Ride Lonesome (1958)

Posted on August 14, 2013

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ride-lonesome

Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) is a law man turned bounty hunter.

He arrives at a farmhouse owned by Mrs Carrie Lane (Karen Steele) while she is chatting with Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and White (James Coburn). Ben has a prisoner, Billy John (James Best).

He then convinces Mrs Lane to accompany them back to town, because Billy John’s brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) will be looking for Billy John, and won’t treat her gently. Sam and White agree to go along.

What follows is a suspenseful ride across rugged territory while relationships change and loyalties and characters are revealed.

Short Verdict

If you think Westerns were cookie-cutter “horse operas” with shallow characters and silly bar brawls, if you think Westerns are strictly guy-movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this and see otherwise.

Just don’t let the period marketing throw you.

Longer Review

I have a confession to make.

I grew up on Westerns, but all the ones that I saw were on television, and TV tended to show either John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movies – and usually the same ones over and over again.

All I knew about Randolph Scott was that one joke in Blazing Saddles.

I knew about legendary directors like Sergio Leone, Howard Hawks, and John Ford. I had heard of Sam Peckinpah, but TV didn’t show movies like The Wild Bunch or Ride the High Country (also with Randolph Scott, and the great Joel McRea).

I’ve since seen both, of course, because I own a Sam Peckinpah boxed set.

I had never heard of Budd Boetticher, who directed Ride Lonesome.

Oh, boy, was I missing out.

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I’ve since watched The Tall T (Randolph Scott, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Henry Silva), Red Ball Express, several episodes of the old Maverick TV series (with James Garner, Roger Moore, and Jack Kelly), and Seven Men from Now (Randolph Scott, again, and Lee Marvin).

Budd Boetticher accomplishes the very difficult task of making his direction invisible. Some movies are so highly stylized that you are constantly conscious of the direction. Rarely, with a director like Robert Altman, that’s part of the style and purposeful. Mostly it’s annoying. Boetticher avoids that.

Randolph Scott brings dignity and humanity to his role as Ben Brigade. There are reasons for why Ben does what he does, and is the way he is. Some of the credit for that has to go to veteran writer Burt Kennedy, but Scott brings Brigade to life in a way no other actor could.

Aside

Part of the fun for me in watching and discovering old movies and TV shows is getting to see stars before they were stars.

Pernell Roberts had not yet started his run on Bonanza when Ride Lonesome filmed.

Ride Lonesome (1959)

It would be another year after this film released before James Coburn leaped to fame in The Magnificent Seven.

Lee Van Cleef was six years from teaming up with Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone in For a Few Dollars More.

When you watch Ride Lonesome, you can tell that all three were on their way up.

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Conclusion

The relationship between Brigade and Lane is not inevitable by any means. It unfolds naturally as she gets to know him. For his part, Brigade won’t let himself feel anything for her. Not until he gets his job done.

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Part chase movie, part love story, and all Western, Ride Lonesome is worth your time.

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Posted in: Movies