Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Zandy’s Bride (Warner Bros, 1974)



I’m glad to review Zandy’s Bride because it begins with Z and I can say I have reviewed Westerns from A to Z, from Abilene Town to Zandy’s Bride. In other respects, though, it was a bit of a chore. Although at one point Zandy says he was in a gunfight, and in the cast James Gammon, no less, is listed as ‘Man in gunfight’, I saw no gunfight, or Gammon. Perhaps my version was cut. In the version I saw the most exciting thing that happened was when Zandy’s bride got a clothes line she wanted.


It stars Gene Hackman. Hackman did seven Westerns, and a rather assorted bunch they were. He started in The Hunting Party in 1971, a dire picture which Dennis Schwartz has called it “a vile revenge Western with a tired plot, too much gore and a miscalculated pretentiousness,” which just about sums it up. The turgid, in fact terminally slow Zandy’s Bride came next. The flawed but good-in-parts horse-race Western Bite the Bullet, directed by Richard Brooks, followed in 1975, and then there was a long pause. It is more than possible that Mr Hackman felt the genre was not for him. Yet then in 1991 he popped up again as Little Bill Daggett in Clint Eastwood’s magnificent Unforgiven, and Hackman was stunningly good in the part – in fact he won an Oscar for it. It was most definitely the highlight of his Western career. He was also impressive as General Crook in Geronimo: An American Legend in 1993; he was Wyatt Earp’s dad in Wyatt Earp in ’94; but these were small parts. He ended his Western career with the seriously bad – in fact quite dreadful – The Quick and the Dead in 1995, presumably just for $$$. As I said, a mixed bag. In Zandy’s Bride he is solid as the boorish Zandy but the somnolent script and direction gave him little to do.




It’s quite unusual in that it is a Pacific coast Western. There was a sub-genre of San Francisco foggy-waterfront type pictures, Barbaray Coast and the like, but they were only semi-Westerns really. Crashing waves seem somehow out of place in a real Western. One-Eyed Jacks had Freudian surf rolling onto the beach and I remember Sterling Hayden was shot in the back by Ted de Corsia in a cave on the California coast in Gun Battle at Monterey but in the grand scheme of things such pictures are rare.



The picture was directed by Swede Jan Troell and you get the feeling he had been to too many Ibsen plays and watched too many Bergman films. It’s all psychological and angst-filled. Liv Ullmann is the appropriately Scandinavian eponymous newly-wed. She comes across as strong, even steely, putting up with the frankly repellent behavior of her husband, including marital rape. Though when you meet Zandy’s parents (Frank Cady and Eileen Eckhart) you kinda understand why he is such a slob.





Sam Bottoms plays Hackman’s young brother but has virtually nothing to say. Harry Dean Stanton is there as a friend but pretty well ditto.



There’s no music, which adds to the intense Nordic atmosphere.



I suppose we do get a commentary on the hardships of frontier life for women. That’s something.



There’s a very bad horse fall when Zandy forces his mount up an almost vertical slope and when it crashes down, as it inevitably must, it was clearly limping. I thought that by 1974 the wranglers on movies were subject to American Humane Society controls. Zandy regrets the move and apologizes to the nag but it was a bit late for that.





Zandy is attacked by a bear and come to think about it, that probably was more exciting than the clothes line. However, I was rooting for the bear.



There’s a rather unlikely happy ending.



On TV it was renamed For Better, For Worse. But I don’t think that improved it any. The movie is more of a frontier romantic melodrama than a Western, and I reckon, dear e-pards, that if you skip this one you will have missed little. Nor will you pine away to nothing out of regret.



14 Responses

  1. Howdy pardners. I saw 'The Great Sioux Massacre' this afternoon. I wasn't expecting much but it was bad and something odd about it. In his review Jeff says that the script isn't good but at times it seems like it's awful on purpose. This first exchange between 'Benton' and the scout. Scout: "You'll get used to it." Benton: "You haven't." Scout: "That's right I haven't." Changing the subject Benton comments that the land looks quite barren so asks what do the settlers come here to raise on it and the scout replies, "Children." Come back Abbott and Costello. Later, the scout shoots an prisoner and Benton says he won't ask him why he did it because cold blooded murder doesn't need to be explained. Think about that a moment: it's plain daft. If there's anything that does need to be explained it's cold blooded murder: that's why they had the Nuremburg Trials. You could write it off as a dumb line but those aren't the only stupid exchanges. At times it almost turns into something like 'Police Squad' everybody playing it like Leslie Nielson dead straight but for laughs. Joseph Cotton's first entrance as a pantomime falling over drunk makes Charles Laughton look like Gary Cooper. It's almost like everybody including the scriptwriter decided it was a piece of junk so take the money and have a few laughs. Very strange. Anonymous Paul

    1. Yes, this is a visually attractive picture let down by bad direction, acting and writing.

  2. Jeff, you are exactly right about skipping this movie. I saw It once and that was enough. Watch Glenn Ford in JUBAL(1956) instead.

    Paul, when I first saw John Wayne smoking cigars in CHISUM(1970), I was surprised because Wayne had beaten the big "C" in 1964, so had he started smoking again, or was it just a prop? Aissa Wayne, his daughter, wrote in her book JOHN WAYNE: MY FATHER(1991) that her Dad did quit smoking camel cigaretts, but "at first he started chewing tobacco, then infrequently smoking cigars, then he was smoking cigars all the time. 'I'm not inhaling,' he always said, but he was and all of us knew it."

    1. Yup, one viewof Zandy's Bride is enough.
      I had a brother-in-law who gave up cigarettes in favor of 'the occasional cigar' and ended up chain-smoking cigars. They did for him too.

    2. Hi Walter – yes, I remember that afternoon in the cinema quite vividly: the collective taking a breath when Duke said the 'b' word and seeing him one buttock on the edge of a table smoking what I remember as rolled up cigarette. Even at the time we all knew he had had a close run with cancer and it was shocking and a bit sad. At the same time it was also hard to believe that Duke could ever die and something of a shock when he actually did. More than any other actor he just seemed to fill the screen. There were and are movie stars as tall as him and better actors but Wayne had something that just made him huge. I don't know what it is or was but it left a heck of a hole. Anonymous Paul

    3. Paul, yes, John Wayne was the greatest movie star of all-time. Also, Wayne went beyond being a movie star and became an American Icon. He became a symbol of the United States of America. This made the "Duke" huge beyond the movie screen. How did this happen, is a question for the Ages.

    4. Jeff, you did an excellent job writing about John Wayne and his Western Movies, I tip my hat. I haven't read Eyman's book on Wayne yet, but I will in the future. JOHN WAYNE: AMERICAN(1995) written by Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, who are college History professors, is a really good book.

  3. I love how Eyman posits, then proves, Duke’s assertion that he never intended to go before the cameras, just wanted to be a director, was pretty much BS. That Duke always intended to make the grade as a bona fide movie star. I grew up loving that man on the screen (still do) but also love Eyman’s book – his book on John Ford, though, I found pretty tough going. I met Duke twice as a boy and he was as wonderful as I hoped he would be – I don’t think I’d walk across the street to piss on Ford if I looked over and saw him burning. Still, gotta give him his due as an artist.

    Oh, and just to keep this on Zandy’s Bride, I saw it in theatres when it first came out. An 800-seat first-run house, packed. Everyone stayed to the end. The curtain closed over the screen, the house lights went up, and we all quietly filed out. No one said anything. I guess we all liked Gene Hackman and Liv Ullman. We wanted better for them. We wanted better from them next time. I guess. I’ve never seen it since. I wouldn’t complain if it became a lost film.

  4. I met him in 1967 at the premiere of The War Wagon, just as part of the crowd he shook hands with after the showing. Two years later I was one of the audience members he took a question from after the premiere showing of a True Grit. As I was in one of the aisle seats along the aisle he was moving up to exit, he grabbed my hand and said, “Good question, kid,” and gave me that lop-sided grin of his. Man, he was real. I had asked him why, when it was so hard for him to get his leg out from under his dead horse after Ned Pepper shot it, he could so easily get it out after Glen Campbell shot Pepper. His response, delivered with a good-natured laugh, was “Hell, kid, story point!” He was everything I’d hoped he would be. That’s all you can ask of a childhood hero, LOL!

  5. Stereosteve, that is really a neat story of your meeting John Wayne. What a really good memory for you to have. Thank you for sharing it.

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