Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Return of the Texan (Fox, 1952)

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Semi-Western
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When the opening scene is of a Jeep bowling along, the Westernista’s heart does sink a bit. I remember, when I was a callow youth (somewhere in the Bronze Age), buying a Roy Rogers comic, as one did in those days, and there was Roy – no sign of Trigger – driving across the desert in a cloud of dust – in a jeep! Shocked wasn’t the word, dear e-pards, I was traumatized! No, jeeps really won’t do.
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Still, this movie is directed by Delmer Daves, it has a Westerny title, it stars Dale Robertson, it has Walter Brennan as the crusty old grandpa, and Richard Boone is the bad guy. And Dudley Nichols wrote it. There are horses and guns. A Western surely?

 

Well, kinda.

 

And actually, in point of fact, I have always liked jeeps. I saw one the other day and although one of the few commandments I have never been guilty of transgressing is the one about not coveting my neighbor’s ox (I really haven’t), still, I did rather covet that jeep. Anyway, where were we?
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Return of the Texan is not a Western for another reason, though, jeeps notwithstanding. It’s a bucolic tale of a widower returning home with two small sons, settling in and finding love with Joanne Dru. It’s a love story, pards, a love story, and not a Western at all. Sorry to disappoint you.
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Oh well. It is enjoyable, though. I like the littlest boy, about whose only utterance is, “Sure!” and the dance is fun and there’s an element of end-of-the-West as Brennan can’t really adapt to not huntin’ and shootin’, and suffers a stroke. And Boone gets his come-uppance.

 

The young doc (Robert Horton), Dale’s rival for Joanne’s hand, is damnably decent, a really good egg, and that makes it harder. It all ends well for Dale, though, with Joanne in the rocking chair of his erstwhile spouse.
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2 Responses

  1. Just seen this- it recently showed up on Talking Pictures, a British channel that shows lots of obscure old movies, including Westerns sometimes. Although you’re right of course that this can’t really be considered a Western as such, it has enough trappings- horses, cattle and fences, a community dance, even a fistfight, not to mention the pedigree of so many of those in front of or behind the camera – to make you feel comfortingly close to the genre.

    (I enjoy how the poster you included above (presumably Belgian because of the mix of French and Dutch) is obviously designed to try and accentuate the ‘Western-ness’ – it’s verging on false advertising, but does have the jeep looming large in the background, so punters can’t say they didn’t know before parting with their money that it’s set in modern times.)

    Anyhow, I found this to be a real charmer, one of those small, unassuming movies that quietly grows on you. Its message about keeping going with a quiet pride and decency, even when life throws curveballs at you, isn’t exactly startling stuff but it’s done with a gentle and appealing sincerity. The rather subdued acting by all the principals (all well capable of giving more extroverted performances if they’d wanted to or the director had told them to) really helps, and I was particularly struck by Brennan’s performance. Although in one way it’s in line with his usual cranky old-timer persona, there’s a vulnerability about it this time that’s quite moving.

    The one weakness I thought was the Boone character was a bit underdeveloped, he acts it well but could have made more of the part if it was written to be a bit less one-dimensional. But altogether, I’d say this ranks high in Delmer Daves’s variable ouevre, which I didn’t particularly expect going in to it.

    1. I agree about Daves making ‘variable’ movies (though generally good). I wouldn’t have guessed this was a Daves picture if I hadn’t known beforehand, because of its “small, unassuming” qualities as you put it. But it’s a nice little picture.

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