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A band of outlaws, led by tough, gruff Stretch (Peck) find themselves knocking at death?s door after becoming lost in the treacherous western Badlands ? only to find their salvation in a lonesome town called Yellow Sky, where the only inhabitants are a doddering old man and his mysterious, alluring daughter. But their deliverance from danger is short-lived when the gang discovers a fateful secret hidden within the dusty, rotting walls of this ghost town ? one that will turn brother against brother in a desperate battle to the death!
Story's pretty good, too. Seven men led by Gregory Peck ride into a small Southwest town, wet their whistles at the saloon, then hold up the bank with a minimum of fuss. Escaping should be a cinch, except for a troop of cavalry who reduce their number to six and watch the survivors ride off into a desert they probably won't live to cross. Unexpected salvation looms in the form of Yellow Sky, a ghost town where the bandits find water, an old man (James Barton) and his tomboy granddaughter (Anne Baxter)--and the tempting rumor of gold. That's when the real trouble starts. The criminal partnership is severely strained by greed, several varieties of lust (for the girl as well as the treasure), the troublesome onset of conscience in some breasts and its total absence from others--notably Richard Widmark's.
Yellow Sky re-teams director William A. Wellman and writer-producer Lamar Trotti, who five years earlier had made The Ox-Bow Incident, an authentic but rather pretentious Western classic. Yellow Sky's opening scene is all but lifted from Ox-Bow (along with two character actors), but this time around, Wellman eschews self-importance and just concentrates on spinning a gritty yarn (from a novel by W.R. Burnett). Apart from sequences shot in Death Valley, the principal location is Yellow Sky itself, a grand ruin set against the timeless backdrop of the Alabama Hills. And oh yes, the man responsible for those awesome whites, blacks, and silver-grays is Joe MacDonald, the cinematographer of My Darling Clementine. --Richard T. Jameson
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It is a movie made during the years when Hollywood still knew how to make a decent western. I've been watching westerns from the 30's and 40's on the Western Channel lately, and have come to believe most of the better ones were made during those years.
Yellow Sky has a great feel to it, I read alot on the west, too, and everything in this movie has a touch of realism to it. One of the best parts of the movie is the trip across the alkalai flats prior to reaching Yellow Sky. They barely make it. But make it they do, and instead of being thankful for that alone with stolen bank money in their pockets, their greed returns to try to take the old man and "Mike's" gold.
But Yellow Sky is much more than a movie, it is just plain, flat out, good entertainment. Part of that comes from the solid cast contributing to the movie, and though it would have been great to have it shot in color, the starkness of black and white adds to the overall affect. As another reviewer says it is as good as Luke Short's STATION WEST, or numerous others such as MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, or TALL IN THE SADDLE.
If you have any interest in the older black and white westerns you cannot miss this one. And as is true prior to the later 1950's, the white hats win out in this one. No suffering, anti-hero in this movie; not much of a moral message here either, other than it is better to be good, than bad. Or pay for a woman's hat when you appropriate one for your best gal!
Peck plays the leader of a band of outlaws who happen upon the seemingly deserted ghost town of Yellow Sky. As it turns out,the town does have two citizens, a prospector and his granddaughter. Figuring that the two have a stash of gold, the gang plans to rob the two, until Peck falls for the granddaughter, which pits Peck against his old gang, now led by Richard Widmark.
The scenes with Peck and the granddaughter, played by Anne Baxter, are marvelous. Widmark plays his typical sinister and shady desperado with aplomb, and the rest of the cast, including Harry Morgan and John Russell,
Check out Yellow Sky if you love good old B&W westerns. You won't be disappointed!
James Dawson (Gregory Peck) leads a gang of bank robbers, a gang that includes Dude (Richard Widmark), a gambler with a bad lung, a taste for white shirts and a love of gold. It's a couple of years after the Civil War. They rob a bank and ride out of town with the money but find themselves pursued by a cavalry troop. Their only chance at escape is to head out over the salt plains, where it's deadly hot, there's no water and men and horses usually die. Half dead they manage to cross and find themselves in Yellow Sky, a broken-down ghost town filled with rolling brush and dust. They encounter the only people who live there, Mike (Anne Baxter), a tomboy who can shoot as well as most of the gang, and her aging grandfather (James Barton), an old miner. It doesn't take long for the gang to figure out that Grampa and Mike have been quietly mining and stashing away gold.
And that's the set-up. Dawson and the gang want the gold and will take it, but Dawson is prepared to share it with Mike and Grampa. Dude is willing to go along...until he has an opportunity to take all the gold for himself. And the rest of the gang? There's Lengthy (John Russell), mean and aggressive who plans to have his share of the gold as well as having Mike; Bull Run (Robert Arthur), a kid who may be too sentimental for his own good; Walrus (Charles Kemper), usually good-natured, not too smart and willing to follow along; and Half Pint (Henry Morgan), maybe he's okay, maybe not, but he's not one to break things up.
Before long Dawson realizes that Mike is someone special. He remembers that he wasn't always a bankrobber. But by then, in this blazing hot ghost town, it's Dude and the gang against Dawson, with Mike using her rifle to back Dawson. The resolution, which started as a good guy versus bad guy drama, ends up as a good guy versus bad guy versus bad guy shootout in the dark, deserted, broken-down saloon. Wellman plays it so we see no action inside, only Dawson walking in, then two or three gunshots and powder flashes. The movie ends with some good-natured bank robbery redemption on the part of Dawson, and a nice mixture of doubt at first by Mike and then trust.
The movie was shot in Death Valley and looks it. There is no shade, just burning hot boulders, dirt, dust and sand and the falling-apart buildings that were Yellow Sky. What makes this movie such a pleasure to watch is that Wellman knows his business. There are no false starts, unnecessary emotional anguish, over-acting, back stories or meaningful subtexts. Wellman shows us what these people are like, even the gang members, but he shows us just enough to keep the story moving forward. The story, with two attractive leads in Peck and Baxter and one creepy and untrustworthy bad guy (Widmark), is the important element. Wellman was one of the great craftsmen of Hollywood movie making. He was a pro. He directed such varied and excellent movies as Beau Geste, Nothing Sacred, Battleground, The Public Enemy, The Ox Bow Incident and Roxie Hart. Yellow Sky may not be in that category but it is a skillful and satisfying movie.
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