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So says Monte's friend as they sit on a front porch, wondering what they'll do now that their way of life is coming to a close. One of the most touching and poignant westerns ever made, "Monte Walsh" is a love poem written to a way of life that only lasted about 20 years, but defined much of American culture. The cowboy period only lasted from about 1865 to 1885, and this film shows several friends who have been cowboys for most of that time, deeply in love with their work, who see it all ending, and are powerless to stop it. Barbed wire fence and one really hard winter (which really did happen, and single handedly changed the western cattle industry, and eradicated the cowhand) do away with their blissful existence, forcing them to confront themselves. What do they do now? It isn't always pretty, and the decisions they make when the chips are down tell you most everything you need to know about human nature. The wonderful theme song by Mama Cass Elliot "The Good Times Are Coming" is just marvelous, and perfect for the film. All in all, one of the 5 best westerns ever made, and the absolute best one dealing with the working cowhand culture. Don't watch this movie if you are embarrassed about crying, because it will break your heart. Truly a work of art. The words "I rode down the gray" will haunt you for the rest of your life.
When "Monte Walsh" appeared in 1970, I avoided it like the plague. "Who
wants to see a movie about the end of an era?" I asked myself,
conveniently forgetting how much I loved "The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valance." So, nearly 30 years later, Turner Classic Movies gave me the
opportunity to correct what might have been a mistake. Had I erred in
1970? Well, yes and no. Yes, because "Monte Walsh" now joins my list of
one of the five best westerns ever made; and, no, because at the tender
age of 21, I would not have appreciated this masterpiece; which, in
these especially troubled times, seems more relevant than ever.
According to TCM host, Robert Osborne, William Fraker directed only 4 films during his distinguished career, preferring his role as director of photography. If "Monte Walsh" is any example, then director Fraker missed his calling; as, "Monte Walsh" boasts outstanding ensemble acting, unusual unless the director is especially gifted. Many in this cast give the best performances of his or her career, particularly Jim Davis and Mitchell Ryan. "Monte Walsh" should be the role for which Marvin is remembered, as "Chet" should be the role to remember Jack Palance. It's a joy and a privilege to watch Marvin and Palance interact, even more enjoyable than Marvin and John Wayne in their frequent pairings. The first two thirds of "Monte Walsh" is largely upbeat, even in the hard times portrayed, while the final third left me both numb and aching.
"I won't p**s on 30 years of my life," is one of the many profound quotations in "Monte Walsh." It defines Monte's code of honor; a decent, loving and honorable man unwilling to compromise who he is. I give "Monte Walsh" a "10".
This is one of my favorite Westerns.
Yet, it cannot boast of a gunfight or excessive action that is a trademark of westerns.
There are several reasons why I love this film. It is a reflective sensitive film, with the main character trying to come to terms with change.
It deals with people and nature--fodder for good poetry. That gets a fillip when the director William Fraker, is an accomplished cinematographer.
Lee Marvin is great when he is brooding and therefore a superb choice. Jeanne Moreau is a delight to watch in any film but her performance in this film is one I will never forget. Yet when I asked Ms Moreau some 15 years after the film was made about this film, she didn't even appear to recall the name of William Fraker--but merely referred to him as another cinematographer-turned-director. I have always wondered at that reaction....Jack Palance is another wonderful actor who makes this movie great.. In retrospect the casting was superb.
A good western needs good music. This one has one of the finest songs I have heard "the good times are a'coming" by Mama Cass Elliot.
I recommend this film and "Will Penny" as great unusual westerns that touch you if you appreciate good filmmaking--and do not evaluate a western by the action sequences.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
William A. Fraker's "Monte Walsh" is another bit of autumn
commemorated is the end of the cattle demand, and its key personality
Nothing in terms of Westerns can be deplorable than that
Blessed with the best of beginnings, a novel by Jack Schaefer, who gave a similar sound basis for "Shane," this depressed, impressive picture is a requiem for the cowboy... The cowboy superfluous and looking for a shop-keeping job; big business moving in from the East to rationalize; a cow town with an air of an early stage ghost town Any cowhand worth his coffee and beans could be forgiven for providing the thought: far better to go out in gun-blaze like the "Wild Bunch."
There are violent happenings in "Monte Walsh," which had Arizona locations, but not violent-spectacular Controlled melancholy covers them as it does everything else
Two grizzled characters, Lee Marvin and Jack Palance, who have both known better cow-punching times, ride into Harmony, another distant relative of the town portrayed in "Shane," and think themselves lucky to get jobs on an old ranch Among the new ranch hands is Mitch Ryan, who is determined to break a wild gray stallion The rheumy eye of Marvin still takes expert note
Relaxation for the two aging cowboys consists of a saloon-gal for Marvin (Jeanne Moreau, making both her U.S. and Western debut) and a widow (Allyn Ann Mclerie) with a hardware store for Palance, who ultimately makes a choice for marrying the store owner
The film is a realistic Western developed in an unhurried style with the emphasis on character and on the real drudgery of frontier life
Here's a case of Palance putting in a great supporting role like he has
done so often, a truly selfless actor with a great humility.
Seldom does an actor allow himself to look as pathetic as Palance does in his performances. This is a great film, primarily due to the metaphor near the end where Marvin tries to tame a horse, frustratingly attempting to control the nature of all things around him. The austere writing and stilted acting lend to the overall tone, creating an elegiac western greatly under-appreciated in its time. One of those small, offbeat movies awash in a decade of so many sparkling little films, each challenging the strictures of Hollywood. I loved it.
I heartily agree with the other enthusiastic reviews of this movie, so
instead of repeating their comments I'll just add a couple of notes which I
didn't see in anyone else's remarks.
One thing that really drew me into this movie was how, over and over, I would be watching a scene play out and there would be a _very_ few words exchanged, with minimal "dramatizing music" or other "play-ups" adding dramatic weight, and I'd just ache for more words to be said. So much was happening _to_ the characters (mostly internal, as the film focuses more on people than events) and they went through it with such a minimum of dialogue. That made a strong impression on me as it left me wanting more; wishing somehow they could make it alright by just saying more of what was obviously on their hearts.
Another thing I loved about this movie was the distinctiveness of the characters. One had false teeth; one rarely (if ever) bathed; one was called "Shorty"; and, of course, the unforgettable mugs of Palance and Marvin -- and the distinctiveness of these wasn't all simply in their appearances. Before long they started to feel like my own friends. My heart broke watching their whole world pass them by.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My favorite Lee Marvin role is the title role of the film Monte Walsh.
Lee and his friend Jack Palance are a couple of aging cowboys who are
proud of the trade they have, but the demands for it are becoming fewer
Monte Walsh debuted two years after another film with the same themes, Will Penny brought great critical acclaim to Charlton Heston. Heston and Marvin essayed the same kind of role, the aging cowboys who are finding less and less work for themselves as the years pass.
Both Walsh and Penny practice their trade in the Brokeback Mountain country and you can bet that Ennis Delmar and Jack Twist when they got into town and went to the movies, really identified with both of these guys. Ennis and Jack could easily be the descendants of both Heston and Marvin.
Unlike Will Penny whose greatest challenge was with a bunch of renegade rawhiders, Monte Walsh has to deal with the death of his best friend at the hands of another he considered a friend. Palance gets tired of the cowboy life and settles down and gets married to a widow who owns a hardware store and gets killed in a robbery. The code by which both Marvin and Palance live by would allow for not even the law to mete out justice here.
Lee Marvin was not known for playing the most admirable characters on the screen, but he's positively noble in this role. I've never admired him more on the screen than in Monte Walsh. He invests the title character with humanity, dignity, and pride. Of course that was in an era when one could be proud of your labor and way of life.
Fourteen years earlier Marvin supported Jack Palance in an excellent World War II film, Attack. Now things came full circle as Marvin got to be a star via an Oscar for Cat Ballou and Palance supports him and well. That's the movie business for you.
Western veterans like G.D. Spradlin and Jim Davis support Marvin well. French cinema star Jeanne Moreau is Marvin's consumptive girl friend and Mitchell Ryan is the treacherous Shorty. And this was the farewell performance of Roy Barcroft one of the best western villains that ever sat a saddle.
People who are not necessarily western fans will appreciate the care that went into making this fine film.
Of all the Western movies I've seen over the years - and it's been quite a few - this is one of the most outstanding. It's really about the honorable way of earning a living by working with and breaking horses and being a cowboy. As that way of lifestyle and profession reach their final stages and start to fade away in America, Palance and his cronies face losing their livelihood, their dignity and their ruggedly-independent way of life. An entire culture stands on the brink of oblivion and the viewer can only be touched by the deeply sensitive way that is handled in this movie and by the incredible performance Palance give as a stoic but caring man who is facing having his whole world shaken and shattered. Palance knows in his heart of hearts that he would rather die than give up his threatened lifestyle. It's hard and it's tough and it's certainly a man's world but it's an honorable and once-honored means of earning a crust or two, and one can't help but share Palance's pain when one of his closest friends goes off the rails and turns to crime when he loses his job as a cowboy. And you feel for him too when he cannot commit to a softer way of life settling down with Jean Moreau, choosing instead to head off "into the sunset" in the vague and obviously vain hope of everything turning around and turning out all right in the end. That's what makes the unbelievably catchy song The Good Times Are Coming so heart-achingly sad. You just know that those good times aren't really coming - they're behind him. No Hollywood glamor here, just a wonderful portrayal of an unambitious but totally honest man who wants to keep on enjoying his times with the boys, riding herds and busting broncos, and refusing to recognize that those days are gone forever. A five-star Western if ever I saw one.
This movie should be re-released. I can't help thinking that it came out at a time when we as a nation had our mind on other things. And that's a shame. I remember that I went to see it at one of the first multi-cinemas in Utah and What's up Tiger Lily was playing along side of it. My friend and I couldn't get in to the more risque movie (Utah---imagine that,) so we stepped into this one. And even an idiot in the ninth grade could be touched by this melancholy tale. I love Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. And Mama Cass did this movie a great service with her song The Good Days are Comin'. Do yourself a favor and see this one. Your heart will hurt a little at the end, but it's a good kind of pain.
"Monte Walsh" is an astounding film, astounding in that so few people seem aware of it. Lee Marvin heads an outstanding cast including Jack Palance, Jeanne Moreau and Mitchell Ryan in this elegant adaptation of the Jack Schaefer ("Shane") novel. The movie may be thought of as one of those so-called "revisionist" films of the era which re-examined the concept of the western. "Monte Walsh" offers a vision of a dying cowboy lifestyle, of large cattle corporations and fewer jobs, of the growth of towns and the death of rowdy freedoms, of hard lives and few attractive options. Marvin encapsulates many of these aspects as the title character, forced daily to realize his entire way of life is over. Director William A. Fraker does a fine job of drawing fine performances from his cast, and of capturing the hard beauty and constant state of change in the American West.
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