Jubal (1956)

THE SOMETIMES VIOLENT STORY OF A DRIFTIN' COWHAND!

Jubal Troop is a cowboy who is found in a weakened condition, without a horse. He is given shelter at Shep Horgan's large ranch, where he quickly makes an enemy in foreman Pinky, a cattleman who accuses Jubal of carrying the smell of sheep.

You know, sometimes I think it's givin' the good Lord the worst of it to say he invented people.
Jubal is directed by Delmer Daves and adapted by Daves and Russell S. Hughes from the Paul Wellman novel Jubal Troop. It stars Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, Charles Bronson, Valerie French & Felicia Farr. David Raksin scores the music and Charles Lawton Jr. is the cinematographer. Out of Columbia Pictures it's a CinemaScope/Technicolor production, and location for the shoot is Jackson Hole, The Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA.
Jubal Troop (Ford) is found exhausted out on the range and given shelter at a nearby ranch owned by Shep Horgan (Borgnine). Shep oversees Jubal's recovery and offers him a job as part of his ranch team. This is met with objection by Shep's leading man Pinky (Steiger), but Shep is undeterred and Jubal goes on to prove his worth in the position. Shep and Jubal get on great, but trouble is brewing because Shep's pretty Canadian wife Mae (French) has taken quite a shine to Jubal. This further enrages Pinky and a hornets nest is stirred, spelling trouble for practically everyone.
Delmer Daves' (Dark Passage/Broken Arrow) Jubal is often likened to William Shakespeare's Othello, that's something that, whilst being flattering, is best ignored. For Jubal, and its makers, deserve credit in their own right for producing such a tight, tense, adult Western. It's a film that's driven by characters who are caught in a web of jealousy and suppressed emotions, with the underrated Daves bringing some psychological dimensions into the narrative. He's also a director who knows that such a story benefits greatly by not including action and violence just for the sake of upping the tempo. He paces this film to precision, winding up the tension to breaking point, then to unleash all the pent up fury on the viewers - and even then he (correctly) chooses to keep some critical moments off the screen, gaining results far better than if stuff had actually been shown the audience (two shots in the finale are stupendously memorable).
This griping human drama is played out in front of magnificent scenery, where Daves and Lawton Jr. (3:10 to Yuma/Comanche Station) utilise the CinemaScope and Technicolor facilities to their maximum potential, filling the widescreen frame with majestic mountains,vibrant slanted forests and rolling grassy hills. The Grand Tetons location had previously been used in other notable Western movies such as The Big Trail, The Big Sky and famously for George Stevens' Shane, while post Jubal it served as a considerable purpose for Dances with Wolves. All of this grandeur for the eyes is boosted by Raksin's (Laura/Fallen Angel) score, with gentle swirls for the tender Jubal/Naomi thread and rushes for the posse sequences, it's an arrangement very at one with the mood and tempo of the story.
The cast list oozes star power and gets performances to match. Ford is a master at roles calling for underplayed intensity, and that's exactly what he gives Jubal Troop. Keeping the characters' cards close to his chest in the beginning, Ford pitches it perfect as the emotionally bottled up drifter. Borgnine, a year after his Oscar win for Marty, is perfect foil to Ford's calmness, he's in turn big and boisterous, often crude, yet under the bluster is a sweet and honest man. And there in the middle of the three men is Steiger bringing the method. Pinky is brooding, devious and one pulse beat away from being psychotic, but Steiger, with a menacing drawl flowing out of his mouth, is creepily mannered. Steiger and Daves clashed over how to play Pinky, the director wanting something more akin to Ford's serene like role play, but Steiger wanted it played bitter and coiled spring like - the actor getting his way when producer William Fadiman sided with him.
Valerie French (Decision at Sundown) looks beautiful in Technicolor, and in spite of an accent problem, does a neat line in how to play a smoldering fuse in a box of fire crackers. Felicia Farr (The Last Wagon) is the polar opposite, religiously comely and virginal, she's a touch underused but the play off with French impacts well in the story. Key support goes to Charles Bronson (The Magnificent Seven) as Reb, loyal friend to Jubal. Played with laid back machismo, it's something of what would become the trademark Bronson performance. Other notables in the support cast are the always value for money Noah Beery Jr. (Wagons West), John Dierkes (The Hanging Tree) and Jack Elam (The Man From Laramie).
Damn fine film that's worthy of being sought out by those interested in the best of the 1950s slew of Adult Westerns. 8.5/10

Columbia Pictures by Delmer Daves, Russell S. Hughes, Paul Wellman.
Stars: Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, Valerie French.

Genres: Drama, Romance, Western

Keywords: ranger shootout wagon train

02/25/1956

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