One year, one film: 1957 – Forty Guns

A note from Lindsey: I somehow managed to completely forget to publish this post yesterday! (The “One year, one film” series usually appears bi-weekly on Sundays.) I don’t want to push the whole series back by two weeks, so I’m breaking the rules and posting it on a Monday to make up for my flub. Now, on to the good stuff…

One year, one film: 1957

The film:
Forty Guns, dir. Samuel Fuller
Starring Barbara Stanwyck

Rating:
Recommended | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED | Must-See

(Image: westernmovies.fr)

(Image: westernmovies.fr)

It’s about time Ms. Stanwyck makes another appearance in the “One year, one film” series! (Today marks the third Stanwyck film to feature. Previously: The Mad Miss Manton, from 1938, and Meet John Doe, from 1941.) For 1957 I’ve chosen to feature one of my favorite Stanwyck westerns, Forty Guns.

TMP’s favorite actress appears as Jessica Drummond, a hard-working, hard-edged, gun-toting rancher who has amassed a loyal band of cowboys to help her keep rule over the county. When a man named Griff (Barry Sullivan) comes to town looking to arrest one of Jessica’s men, she finds herself falling in love, despite the fact that Griff is her total opposite — devoted to non-violence and justice, rather than power and toughness.

In addition to the talents of its leading lady (who was 49 at the time of production, but continued to do her own stunts!), Forty Guns is a great film for its unique photography, fast-paced action, and cleverly-written dialogue. It is equal parts exciting western and character exploration, delving somewhat into Jessica’s psychology as her journey progresses.

I love Forty Guns, but did the critics of 1957 give it forty thumbs up?

Variety gave a positive review of the film, calling it “a solid piece of entertainment” and praising the triple-threat talents of Samuel Fuller, who produced, wrote, and directed Forty Guns. Stanwyck, for her part, “socks over her role in experienced style.”

Unfortunately, this was the only contemporary review I could dig up on Forty Guns. Modern Screen doesn’t seem to have given it much attention, the only mention from the entire year of 1957 being a little blurb at the bottom of a small feature called “The Success Story of Ruby Stevens, as told by Barbara Stanwyck.” The blurb simply reads: “Barbara Stanwyck can currently be seen in 20th Century Fox’s Forty Guns.” A search of The New York Times archive brings up reviews of Trooper Hook and Crime of Passion, also released in 1957, but none for Forty Guns.

While I don’t think it would be fair to assume from one review that Forty Guns was a win with the audiences and critics of the 1950s, I do very highly recommend that you watch this wonderful, unique western flick. Fans of Stanwyck will adore it, but so should anyone who loves film!

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