Monday, November 21, 2011

#462. The Furies (1950)

Directed By: Anthony Mann

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Walter Huston

Trivia:  This was Walter Huston's final film

The Furies was shot entirely in black and white; but then it couldn’t have been done any other way. With its brooding story and dark, complex characters, there wasn't a color in the spectrum that could have penetrated this film. 

The year is 1870; the setting, New Mexico. T.C. Jeffords (Walter Huston, in his final screen appearance) is a former cattle baron whose wealth helped him build an enormous ranch, which he named the Furies. His daughter, Vance (Barbara Stanwyck), has a lot in common with her father, including his love of the Furies. 

T.C. has fallen on hard times, and owes money all over the territory. He has promised to turn the ranch over to Vance one day, convinced she is the only person capable of running it the way it needs to be run. But a love of the Furies isn’t the only thing father and daughter share; both are headstrong, and clash over everything from potential husbands for Vance to how to handle the squatters that have, for years, been trespassing on their land. 

When T.C. openly rejects a series of suitors for Vance, the stage is set for a face-off that ultimately threatens to destroy not only their relationship, but the Furies as well. 

Huston and Stanwyck are stellar as T.C. and Vance, two individuals so incredibly alike, sharing the same boisterous, egotistical personality, that their falling out was inevitable. At the wedding reception for T.C’s son, Clay (John Bromfield), who has always taken a back seat to his more ambitious sister, a rival of T.C.'s named Darrow (Wendell Corey) turns up. T.C, who had shot and killed Darrow’s father years earlier, insults Darrow and orders him to leave, at which point Vance turns to their unwanted ‘guest’ and asks him to dance. Before long, Darrow and Vance are dating, and even talking of marriage. It’s an open challenge to T.C., who earlier had presented Vance with a dowry of $50,000, which he promised to turn over only if he approved of her choice of husband. Less a courtship than a showdown between father and daughter, it is the first in what will become a series of standoffs between the two. 

There aren't many likeable characters in The Furies, and while we do feel a certain degree of sympathy for T.C. and Vance, these feelings shift back and forth between the two, never once coming to rest on both at the same time. T.C. and Vance loom over the film like a dark cloud, in much the same way they hang over the Furies ranch and everyone who resides within it. 

From the moment we meet T.C. and Vance, we sense a storm is brewing, and heaven help anyone caught in the middle of it.

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