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 a brooding story, populated by dark, complex characters, there wasn't a color in the spectrum that could have possibly 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 who used his wealth to construct an enormous ranch, which he named the Furies. His daughter, Vance (Barbara Stanwyck), has a lot in common with her father, including a love of the Furies. T.C., who's fallen on hard times and owes money all over the territory, has promised to turn the ranch over to Vance one day, convinced she's 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 openly 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, one 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 eventual clash was inevitable. At the wedding reception of T.C’s son, Clay (John Bromfield), who's always taken a back seat to his more ambitious sister, a rival of T.C.’s named Darrow (Wendell Corey) unexpectedly turns up. T.C, who had shot and killed Darrow’s father years earlier, insults Darrow and orders him to leave. At that, Vance turns to their unwanted ‘guest’ and asks him to join her in a dance. Before long, Darrow and Vance are seeing each other regularly, 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’s the first in what will become a series of standoffs between them. 

There are very few likeable characters in The Furies, and while we do feel a certain degree of sympathy for T.C. and Vance, it shifts back and forth between the two of them, never once coming to rest on both at the same time. These two are like a dark cloud hanging over the film, in much the same way they hang over the Furies ranch and everyone who resides in it. From the moment we meet T.C. and Vance, it's obvious a storm is brewing, and heaven help anyone who gets caught in the middle of it.

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