial. "Will it be the truth?", his wife asks. "Yes", he responds. "Then you testify", she says. What happens to Evans' position in the community and his political aspirations in light of his support for a prostitute? The viewer can reach his own conclusions about these issues, too. Perhaps that's appropriate. Evans does what he thinks is right. Who can argue with that?
These Thousand Hills casts Don Murray as a young cowboy who arrives in
Montana broke but with an idea. Rather than have cattle feed on the
open range in winter left to the elements, he wants to grow and store
hay for winter feed. In order to do this he romances two women,
banker's niece Patricia Owens and saloon girl Lee Remick. Murray's both
a hard worker and a fast worker.
This film highlights a growing trend in the Fifties toward adult westerns. They wouldn't yet show it on television, but that Lee Remick is a prostitute is not left to any imagination. In fact even though Remick gave Murray the seed money for his ranch, Murray then objects to pal Stuart Whitman marrying one in Remick's friend Jean Willes.
And Murray's attentions to Remick among other things have made him a bad enemy in saloon owner Richard Egan. Basically you have all the ingredients of the story of These Thousand Hills.
The film really belongs to both Murray and Lee Remick who gives quite a portrayal of a battered woman, again most unusual for any picture in the Fifties let alone a western.
As entertainment the film still holds up well today, but I'd keep it from the littlest ones.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the story of a cowboy Lat Evans (Don Murray) driven by blind ambition who is not fair to the woman who loves him and helped him (Lee Remick) and his best friend who saved his life (Stuart Whitman). Richard Egan has a good performance as the villain, who is also after Remick but treats her badly. Murray's attitude in relation to Remick and Whitman is so cruel and shocking that even when he tries to redeem himself you are not convinced that he has suffered enough. When the film starts you look at Murray like a standard western hero, and the fact that when the film ends it still tries to make you believe Murray is a good guy who paid for his sins, leaves the spectator with a feeling something is missing. I liked the film, but did not like the ending.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I picked it out of the sale bin, "These Thousand Hills" looked
like a routine, unselfconscious western of the 1950's. I bought it
because it had a good cast including two actors I really like, Lee
Remick and Richard Egan.
However after a fairly standard start, the big surprise was that the story took a left-hand turn at the midpoint, exposing darkness within the good guys, and giving the drama psychological shadings that may even have had William Shakespeare shouting, "Author! Author!".
Don Murray stars as Lat Evans, an ambitious young cowboy who wants to own a ranch of his own. He partners with Tom Ping, an easy-going cowboy played by Stuart Whitman, who saves his life early in the movie. They encounter Jehu, played by Richard Egan, a ruthless rancher destined to become their enemy. They also meet a couple of saloon girls, one of them, Callie, played by Lee Remick, falls in love with Lat. She gives him her life savings to buy the ranch.
With this start, Lat is successful. He begins to associate with the town's classier citizens, and leaves Callie to marry Joyce, a banker's niece played by Patricia Owens. Lat also begins to look down on people, once his friends, who he now thinks beneath him; eventually he falls out with Tom. Events unfold that lead Lat to regret his actions. He sets out to put things right with a final confrontation with Jehu.
Not your average oater that's for sure, but the story, obviously condensed from the original novel, plays out over a period of time, and it was a lot to cram into 96 minutes.
The opening scenes of the cattle drive are spectacular, which is just as well as the set design of the town and the interiors is uninspired, not much above the look of the studio-bound television westerns of the time.
Top-billed Don Murray gives a pretty good performance for an actor who looked perennially youthful throughout his career; he was thirty when he made this but looks younger.
Lee Remick is the standout. A year before, she had burst onto the screen in "A Face in the Crowd". That film was in black and white, this one is in colour. The black and white camera loved her, but the colour camera adored her. Great roles were ahead, but it's fascinating to catch her just before that happened.
Then there is Richard Egan. While this was a supporting role he was a scene-stealer. He had a great voice and more teeth and muscles than just about any other actor. He had similarities to Burt Lancaster, but he never made it as big. He just didn't exude that sense of danger that gave Burt the edge as a star.
I remember reading that Charles Bronson had backed down from a potential fight with Richard Egan while working on the TV series "Empire". Charlie was smart, it wouldn't have been pretty. Egan was not only bigger, but had also taught hand-to-hand combat in the army during World War 2. He may not have exuded Lancaster's sense of danger on the screen, however he really was dangerous.
"These Thousand Hills" gave complex motivations to its characters, as did many of the urban dramas at the time. It took a different approach than most westerns, and for the most part it succeeded.
These Thousand Hills is a melodrama dressed up as an epic Western in
the tradition of The Sea Of Grass (see my review). A sprawling,
handsome production with an engrossing story line, it incorporates many
traditional western elements, including a cattle drive, a horse race, a
nice girl-naughty girl rivalry, and a climactic showdown.
Well-turned-out sets and authentic costumes compliment the scenic,
on-location, wide-screen, color cinematography. These fetching
production values are all wrapped around a rags-to-riches story
emphasizing drama and character development rather than action. All
about a dirt-poor young cowboy (Don Murray) determined "to make
something of himself" no matter how much suffering he has to endure
himself or how many friends he has to step on to get to the top.
This picture's best asset is the beautiful, vivacious, and talented Lee Remick, as the good-hearted saloon girl who gives Murray his start. Only third billed behind Murray and Richard Egan, she seems to be the real star of the show. It's a shame she couldn't have had a leading man of matching charisma and talent. Don Murray surely runs a good race with Richard Carlson as the blandest leading man of all time. His lack of virility must shoulder much of the blame for why this well-mounted Western ultimately lacks punch, along with the usually exciting Richard Fleischer's flabby direction, and a less than inspired adaptation of A. B. Guthrie's novel by screen writer Alfred Hayes. Fortunately the rest of the cast helps to make up for Murray's inadequacy. Egan, usually wooden in his more frequently seen heroic roles, is quite spicy here as a sneering villain. A fine cast of supporting actors, all familiar faces in the celluloid West, includes Albert Dekker, Harold J. Stone, and Royal Dano. Brawny Stuart Whitman has a major role as Murray's shady but loyal pal. It would have been a much better picture if he had had Murray's role.
As it was These Thousand Hills was not bad. It was fun to watch for the fine production values, the engaging if slow-moving story, and Lee Remick, who both looked good and acted well. Unfortunately it never lived up to the promise of the exciting bronco-busting and horse racing scenes in the opening reels. Solid, if uninspiring entertainment from an era when Holloywood was starting to forget how to make them like they used to anymore.
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