Cattleman Flint cuts off farmer Sims' water supply. When Sims' son Ted goes for water, one of Flint's men kills him. Cheyenne is sent to finish off Sims, but finding the family at the newly dug grave, he changes sides.
The scenario of "Bucking Broadway" is full of clichés: the Baddie dude lures the girl from the West to go East with him under the proposal of marriage—breaking her prior engagement to the good Western hero. The hero goes east to rescue her. Yet, past the story moviegoers have seen numerous times is some exceptional cinematography for 1917. There's some beautiful photography of the Western landscape, including long vistas, with hilly countryside, misty horizons and lovely compositions. The application of lighting is also quite expert, including nighttime photography and use of low-key lighting for mood. Additionally, there's a mirror shot of Helen reinforcing that she's in a reflective state of mind. And, there are some shots through doorways—a John Ford trademark from the beginning (he also had them in "Straight Shooting" (1917)).
I was taken aback by the photography in this film, despite it being made by would-be great western filmmaker John Ford, because his earlier 1917 film, "Straight Shooting" was rather static and this was early in his career—filming cheap westerns at a then relatively small company. "Bucking Broadway" seems a vast improvement photographically over "Straight Shooting", if my memory serves me correctly. To be fair, "Straight Shooting" appears to have been Ford's first feature, but the advancement within one year is still impressive. "Bucking Broadway" doesn't entirely rely upon long shots, as there are a good number of close-ups. Some moments are dated, such as the aforementioned horse-breaking scene statically filmed from a long-shot stationary camera. If anything else, Ford and his cinematographers may have somewhat overused low-key lighting, such as in dark scenes where the mood is light. Nevertheless, it's a good-looking film, especially when it's set in Wyoming. Nice tinting and a quality print also help.
A couple further remarks: Harry Carrey had a nicely rugged face, which is more evident here than in 'Straight Shooting' and elsewhere. His looks are comparable to the biggest silent era western star William S. Hart, and that's probably why they employed Carrey in the genre, with the screen persona of "Cheyenne Harry" (in the "Broncho Billy" tradition of having a consistent character and name).
There are quite a few humorous moments in "Bucking Broadway", including the hasty, farcical brawl. Mostly, they aren't bad here, which is praiseworthy considering how often that isn't the case in comical westerns. Ford would often inject comedy relief into his films, which is a notable difference from some other early Western filmmakers, like Hart, Thomas H. Ince, or D.W. Griffith. The more important beginning here for John Ford, however, was in beginning to master excellent cinematography.
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