Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

The Nevadan (Columbia, 1950)

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A little gripper
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Westerns starring Randolph Scott and produced by his partnership with Harry Joe Brown were often excellent, tight little grippers which were nicely photographed, had good writing and pacey plots. A very good example of this is their third collaboration, The Nevadan, aka The Man from Nevada.
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This one was brilliantly directed by Gordon Douglas, in his short stay at Columbia (he moved to Warners straight after). Douglas could do some very ho-hum stuff and churned out some stodgy oaters – as he said himself – but he was also capable of very good work. Pictures such as Fort Dobbs, Rio Conchos, Barquero and The Fiend who Walked the West were very good. The Nevadan is in this category.

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Douglas at the helm
 

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It had the honor of being the first Western to come out in 1950, thus ushering in the greatest decade of the genre, its golden age.
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There are two particularly rewarding aspects of this movie. One is the pacing: it moves along at a cracking speed and your interest never flags. Yes, the plot is a bit formulaic – this was no original art work – but just watch how much of the back story is established in the few scenes under the opening titles. When the movie starts we are already well down the trail. After that, it’s all action and plot development and we are carried along at the gallop. Full marks, Gordon.

 

The second aspect is the look of the thing. Though set in Nevada and Nevada is often mentioned in the script, it was in fact shot in California, but it sure looks like Nevada. Desert, rocks and pine trees: it’s pure Western terrain. It is most admirably photographed in those special Cinecolor tints by Charles Lawton Jr, one of the greats, who had done The Walking Hills with Randy and was to go on to do some superb work in later Westerns, notably Jubal, other Scott-Brown oaters such as four of those late-50s Budd Boetticher ones and, in particular, the 1957 luminous black & white 3:10 to Yuma. A lovely color print of The Nevadan is available.
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As for the story, I won’t give you here a summary of the complex plot. You don’t need that. Just be assured that the story is going to take you along with it. You won’t be bored!

 

The acting is first class. Scott was on top form.
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Co-starring is Forrest Tucker, doing a first-rate job, as the rogue after the gold. He improved no end of big- and small-screen Westerns from 1940 through 1987. Female lead is the lovely Dorothy Malone (a stunningly beautiful woman and a fine actress), here as an independent young woman who goes her own way. She cares for injured horses. Aahh, how nice. But it isn’t a slushy romantic film at all. Her dad is the villain Galt, who owns the town and wants everything else, played solidly by George Macready (the unblinking blond badman of Coroner Creek  two years before). I would also mention Frank Faylen and Jeff Corey as the squabbling brothers who love each other really, excellent performances. Charles Kemper (always good) is amusing as the denture-sculpting, wise sheriff. Jock Mahoney has a bit part as Sandy and did most of the stunt work as Scott’s double.
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There’s a breathless climax with a fist-fight in a collapsing mine and a five-way (later a six-way) shoot-out in the rocks. Great stuff!

 

The Nevadan is very good. You won’t do better if you are looking for a good-looking, exciting, pacey Western.

 

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