Appreciating Glenn Ford
THANK you, Susan King, for an insightful and an accurate description of “3:10 to Yuma” and the skills of all involved [“A Timeless ‘3:10 to Yuma,’ ” Aug. 26]. She refers to Glenn Ford as an underrated actor. How true. He was also the most versatile of his generation. Westerns, dramas, comedies or as a leading man, you completely believed every character he played. Her column triggered in me memories of a film I saw 50 years ago in a smoke-filled cinema in Cairo, Egypt. To this day, I still hum the theme song.
Would Susan King think a little bit about the use of the word “darker”? Yes, it does apply in some specific cases and in certain ways, but I think the word that really applies (after her opening sentence, which is absolutely right) is “mature.” Given its rich potential, it would be childish to want the western genre to tell stories in simple black and white terms. But it didn’t really take that step into maturity until 1946, except for “Stagecoach,” of course.
“Darker” implies some pessimistic vision that doesn’t adequately describe any of the great films to which she alludes -- those of Ford, Mann, Boetticher, Daves. The characters and situations are complex, and the villains and heroes have far more dimension and may indeed have a sympathetic side. These mature westerns are always highly moral, even spiritual.
Lucas is a film writer whose work has been included in the anthologies “The Western Reader,” “The Film Comedy Reader” and “The Science-Fiction Film Reader.” He wrote a monograph on John Ford for a 1995 retrospective at the Cannes Film Festival.