Former big city newsman Larry Wilder is tired of fighting the powers that be and just wants to enjoy his new life as a small-town newspaper editor. He thinks his bucolic new home will provide him with an easy and unconflicted life. But when a young Latino farmworker is goaded into a fight by racist rich boys, Wilder finds himself the only white citizen of the town willing to stand up for the boy's rights. He joins with Sunny Garcia, a staffer for a small weekly newspaper for the Hispanic workers, in trying to see justice done and possibly to save a life.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After watching The Lawless I've come to feel there is a back story in the making of this film. First of all it comes from Paramount which was not a studio known for making socially significant films. But secondly with director Joseph Losey, a man who would shortly leave the USA never to work on our soil again, the producers were Paramount's Dollar Bills as they were known.
This is a Pine-Thomas Production and they supplied all the B films it seemed for Paramount in about 15 years from World War I until Bill Pine's death. The usual run of films for these two were decent action adventure, western, or occasionally a noir film. But this one is a real odd fish in their credits. Not to say it isn't good, because it's good and powerful. Timely too, coming out right around the time Joe McCarthy was telling he had lists of varying amounts as to how many Communists there were employed in our government.
Times like those give way to people's primal fears. The Lawless deals with the mob mentality of a southern California town when a young Mexican kid, Lalos Rios, gets himself in a jackpot during a brawl that breaks out at a dance. During his flight he gets even more problems when the cop driving the car that picked him up crashes after the driver loses control and is killed. The reason it crashes because the cop in the back seat starts pounding on him.
Ihe Lawless is about fear and people lose their trust in the law when fear steps in. Young Rios is afraid of what the mob will do and the mob of whites who were comfortably in the majority are afraid of the growing numbers of these darker and different people.
Standing up for law and order in its best sense is the editor of the local newspaper MacDonald Carey. He pays big time for going against the mob. As did director Joseph Losey and many others at that time.
Elements of They Won't Forget and Fury are found in this film and later on MGM put a lot more dollars into Trial, a film about the same issues addressed here.
Besides Carey and Rios, you'll see some outstanding performances by Gail Russell as the Mexican American love interest for Carey and by an old flame of Carey's Lee Patrick who plays a right wing reporter slanting the story against Rios for all its worth. Watch Patrick's facial expressions as she's dictating copy, they're frightening and unforgettable.
Made on the shoestring Pine-Thomas budget that Paramount normally allotted for them, The Lawless is an uncomfortable reminder of past times with very much relevance for the present.
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