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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Broken Lance" (1954)

An excellent cast in a re-telling of King Lear set in the Old West.  As in any version of this tragedy, it's all about the old man, and here it's a standout performance by Spencer Tracy as an ornery old cuss of a cattleman trying to deal with the sharp rattlesnake's tooth of his thankless children. But it's not a brood of daughters bickering over control of the ponderosa, it's four sons (Robert Wagner, Hugh O'Brian, Earl Holliman, and the eldest Richard Widmark). Tracy is effortless, by turns mean, stubborn, frightening, and tender (especially in his scenes with his Indian wife, the lovely Katy Jurado and his youngest half-breed son, his "Cordelia", the almost too handsome Wagner). And to thicken the plot's stew, Tracy must deal with a big mining company who is poisoning his land's water and has the state's shifty governor (E.G. Marshall) in its back pocket. A topnotch production  with director Edward Dmytryk making fine use of the widescreen Cinemascope vistas, plus a rousing western score by Leigh Harline.

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