In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the US, a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries and scouts.
Will Penny, an aging cowpoke, takes a "line-rider" job on a vast cattle ranch requiring him to keep trespassers and squatters moving till they're off the property. Ironically, he discovers that the mountain cabin reserved for the line rider has been appropriated by Catherine Allen and her young son, Horace, whose guide has deserted them en route to Oregon to join Catherine's husband. Too soft-hearted and ashamed to kick mother and child out just as the bitter Rocky Mountains winter sets in, he agrees to share the cabin until the spring thaw. But it isn't just the snow that slowly thaws; lonely man and woman soon forget their considerable dissimilarities and start developing a deep, if awkward and unstated, love for each another. Beyond this, Horace finds in Will the father he's never known, and Will finds in Horace the son he's never known he's wanted. The trio's little refuge is then invaded by Bible-quoting Preacher Quint and his murderous family of "rawhiders," who'd earlier nearly... Written by
In his memoirs Charlton Heston waxed pretty eloquent about this film, that he considers a personal favorite. He does some of his best work here in a role that's against type.
Charlton Heston probably has played more real people on screen than any other actor in history. Everything from Moses to Andrew Jackson to Brigham Young to Henry VIII. All of them are endowed with Heston's peculiar talent to bring a certain nobility to all of them.
Will Penny is just an ordinary aging cowboy from the last century working in Brokeback Mountain country. Nothing noble about him, nothing special unless you count the fact that he does his job, does it well and expects to be paid for same. He's probably the kind of guy that Ennis Delmar and Jack Twist would identify with.
Penny gets himself tangled up with a woman and her small son who've taken refuge in the line rider's cabin he's supposed to be in. And he's also earned the emnity of a murderous family of thieves led by crazy patriarch Donald Pleasance.
Heston in his memoirs paid tribute to his co-star Joan Hackett who he says was a great talent and left us too early. She gives a good performance in her role fighting for herself and her child to survive in a rugged winter.
Look for some realistic western portrayals from veterans like Ben Johnson, G.D. Spradlin, Slim Pickens, Anthony Zerbe, Lee Majors, Bruce Dern, and William Schallert.
Will Penny is very similar to Lee Marvin's classic Monte Walsh. A whole lot of the same issues and problems are portrayed there in the same realistic style.
I'm sure Ennis and Jack would have made it point to see Will Penny back in the day.
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