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Run of the Arrow (1957)

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Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby moira finnie » April 29th, 2014, 1:33 pm

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Above: Rod Steiger in Run of the Arrow (1957), still steamed about the end of the Civil War.

The first time I tried to see Samuel Fuller's Run of the Arrow (1957), I couldn't get past leading man Rod Steiger's wavering brogue or his early scenes as a defeated Southern soldier hating the victors after the Civil War.

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Above: Too subtle a poster for the hoi polloi?

This time this Western movie set in the post-Civil War era was on TCM when I was in another room. I thought that I heard Angie Dickinson on the tube. Trotting back to see what was on the set, I eventually learned that it was the Spanish singer-actress Sara Montiel, (playing an Indian maiden named Yellow Moccasin, complete with eyeliner and fifties-style foundation garments). It seems that her accented voice was dubbed by the then almost unknown Angie D., whose distinctively breathy speech makes her almost instantly identifiable. (I figure Angie did this job around the time of the production of Fuller's China Gate).
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Above: Sara Montiel sounding a lot like Angie.

Despite this incongruity, the idea of a Confederate turning his back on his world and adopting another culture as his own (up to a point) was intriguing to me. As the un-reconciled Confederate rebel explains bitterly, "In my heart, my nation is Sioux" and he claims that he won't have any trouble killing "Americans," which in his mind means Unionists. That "cri de coeur" spoken by Steiger's O'Meara is really the crux of the story, which at its best, is about the knotted-up emotions of an individual tormented by his past as well as the human tragedies attendant on Manifest Destiny. It doesn't all work, but Fuller's intensity gives the more thoughtful aspects of the story an unexpected, if messy verve.

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Above: Apparently, the ever-buff Charles Buchinsky (Charles Bronson) brought a good supply of baby oil to location.

I was fortunate enough to come upon this flick after Rod had beaten the other Sioux in a run that no white man is supposed to have completed. Charles Buchinsky, aka Charlie Bronson played a blue-eyed Native American who accepted Rod into the tribe. Viewers got to see almost as much of Mr. Bronson's marble-like form as his mama and wives. This viewer could have lived without that, frankly, though his characterization of this warrior is considerably more convincing than that of Jay C. Flippen. I normally adore Flippen & all his shambling, scene-stealing warmth, but as a Sioux Indian he never quite lost the look of a hoofer doing vaudeville turn during a sparsely attended (he hoped) matinee.
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The rest of this beautifully photographed color movie was rather uneven, but Fuller's capacity for showing how people really behave despite their political and ethical beliefs has grown on me over time. The best scenes were those between Cavalry Officer Brian Keith and Rod Steiger, especially when the two mumbled about discussed the contradictions within Steiger's choices and beliefs.
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This had also come up earlier when Rod told the Sioux he had no problem killing white men, but that the tribe should not expect him to give up being a Christian (guess The Sermon on the Mount didn't come up during Mass in Rod the Irishman's experience). As Rod explains it, God is the God of Liberty in all wars--even the Sioux's efforts to keep from being wiped out by the invasion Westward. At one point in a quiet scene with Keith, Rod said that he believed that the Civil War was about "preserving civilization" in the South, even though he said he didn't have a clue about the KKK, the human and economic cost of slavery or any of those high falutin' geopolitical details.

I must admit that I lost interest in the film once Ralph "Laughing Boy" Meeker arrived with his usual load of bile and the film became increasingly violent (and realistic). The conclusion, which I won't spoil for anyone, has a real poignancy, but I don't think I will try to see this again soon--even though I am recording Verboten! (1959) on TCM later today. More about that one later...
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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby Rita Hayworth » April 29th, 2014, 2:27 pm

I just watched that movie Moira and I wanting to thank you for writing up an excellent review of this western movie and I for one - wanted to thank you for great write-up and it's not an easy thing to do here. I was stunned by the acting of Rod Steiger, Charles Bronson, and others ... I was stunned by the beauty of the photography of this movie as well and having seeing for the first time and all ... I was deeply moved by the emotions of all the characters in this enduring western back in 1957. Having study the Civil War this movie is pretty well authenticated and furthermore it is a powerful tool for one man quest to punish his victors during the aftermath of the Civil War. This is one of Rod Steiger's stellar western and he has an excellent supporting cast in Brian Keith and Ralph Meeker.

Sarita Montiel was excellent too ... and this is probably my first introduction to this actress in any movie whatsoever ... and one thing for sure; I wanting to thank you for pointing out that they used Angie Dickinson's voice when Sarita's turn to speak and having checked Internet Movie Database - Angie's voice was used exclusively for this movie because Sarita could not speak English that well.


Here the Internet Movie Database for the link of this movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050915/

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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby moira finnie » April 29th, 2014, 2:43 pm

Thanks, Erik. I appreciate the link about the dubbing too. It's hard to know, but in Serenade (1956) with this actress and Mario Lanza, Sarita Montiel appears to speak English quite well. She captured the heart (or something) of director Anthony Mann during this production since they married sometime after it wrapped up.

I thought that Keith was excellent too, but despite his occasional lapses into method brooding, Steiger was quite effective here. How he longed to be a leading man!
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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby RedRiver » April 29th, 2014, 3:00 pm

I bet SERENADE is based on James M. Cain's less than intriguing book. An ambitious effort. But quite a shock to a fan of the lean crime fiction associated with the author. Cain had a musical background that shows in some of his work (see Mildred Pierce's daughter Veda). He also knew the insurance industry. I believe that turns up in one of his stories too!
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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby RedRiver » April 29th, 2014, 3:01 pm

I'm not familiar with RUN OF THE ARROW. Thanks for the feedback!

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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby moira finnie » April 29th, 2014, 3:31 pm

RedRiver wrote:I bet SERENADE is based on James M. Cain's less than intriguing book. An ambitious effort. But quite a shock to a fan of the lean crime fiction associated with the author. Cain had a musical background that shows in some of his work (see Mildred Pierce's daughter Veda). He also knew the insurance industry. I believe that turns up in one of his stories too!

You got it, Red. The book was apparently the kind of thing teens read on the sly back in the '30s, but it seemed pretty tame when I read it a few years ago. Interestingly, of course, the homosexual element of the story was jettisoned completely when it was adapted for this movie. The impresario character in Cain's book was divided between Vincent Price's deliciously effete manager and Joan Fontaine's wicked sexual pirate in the movie. They were the most entertaining element of the movie, but while I am not a fan of Mario Lanza, he was quite good in certain scenes, especially when he had a breakdown while playing and singing Verdi's Otello.

I hope that you'll post about Run of the Arrow when you see it. I believe that it is a favorite of ChiO.
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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby kingrat » April 29th, 2014, 5:13 pm

I'm still chortling at some of your comments, Moira. Like a number of Fuller's films, Run of the Arrow mixes some fine elements with some "Sam, I can't believe you did that" moments, the long speech early in the film where Steiger drifts back and forth between a bad Irish brogue and a bad Southern accent being one of the latter.

It's really weird that Peckinpah copied the Irish/Southern background of the Steiger character for Major Dundee. Not that many Irishmen settled in the South just before the Civil War. The real story of the Irish and the Civil War is the New York City draft riots, as the Irish did not want to be competing for the lowest-paid jobs with the freedmen, but classic Hollywood swept that story under the rug.

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Re: Run of the Arrow (1957)

Postby moira finnie » April 29th, 2014, 7:06 pm

Glad I gave you a smile, Kingrat, and I do agree that there were far fewer Irish-born soldiers in the Confederacy than in the Union forces. Maybe that's why Rod had such a tough time with that accent. Sometimes he sounded as though he was from Eastern Europe in addition to Eire & Dixie.

However, despite what Martin Scorsese says in that movie a few years ago, the majority of Irish in America were not involved in the horrifying behavior during the Draft Riots in NYC led by the Micks. Far more Irish were involved in working wherever and whenever they could while building the nation and searching for a way to get a toehold in this tumultuous country for themselves and their families. The Civil War gave many immigrant Irish on both sides of the conflict a chance to feel that they were truly a part of their new country through their service in that heartbreaking upheaval. Interestingly, no national scale Know-Nothing party emerged from the post-Civil War era, though by then people had started to move on to be prejudiced against whole new waves of immigrants from other lands, (I think this shift is found in Sociology 102, in the chapter titled "Pecking Orders: Their Form and Function").

Now, if Scorsese really wanted to dramatize an interesting aspect of the American Irish with the potential for gore as well as comedy, he ought to weave his magic around the Fenian Invasion of Canada in 1866 but---oops---the Mick invaders were described as "rather gentlemanly" and things fizzled out eventually. More about this next potential movie opportunity for Leonardo DeCaprio and others in the Marty rep company here: http://irishamerica.com/2012/03/the-day ... ed-canada/
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