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A Great Farewell to a Phenomenal Partnership,
This review is from: Man From Laramie [VHS] (VHS Tape)In the 1950's, James Stewart and director Anthony Mann made eight films together, including five westerns. The first was "Winchester '73", the last was "The Man From Laramie". Every film was a masterpiece. There was always a throughline of theme and plot, and Stewart's character was always a loner with a mean streak who is brought back from the brink by the love of a good woman...or something similar to that...but it didn't matter. These five movies are among the best of the western genre, and "The Man From Laramie" stands tall as one of Stewart's greatest performances.
Stewart comes to a small New Mexico town, ostensibly to deliver goods to the general store, but he's actually an undercover Cavalry officer in search of the man or men who sold the local Apache a load of rifles, which were then used to massacre a Cavalry platoon, among them Stewart's younger brother. His investigation brings him in contact with the town's patriarch and his psychotic son (see "King Lear" and the more recent "Road to Perdition"), and while it seems Stewart is getting sidetracked he's actually on the right road, heading inexorably toward the brutal truth and the vicious need for revenge in his own soul.
Anthony Mann was a major director, he gets great performances from all his actors and the scenery in his movies is always breathtaking. With a great actor like Stewart working (and working hard) for him, Mann could explore the darker aspects of the American western, he could go places the brilliant but "straight" John Ford never thought of going. And Stewart, in dire need to tarnish his All-American Boy routine which was growing old fast, dug into these roles with a gusto actors like DeNiro and Brando would have been afraid to muster. These films made up one of the great collaborations between director and star of all time; and they went out with a bang, a classic confrontation between hard men who know more about their guns and their horses than they'll ever know about themselves that must be on the short list of anybody who wants to swim in the deep and warm waters of the Western.