Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
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Becoming a 'squaw man' and a devoted one, Clint Walker goes Western all the way in this standard action film with routine excitements and a cast of TV faces: John Russell as the tall, darkly chief prancing across the plains; Ray Danton as the Indian with conviction and authority; Claude Akins as the heavy tough sergeant; and Warren Oates making his debut as a proud soldier...
With the absence of a strong story line in the screenplay, but displaying an outstanding Technicolor photography, 'Yellowstone Kelly' is
Clint Walker is hired for his screen presence and build (the camera of director Gordon Douglas shoots Walker's Kelly as if he were a towering legend, with the expected close-ups of his non-violent, peace-desiring, conflict-weary face) more than any serious acting chops, but I never felt he wasn't adequate in the part. It isn't like Kelly needed the "method touch" or anything. Edd was probably casted to secure the teen-youth market; he is the moral compass that questions the choice of Kelly to allow Wahleeah to return to the Sioux as she clearly is held by them against her will. Kelly has that dilemma upon him Wahleeah escapes from the Sioux, stealing one of their ponies in the night, successfully making it to Kelly's cabin. Kelly makes a stance towards Gall regarding Wahleeah; because she's still in bad health due to her past injuries, Kelly refuses to allow Gall to escort her away when Wahleeah is in no shape to travel. Sayapi is the main heavy of the film as the prideful, aggressive, hostile Sioux warrior questioning Gall's judgment and bravery, soon responsible for tragedy involving Anse (who intends to take Wahleeah to her people despite Kelly's orders to keep her in the cabin), earning Kelly's vengeance. Of course, there's the battle at the end (as expected by these kinds of western adventures) where the Sioux engage Kelly and the remaining survivors left of the Calvary with guns firing, dust kicked up, and bodies hitting the ground. "Yellowstone Kelly" is surprisingly violent, with plenty of knife and gun violence, especially when Kelly goes after Sayapi and the Sioux in his company. This wouldn't be complete without fisticuffs so Walker tolerates the heckling of Akins and Oates up to a point until he has no choice but to lay the smack to them (yep, a water trough and window are used to subdue the rude soldiers who mocked Kelly by calling him an Indian; Kelly respects Native American tribes, and he doesn't even make much of a fuss when the soldiers first rib him in a bar, but a stagecoach dust up pushes him too far).
The script doesn't actually bang the patriot drum, with some sympathy towards tribes affected by White Man's colonization of their land. Russell, as Gall, follows the lead of many Caucasian actors "dressed in red face" as he carries a "man-of-few-words, pillar of strength" approach to the Sioux leader not to be disrespected and not quick to rush into anything without thinking of the consequences. There's a great scene where Sayapi seems ready to approach Kelly (against Gall's wishes) when Gall grabs him by the throat in a clinch and makes the kid fall to the ground this tells you that Gall is in charge for a reason. Gall's built for it while Sayapi goes too far and winds up just as he does by film's end. There's something that stayed with me regarding how Kelly tells Gall to take his men and go because the land no longer treats them well the script has a lot of this (saying that the former occupants of a land that had been there's for ages is taken from them, with White Man telling them to find somewhere else to call home).
The movie has merits and defects. Among the merits (apart the already quoted beauty of the photography): the fast-pace of the narration; a number of well-elaborated action scenes; the presence of Andra Martin as the Arapaho girl Wahleeah. In fact, beautiful Martin manages to create, with few but skillful touches, a soft erotic atmosphere rather unusual in western movies of that epoch. However, it should be noted that her (splendid) blue eyes are a relevant clumsiness of the movie. Clint Walker, in the role of the trapper Yellowstone Kelly, is a nice guy, though certainly not a great actor. As always in mature 1950's westerns, the war between whites and Indians is provoked by either hot-heads or rogues, in the present case a stupid ambitious cavalry officer: this remark is just intended to contradict the false common-place that in those years Indians were always represented as blood-thirsty savage assassins.
The story is placed around the Wyoming-Montana border: however the final part was evidently filmed in the wonderful area of Sedona, Arizona. I'm not able to decide whether this could be considered a defect of the movie: probably not. The worst flaw in the film is the fact that all Sioux perfectly understand and speak English (?). There are several other inaccuracies. For instance: I may be wrong, but I bet that the Blue Soldiers had never been equipped with Winchester carabines.
I saw "Yellowstone Kelly" at the theatre, when I was a kid: the pleasant impressions I retained have been confirmed by my recent new view at the TV. I recommend this movie, especially to people nostalgic of good old western flicks.
"The West was opened by courageous trail-blazing pioneers like Lewis and Clark and Luther "Yellowstone" Kelly - - trapper, surveyor, and Indian scout who was the first frontiersman to cross the mighty Yellowstone Valley."
A very well made Western, one that features some quite breath taking scenery captured by Carl Guthrie (Fort Massacre/Gunfight At Dodge City), Yellowstone Kelly falls into the category of straight conventional Oaters.
Story concerns fabled fur trapper Luther Kelly (Walker), who having saved the life of a Sioux chief (Russell) is allowed to move freely in the Sioux territories. However, he finds himself piggy in the middle when the oafish US Cavalry move in to shake their might at the Native Americans. Things are further complicated when he is forced to save the life of an Arapaho woman (Martin), who subsequently runs away from the Sioux's to seek shelter with Kelly and his newly acquired companion, greenhorn Anse Harper (Byrnes). With potential love in the air putting another problem into the equation, Kelly has much to carry on his mightily broad shoulders.
Originally slated to be a John Ford/John Wayne production (they decided to make The Horse Soldiers instead), Yellowstone Kelly is pretty much what it appears to be, that of a vehicle built around Walker as a device to push him forward as a lead actor. Unfortunately, in spite of his massive screen presence, Walker just didn't have the acting chops to be a grade "A" lead off man in film. Yet he was always watchable and engaging, such is the case here. The character of Kelly is interesting and around Walker are a number of TV stars and contract players to ensure there's a professional polish to the production.
There's no surprises in store or deep psychological stirrings, though one extended sequence of Walker and Byrnes shacked up in a log cabin is open to homo-erotic interpretation, and the host of white actors playing Native Americans will irritate some, but this moves along at a good clip and makes for a fun afternoon viewing experience. 6.5/10
Arguably the movie's most interesting feature is the way the relationship between Kelly (Walker) and Anse (Byrnes) is handled. Now, if the masterly muscular Kelly is added, on one hand, to the submissive pretty-boy Anse, on the other, the sum is two iconic stereotypes of the gay community. Of course, production could have plunked a hat on Byrnes like everyone else and lessened his looks. But that would have outraged fans of the teen idol whose trademark had become a comb. So, the visual earmarks remain.
At the same time, the screenplay puts this suggestive two-some into a wilderness cabin for the winter, where the big-hair half does womanly duties like cooking and cleaning, while the macho trapper brings home the bacon. So, together you've got an unmistakable situation for perceptive 50's audiences that putting a woman (Wahleeah) into the mix doesn't erase. Plus, these visual hints are compounded with the homo erotic bed scene that Dinky describes so well. My point is that toying with this taboo could not have been lost on the filmmakers, causing me, at least, to wonder what their reasoning was. After all, the Western is about the most macho of all movie genres.
It's worth noting that the movie's overall quality is not affected by this one aspect. In fact, none of this would be worth remarking on if the movie were not from the uptight 1950's, when the topic of same-sex attraction could not even be mentioned, e.g. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). So in that sense, the film remains something of an oddity for its time. But the movie itself ranks a lot higher on the list of glamorized Westerns than on the list of compelling ones.
This was pleasantly predictable -- I dislike nasty surprises -- and quite a lot more politically correct than one would expect for the time it was shot.
Every man in the movie is hot for the woman -- claims to the contrary by some are absurd and sensationalist wishful thinking -- and she eventually goes for the good guy. Clint Walker's character evolves from somewhat self-serving to completely self-sacrificing.
John Russell is okay in a role very different from his usual. He as the Sioux leader and Clint Walker are both aware that the cause of Native Americans is lost and there is no point in piling up dead bodies in one pointless battle after another. The US Government had already torn the heart out of the entire Native American land.
Andra Martin is so hot it almost doesn't matter that they chose a blue-eyed actress over a brown-eyed one, as though one were more captivating than the other.
Clint Walker is a friend of a friend and I'm glad I saw this and that I appreciated it. It wasn't intended to be great art, just entertainment.
This was not Edd Byrnes first feature film, but the first after his success on 77 Sunset Strip. The bobbysoxers were nuts about him back in the day and crowded out us connoisseurs of the western. I remember the long lines and the stories about how one could not hear the dialog with the adolescent females going gaga for Kookie.
The real star in the title role was another Warner Brothers TV veteran, Clint Walker. He plays a mountain man trapper and scout, the last of a breed. He's allowed to do his thing on Sioux land because he saved John Russell's life who is the chief.
After taking on Edd Byrnes as a young assistant, the two visit the Sioux where both of them catch the eye of Andra Martin who is an Arapahoe captive and Russell's personal squeeze. Another brave Ray Danton would like to replace Russell in her tepee. When she runs away and follows Walker and Byrnes to their cabin, Russell and Danton come calling with the tribe. These kind of things start wars as the Ancient Greeks would be the first to tell you.
As much as Kookie got all the publicity and was the reason for Yellowstone Kelly's box office, this film belongs to the stoic Clint Walker who if he had come along a decade earlier would have been a great cowboy hero. Walker is smart and stoic in the title role.
I have to say that Andra Martin as a blue eyed Arapahoe was most disconcerting. Just like Burt Lancaster in Apache.
Despite that Yellowstone Kelly was a well made action western that any fan of the horse opera will love.
That said,this low-budget western is enjoyable even though the Indians look like white guys with wigs ( they are ,particularly the Indian beauty everyone covets ,about as "Indian" as Debra Paget in "broken arrow" or Barbara Bush in "Taza Son of Cochise" )
This is a good old-fashioned film, if a little top-heavy in male bonding with too many actors who are fundamentally nothing but eye-candy and it's beautifully shot in some pretty spectacular scenery. There's not much in the way of plot and the script, by Burt Kennedy, no less, has every cliché in the book but it's never less than entertaining in a mindless sort of way.
First off, Walker is a hell of a screen presence. I haven't seen "Cheyenne" in many, many years, and I kind of forgot just how much he can fill up the screen, and not just physically; he has the kind of commanding presence that John Wayne has, and although Wayne's a better actor, Walker's no slouch himself. He does a first-rate job here, and Burt Kennedy's script doesn't make him the kind of stock "hero" type that many "B" westerns tend to make of their stars.
Second off, the scenery--as pointed out by other reviewers--is spectacular. It has the kind of power that John Ford brought to the screen with his Monument Valley locations yet it doesn't overwhelm the overall film, as Monument Valley tended to do. In addition, Gordon Douglas' westerns are noted for their "balls to the wall" action scenes, as in "Rio Conchos", and this film doesn't disappoint in that department. There are several of them, from bar-room brawls to full-out Indian attacks, and they're all extremely well done.
Then there's Andra Martin. She's not given much to do, actually, but she is one of the most strikingly and exotically beautiful women to have ever graced the screen, and she does the most here with what she's given, and she's actually quite good.
A good supporting cast--Claude Akins and Warren Oates stand out, and even Edd Byrnes is far less annoying than he usually is--helps greatly. If there's any downside to this picture, it's the casting of white actors in Indian roles. John Russell and Ray Danton are good actors, but they don't even come close to being convincing as Indians and, as this practice usually does, actually hurt the picture.
Overall, though, I was more than pleasantly surprised with "Yellowstone Kelly". Walker turns in a first-rate performance, the scenery is beautiful, the action is well done, and on top of everything else there's Andra Martin. A very good combination. Walker made another western that I haven't seen, "Fort Dobbs", and if it's half as good as this one was, I'll have to check it out.
None of these three relationships seem plausible and none of the participants seem to have convincingly deep feelings for anyone else. The script manipulates its characters but never succeeds in giving any of them an internal life. Particularly shortchanged are the Indian characters, none of whom look "Indian" and all of whom are saddled with dialog of the "many horses have I" variety.
The acting is passable but has the superficial quality of a TV show. This is not surprising since the cast largely consists of loan-outs from Warner Bros' TV series: Clint Walker from "Cheyenne," Edward Byrnes from "77 Sunset Strip," and John Russell from "Lawman." Even Andra Martin has a connection to Warner Bros' television, being married at one time to Ty Hardin from the "Bronco" series.
Though this movie lacks the homoerotic undertones of "Gold of the Seven Saints," it does have a scene of sexual ambiguity showing Edward Byrnes bedding down for the first night in Clint Walker's log cabin. Both men are shirtless. (Curiously, this is the only time in the entire movie Clint displays that famous chest of his.) Clint lies face-up on his bed while Byrnes lies face-down on his. They engage in a long, disjointed conversation, all the while exchanging glances at each other.
This scene follows a bit of dialog in which Walker says he'll have to make a (separate) bed for Byrnes. Byrnes says this won't be necessary, a remark which can be interpreted in two different ways.
thanks in advance,,,for any help,,..
Some nice cinematography and decent enough fight scenes are mildly diverting, but it's certainly not a classic of the genre. More, it's a reminder of how, at worst, the Western was a pretty ruthless exercise in historical revisionism.