Saturday, May 25, 2013

#656: Jubal

(1956, Delmer Daves)

Of the two Daves Western added to the Collection this month, Jubal is both the lesser-known and the lesser. Although the story is rooted in a complex story of jealousy and love that would have, as Criterion mentions, fit right into a Shakespeare tragedy, it's disconnection with core Western themes and an absence of any real social commentary makes it a fairly disposable installment in the genre.

But if the movie doesn't quite measure up to it's follow-up, 3:10 to Yuma, its performances nearly do. Ernest Borgnine and Rod Steiger in particular are really great in secondary roles, but Glenn Ford holds his own in the lead. It's also interesting to see Borgnine and Steiger in the same movie since Borgnine is probably most famous for Marty, the Oscar winning movie in which he played the titular role - a role originated on TV (in a show included in the CC Golden Age of Television boxset) by Rod Steiger.

After watching Ford in these two movies, I definitely see his appeal, but it also cements his place for me as a second tier star. He's unquestionably attractive and his acting chops are there, but he lacks the onscreen presence of the great established stars of his time (e.g. Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant) or even the younger up-and-comers like Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. His performance here is serviceable, but doesn't feel big enough to carry the movie and create a center of gravity for the other characters. In this way, he reminds me of Alan Ladd in Shane, an overrated movie that might have been a true classic with a stronger lead. Jubal isn't that good of a movie, but it might have been more memorable with someone else in the lead role. As it stands it's a solid Western, but it's not much of a surprise that the film has been overlooked until now.

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