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Westward the Women

Sunday, June 21, 2015, 2 p.m., Dryden Theatre

“Thinking about how women made their way into the center of westerns in the Fifties (Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar, Barbara Stanwyck in Forty Guns), it’s strange how seldom Wellman’s remarkable portrayal of a female group is mentioned in lists of the finest 1950s westerns, the greatest decade for that form. Both The Ox-Bow Incident and Yellow Sky might have bigger reputations and yet, poignantly, Westward the Women is a strong candidate for Wellman’s finest western. A female trek, even though it is led by Robert Taylor, more or less reenacts the story of Red River. The narrative is less deep than Hawks’s masterpiece, and in some sense it is harsher, more realistic about the difficulties and facts of loss. Another great contemporary film, Ford’s Wagon Master, is somehow romantic by comparison. Wellman was a tough guy who could create an amazing combination of tenderness and cruelty.” – Peter von Bagh