As incongruous as it may sound today, Marlon Brando actually starred in some pretty decent westerns.
Hello, everybody. Your classic movie guys here to say that on Sept. 6, we discussed (in Think You Know Your Westerns? Are You Sure?) some of them including a little-known Brando title that we asked you identify.
To recap, Brando made Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata in 1952, and One Eyed Jacks (which he also directed) nine years later — five years before our unidentified film was made. Much later (in 1976) the actor made Arthur Penn’s The Missouri Breaks with Jack Nicholson.
But the unidentified movie we asked you to name is Joe’s favorite Brando Western.
Joe was working at Universal at the time the film was made. He had read the script, and thought it was one of the best he’d ever encountered. Then he saw the movie! Director Sidney Furie (who was “Hot” at that time) and star Marlon Brando had turned the film into something VERY unlike the original script.
Did you come up with the title of this film?
Answer: The western is 1966’s The Appaloosa, released by Universal Pictures.
Brando costars with John Saxon and Anjanette Comer in a tale of a buffalo hunter whose horse is stolen by a group of bandit nasties. Special bonus: the cast also includes the always reliable Mexican actor, Emilio Fernandez, who would later play the corrupt Mexican general “Mapache” in Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 western The Wild Bunch.
When Appaloosa opened, here’s some of what The New York Times’ critic Bosley Crowther had to say:
An odd sort of Western movie—the sort that consciously combines a fairly conventional he-man story within a format of decorative art—
To be quite blunt about it, it is on the bold, pretentious side. It does radiate rather strongly the kind of glossy pictorial style and the taste for elaborate camera angles that Mr. Furie, born and raised in Canada, used so effectively in his first hit, the London-made “The Ipcress File.” And he does permit Mr. Brando to play an aging saddle tramp with something of the same ostentation he showed in his own previous Western, “One-Eyed Jacks.”
But for all that, there is a fascination — a certain mounting magnetism—in this film about a cowboy whose horse is stolen by a Mexican ranchero and who dares to go alone to get it back, and in doing so gets the fellow’s wife.