ONCE UPON A SCREEN, OUTSPOKEN AND FRECKLED and PAULA’S CINEMA CLUB are the hostesses with the mostesses and for the seventh consecutive year Kellee, Aurora and Paula are hosting their very popular “WHAT A CHARACTER!” BLOGATHON this weekend. You need only click on the banner to the left for the announcement or click on each lady’s name for the contributions of the day.
For those of you who don’t know ~ and I can’t imagine you don’t ~ the “What A Character!” Blogathon covers character actors whose faces are recognizable though their names might not. These are actors whose names usually appear below the title.
I’ve been quite the lazy bones this year in terms of blogging but when I saw the ladies’ announcement I just knew I had to dive in and commit. And who better to dive into but the tall, dark, ruggedly handsome and oh so dangerous…STEPHEN McNALLY.
McNally started his career as an attorney, of all things, but then turned to acting. ( Same thing ya think?! ) His fortunes changed for the better when he changed his screen name from Horace to Stephen. You need a tough cop or a rough cowboy? Get McNally. A stalwart no~nonsense hero or a dirty low~down rat bastard? McNally is your man. You can find him in the gritty city or out where the West begins. I’d say he can be our Average Every Man…not with the blinding looks of a Steve Cochran or Richard Egan ~ ( my friend Wendy said he looks like a hawk ) ~ not quite the beefiness of a Brad Dexter. And McNally most definitely is the better actor. He’s played good guys, but moreso he makes bad guys so interesting to watch. He just looks so damned dangerous. As I IMDB’d him, I see I probably came upon him on the television of the 1970’s. He was quite the working actor appearing in “Police Woman”, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Police Story”, “Get Christie Love”, “The Rockford Files” etc. etc. etc. You can read IMDB to get all the particulars of his career. I’ll talk about him in various films.
I’ll wager you’ve taken a gander at Stephen McNally in your movie~going journey, that is if your eyes strayed from leading men: Jeff Chandler, James Stewart, Sidney Poitier, Richard Egan, Victor Mature or Tyrone Power.
I’m always confused about this in writing: should I refer to the actor by his (her) character’s name, or by their own last name. I tend to use the actor’s own last name so as not to be confused about who is who. ( I admit I get easily confused ). So this is how I’ll tackle it. In this entry, I’ll refer to the characters by the actors’ name. SPOILERS! My post is filled with spoilers, so be forewarned. But I hope I can give you the flavor of this actor with photos, and dialogue and my thoughts interspersed throughout. Hope this paints a picture of him for you:
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“TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN” ( 1956 )
This is James Cagney’s picture all the way, but he shares the scenery with Stephen McNally in “TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN” directed by Robert Wise. Wise is an interesting director, proficient in many genres ~ ( Ghost stories / crime dramas / Musicals: Urban or Romantic / Sci-Fi / Film Noir / War film / Sword & Sandal or Western ) ~ Perhaps so diverse, you can’t get a handle on him. But he has a handle on things, and that’s what counts.
In “Tribute…” frontier justice is swift, especially if you’re miles from the nearest badge~wearing SVU or Criminal Intent Law and Order man. If you steal from Cagney, you’ll be hanged; it’s as simple as that. You just know McNally’ll be up to no good, but for the most part he plays it straight. He’s a horse wrangler on Cagney’s large spread. McNally doesn’t steal from him ( at first ) but he does have a hankering for the “lady” of the house played by Irene Pappas. Cagney has picked her up ( before the film’s start ) from a hurdy gurdy place and allowed her to live with him. McNally keeps pestering her, knowing her from her old days in Cheyenne. He wants her, but she rejects him. Repeatedly. Hard to take no for an answer when one looks as lovely as Pappas…and there are no womenfolk in a 200 vicinity. His wanting her feels sincere and not ( just ) lustful. There’s a young pup ranch hand played by Don Dubbins, with a hankering for Pappas as well. Is she stringing all these guys along: puppy love, a young buck and an old rich geezer?? What goes on down at the olde homestead?
When their paths cross again, Cagney has McNally over a barrel and it shows. Not the tough guy anymore, McNally’s desperate and babbling on the floor of the sweltering plains. Check out the film and you’ll see why. Now, it’s not that McNally does anything above and beyond the call of thespian duty, but I just love watching him. I think he can pour it on when he has to, and if he doesn’t HAVE to, he just is…presenting a living, breathing, believable characterization.
We start out meeting a wide~eyed, young cowpoke ( actor Don Dubbins ) new to the territory who Cagney takes under his wing on the ranch.
…and then we’re immediately introduced to McNally’s character.
McNALLY: “What’ve you been doing in Cheyenne, wrestling with bears?”
CAGNEY: “No, they just smell like bears. And I don’t take to shaving in the middle of the day. What kind of a boss wrangler ARE you?”
McNALLY: “Best in a long line that couldn’t stand your telling them how to do their jobs.”
CAGNEY: “Why do you stay on?”
McNALLY: “My $40 a month and keep, for one thing.”
CAGNEY: “You know, I ain’t got you figured yet McNulty. You act like a man with a lot of ideas. All of them second rate, and not one honorable.”
PAPPAS: “Why do you look at me like that? It’s strange for a woman to be here? I talk funny, is that it?”
PAPPAS: “But I work very hard to learn how to speak your language. And I can write it very good. And with no accent.”
McNALLY: “You take Mr. Rodock here. He’s a mighty rich man. You think that’d make me admire him. No. Those horses don’t come to him because he’s smarter. Just that he got out here earlier.”
DUBBINS: “What’s hanging fever, Mr. McNulty.”
McNALLY: “It’s hanging men, even if they ARE thieves, without trial or jury. It’s a sicknesss. A fella could die of it.”
McNALLY:“You’re scared of Rodock when he goes hanging. Aren’t you sick of him by now?”
McNALLY: “With me Jo, you’d be your own woman. You’d have what you want. You wouldn’t listen to me in Cheyenne.”
PAPPAS: “Mac, you’ll only make trouble for yourself.”
McNALLY:“You don’t seem to understand. He’s not gonna marry you. He don’t love you. Go away. Leave this place. What do you get out of it. Why do you stay?”
PAPPAS: “Because I want to stay. When I was alone and sick and I needed help, he said I could come and live here. And he made no bargain. I was free and I’m still free.”
CAGNEY: “Take that cigareet outta your mouth! You ain’t playing in a hurdy gurdy place now.”
PAPPAS: “I was smoking a cigareet the first time you saw me. And it was in such a place. You told me you loved it. You said it made me look feisty. Do you want me to change?”
CAGNEY: “No. I like you feisty.”
PAPPAS: “Yes I thought so.”
CAGNEY: “You don’t want to change, do you?”
CAGNEY: “Word from Baldy?”
McNALLY: “No, he ain’t come in yet.”
CAGNEY: “What are you doing in here then?”
McNALLY: “Oh I just came by for some hot coffee.”
CAGNEY: “Well, you’re kind of new here, maybe you don’t
know. Cookie keeps a pot boiling all night in the
McNALLY: “The same brand?”
CAGNEY: “Very same. And more of it.”
McNALLY: “Well, I’ll remember that.”
PAPPAS:“Here my good friend. My friend with no patience.”
CAGNEY: “Did you know him in Cheyenne?”
PAPPAS: “My friend who asks questions.”
CAGNEY: “Oh forget it. You wasn’t born the day I met you. And I’m kinda glad you wasn’t.”
Cagney…you think you can handle all that???
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. He’s gotta go out and find his horses even if she doesn’t want him to go. He thinks he knows where they’re at. And somebody’s going to be hanged.
When the rancher’s away, the rats will play. Yeh, it’s McNally. He’s at it again. Always pitching:
“Miss Jo, you look pretty in that outfit.”
“Easy boy. Mr. Rodock has sharp eyes and a quick gun.” But does McNally listen. What the hell do horny ranch hands know.
“I wish McNulty wasn’t in that barn.”
“Steve over there got jealousy pushing out of his teeth.”
PAPPAS: “I told you to leave me alone.”
McNALLY: “Tell me what you want Jo. Anything.
PAPPAS: “Just leave me alone.”
McNALLY: “I’m sorry Jo. I don’t want you this way. I
In the meantime…
Cagney’s got beef with a small rancher who used to be his partner. No more. He thinks his stolen horses are on his land. ( He’d be right! ) My girl, Jeanette Nolan’s in this. I think she’s one of the Queens of Character Actors. Playing her husband is James Bell and their young son, Vic Morrow. Vic Morrow?! Oh boy! Somebody’s going to get a beat down, Daddy-O.
Cagney comes home to sense something has gone on between McNally and Pappas. He can tell McNally’s been sniffing around. It finally gets him in big trouble.
CAGNEY: “McNulty, you’re fired. You can pick up your money at the Cheyenne Post Office.”
McNALLY: “What am I fired for?”
CAGNEY: “You’re leaving right now!”
McNALLY: “I get fired, I always like to know why. Improve myself. I’m The best wrangler you ever had. Break horses gentle. Do my job good. Or, uh, maybe the boss’s scared to have me around. And the fact that his girl–”
CAGNEY: “Get going McNulty before I beat your skull in.”
McNALLY: “Easy Rodock. I don’t like fighting men who–”
CAGNEY: “Don’t worry about that. I fight dirty.”
McNally makes things come to a head with Cagney with one pass too many ( to Pappas, not Cagney! ) and they get into a fight. If I’m being honest with you, I think McNally can best Cagney; I mean, he beat up Charles Bickford in “Johnny Belinda”… but the star system you know. Cagney wins, fires him and throws him off his property.
…And with that, McNally hatches a dastardly scheme with character actor James Griffith as Barjak.
GRIFFITH: “You’re with Rodock.”
McNALLY: “No more. Even if you get away with it, who’d buy ‘em with Rodock’s brand. Would you like to talk about a first~rate idea?”
McNALLY: “Come on.”
In the meantime Cagney ( Rodock ) goes about his business doing what he does. Selling horses he’s bred and raised. Here he is with Roy Engel ( in the middle ) and Charles Anthony Hughes ( on the right ). Trust me, you’ve seen them in everything.
HUGHES: “Mr. Rodock, it’ll be a sad day when horses go out of fashion.”
CAGNEY: “That day ain’t never coming, Mister.”
HUGHES: “Yes, but what about the railroad, Mr. Rodock?”
CAGNEY: “They can’t run railroads through big cities.” ENGEL: “That’s what I’ve tried to tell him.”
CAGNEY: “What would big towns like New York and Chicago do without horses.”
The young pup makes his move, but it really is not meant to be.
DUBBINS: “From the first night I saw you–”
PAPPAS: “I know. You were surprised to see a woman here.”
DUBBINS: “I didn’t dare think of you. Mr. Rodock was a kind of god. I thought I shouldn’t think of you. But he ain’t no more. He’s a hanging man and I do think of you, Jo. I want to go away. I want to make something of myself but not without you.”
PAPPAS: “Oh Steve. You’re so young.”
DUBBINS: “I keep remembering what you told me once. What you wanted: a normal place to live. A normal life. A fella’d be crazy not to fight to get it all for you. Are you laughing at me?”
PAPPAS: “No. No, Steve.”
Dude, I know the feeling.
Cagney catches up with the horse rustlers, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
CAGNEY: “You crippled the mares! You cut their hoofs to the quick.”
DUBBINS: “Cut their hoofs?”
CAGNEY: “Nobody who’d call themselves a man would treat ANY animal like that.”
DUBBINS: “Why’d you do it?”
CAGNEY: “I’ll tell you why Steve. When you cut a horse’s hoof that deep, it hurts him to walk; like sticking a knife blade under your fingernail. That was to keep them from straying. They wanted these mares pegged down in this canyon and the colts would be pegged down the mares while they’re suckling. Then these lice…these LICE, could go off and build themselves an alibi, come back when the colts are weaned and get away with a whole bunch of unbranded Rodock horses. That’s why, Steve. One of McNulty’s real good ideas. Real, real good ones.”
CAGNEY: “McNulty, you’re going to hang.”
McNally does have some kind of heart. He advocates for the kid.
McNALLY: “Rodock, this kid had nothing to do with cutting those horses.”
MORROW:“Leave that be. I ain’t gonna have no one begging him for me.”
CAGNEY: “McNulty, how far do you figure it is, from here to Fort Whitney?”
McNALLY: “It’s a long way.”
CAGNEY: “And for those used to having horses under them, long long walk.”
McNALLY: “Quit playing games, Rodock!”
CAGNEY: “Now you’ll get a chance to know what my horses feel.”
GRIFFITH: “For the sake of God, Mister. We’ll be out of our minds in five miles.”
McNALLY: “Shut up, Barjak! We rolled the dice. Let’s play it out.”
McNally plays the hand he dealt himself. They start the long hike. McNally is taking his punishment like a man ‘cuz at least he’s not getting hanged. He hungrily drinks water during a break in their trek.
CAGNEY: “On your feet, we’re moving.”
MORROW: “Get on your feet Barjak. Get up! Come on! Make ‘em march us right into Fort Whitney. Let them see what Rodock’s done. Get up Barjak.”
CAGNEY: “Good thinking. But it ain’t gonna get your horse.”
MORROW: “Are you really planning to keep this up all the way and then turn us in?”
CAGNEY: “I AM. All the way. Stealing wasn’t enough for ya. Ya had to torture my horses. You’re not only crooked and greedy. You’re cruel.”
MORROW: “You’re the one that’s greedy. And cruel.”
MORROW: “My Pa should’ve killed you twenty year ago.”
No rest for the weary…or for horse thieves.
DUBBINS: “Mr. Rodock, ya gotta stop!”
DUBBINS: “This ain’t punishment, Mr. Rodock. It’s revenge. It ain’t human!”
Barely hangin’ on.
Hot sun. Blistered feet. Thirst. McNally is just about baked while Morrow shows true grit.
CAGNEY: “You two get going. Travel far and fast and stay away from me and where I am, as long as you live. NOW GET GOING!!!”
CAGNEY: “Here’s your boy, Ellie.”
NOLAN: “Lars? LARS!!! NO!”
MORROW: “Don’t stop me Ma.”
NOLAN: “There’ll be no more killing.”
MORROW: “You don’t know what he done. He had us-”
NOLAN: “I know what YOU were doing. And I know he brought you back alive and that’s enough. I don’t hold nothing against you, Jeremy. And I want to thank you for bringing Lars back to me.”
CAGNEY: “Ellie, I asked you once to get out of this country. Go East. Take the boy with you.”
MORROW: “I’m not leaving!”
CAGNEY: “I should have remembered what he was like, the boy I put up on his first horse. Well, if you’re set on staying, I’ve got a bunch of mares and colts I’ll send over. And Lars can–”
MORROW: “I don’t want ‘em. You think that’ll make up for what you done to me and my Pa?! Sure, my Pa was weak and you’re strong, but you could’ve carried him. Well you learn I ain’t weak. I carry myself. I’ll take the blizzards and I’ll take the hard work and I’ll raise me my own breed of horses. Now, GET OUT!”
CAGNEY: “Sorry you’re so hard, boy.”
MORROW: “I learned from you.”
CAGNEY: “Well then I’m sorry for both of us.”
All’s well that ends well? I’m not so sure about that. I think McNally got off easy after what he’s done to those horses. But I think some very hard lessons were learned by both Cagney and McNally. One can only hope they both live out their lives as though they’ve learned them.
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“VIOLENT SATURDAY” ( 1955 )
“VIOLENT SATURDAY” isn’t a film noirish bank heist movie like the hard core “The Killing” or “The Asphalt Jungle”; it has a bit more drama in the stories behind the characters in the film. It’s a tad “Peyton Place”~like with intersecting little dramas between characters. Now as McNally goes, he’s not the McNalliest I’ve ever seen him be in this film. He’s no snarling rabid bad guy. ( That comes in “Split Second” where he’d kill you as soon as look at you ). As bad guys go, in “Violent Saturday” he’s pulling off the heist…but he’s a pretty subdued bad guy. He’s laying back in the cut. He doesn’t rip anyone’s head off. In fact, he plays the affable businessman when he first arrives in town. He’s still a danger because after all, he’s Stephen McNally. There is NO doubt he is firmly in charge. But nothing over the top. Others have more to say and do than he does in the movie. But what can I say…I like him in this one.
Just an affable guy. He can play nice when he wants. It’s not that he does anything distinguishably thespian; sometimes you just gotta be a guy in a suit and a tie. He can do it. Here he is with actor Ralph Dumke:
McNALLY: “Hello there.”
DUMKE: “Well hello. Glad to have you back with us.”
McNALLY: “Thanks. Hope business will be better.”
DUMKE: “Can’t expect too much on your second trip.”
McNALLY: “Try telling my boss.”
DUMKE: “Costume jewelry oughta go good now; more people working. New factory opened up last week. Men’s pajamas.”
McNALLY: “That makes Bradenville a three~horse town now: farming, copper and men’s pajamas.”
DUMKE: “I’ve gotta remember that for my Missus. You know she was crazy about those earrings you gave me.”
McNALLY: “Glad she liked ‘em.”
He cases the joint.
Here are McNally’s accomplices.
J. Carroll Naish is a man of few words. He’s like Doc in “The Asphalt Jungle.” Lee Marvin has a contemplative moment ( about skinny dames?! His words, not mine ) while McNally listens.
But he is the muscle, the stooge. A sadistic stooge. An accidental nudge by a child makes Marvin step down on his hand. Hard. Lee Marvin…always gotta be a jerk.
But it seems every one in town has issues that intersect with each other. It’s a mini~Peyton Place. Richard Egan, gets drunk because his wife plays around
EGAN: “Do you know any place else I can look for my wife?”
His Wife ( Margaret Hayes ) plays around with golf pro, man about town ( Brad Dexter ).
DEXTER: “I never could figure out why you bother playing golf. You don’t like the game.”
HAYES: “I look good in sweaters.”
DEXTER: “Still mad?”
HAYES: “You know what’s the matter with you Gil? You’re rich, eligible and you like yourself. And because those little hunky waitresses from the other side of the town think you’re hot stuff, you believe it. Well you’re not. You’re everything and nothing.”
HAYES: “Why don’t you give up. Get a wife of your own. Stop trying to make love to everybody else’s.”
Egan has an innocent flirtation with the Nurse ( Virginia Leith ) because he is thirsty for attention. She has a stalker, who is also the town banker.
Sylvia Sidney, the librarian who needs money and steals a purse for the cash.
The banker ( Tommy Noonan ) is trying to attach her salary… which doesn’t stop his stalking.
SIDNEY: “When your wife’s at home asleep, you sneak out and watch that girl undress! You’re disgusting!”
But Victor Mature, by far, has the worst problems because his son is ashamed of him.
“Look Stevie. All I wanna show you is, you have no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed by anything I did during the war. You see Stevie, all of us can’t win medals. There’re many many different ways to fight a war…every Dad wants to be a hero to his son. Some of us just don’t make it, that’s all.”
…And because his wife ( Dorothy Hart ) and kid are in the bank when it’s robbed.
( Don’t take candy from strangers kid, unless you’re with your Mom…in a bank…that’s getting robbed ).
NAISH: “Shove those in your kisser son and go back there and suck on ‘em.”
KID: “Thank you.”
NAISH: “You’re welcome.”
Oh…and he gets kidnapped by the bad guys.
MATURE: “Why don’t you take the car and let me out?”
McNALLY: “Don’t teach me my business, Mister.”
Not to mention stuck with Amish people ( Ernest Borgnine ) whose ‘love thy neighbor’ schpiel is a big help when they’re all trapped. Borgnine as an Amish man. Whew! As far away as you can get from Marty or Fatso Judson.
Stephen McNally hasn’t done anything spectacularly evil in this role but he’s in charge, and holds his own throughout the drama…until things fall apart at the end.
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“CRISS CROSS” ( 1949 )
In the 1949 Robert Siodmak film noir classic, “CRISS CROSS” Stephen McNally plays a sympathetic cop and a better friend a guy couldn’t have than with the character McNally plays in this film. Peter Ramirez ( McNally ) is friends with Burt Lancaster’s character Steve Thompson. McNally is very protective of Lancaster. He shows up several times in the movie to help him, bail him out.
But Lancaster wants no parts of old friend’s help. Lancaster can’t see straight because he’s jonesing on Anna ( played by the sultry Yvonne De Carlo ).
Can you blame him?
McNally’s thing is to try to get his friend to avoid trouble. I’ll lay you odds how THAT will work out.
McNALLY: “Why don’t you go outside Steve and find some other place down the street?”
LANCASTER: “What’s the matter with this place, Lieutenant?”
McNALLY: “Pete. The name is Pete. I’m your friend, believe me. You know what’s the matter with this place.”
LANCASTER: “He’s giving a farewell party isn’t he? I just came in to say goodbye.”
McNALLY: “He didn’t invite you.”
LANCASTER: “The way you know everything.”
McNALLY: “Look, they’re going to Detroit. Let them go. Be intelligent. Stay out of this. Stay outta trouble.”
LANCASTER: “Why should there be any trouble?”
McNALLY: “Awww who’s kidding who? You walk in there, two minutes later you’ll start swinging.”
LANCASTER: “The way you know everything. The way you got it all figured out.”
McNALLY: “There’ll be a fight.”
LANCASTER: “You gonna pull me in? You gonna send me up too?”
McNALLY: “Alright forget it. Just excuse me for getting nosy.”
LANCASTER: “That’s alright Lieutenant. That’s your business.”
Like I said…Yvonne De Carlo.
So whaddya gonna do when you can’t talk a friend outta doin’ sumthin’ dumb. You go back to drinkin’. But you can see he’s hurt when the bartender says:
PERCY HELTON:“Hey, I thought Mr. Thompson was a friend of yours.”
McNALLY:“Awww let them punch their heads off. I give it up. I don’t care anymore.”
But he does care.
( Yeah, THAT Percy Helton! And he was excellent in this film. He won’t skeeve you out in this movie. He’s even~keeled with sage advice. The barfly always in the background with the concerned look is Joan Miller. )
But when a stoolie gives him a hot tip that there’s going to be trouble, it gives McNally permission to be a cop and NOT a friend. He walks into a room full of tough guys headed by the one and only 1940’s rat…Dan Duryea. He doesn’t have to start swinging or shooting, he just asks questions. Watch him. He’s confident…unafraid, and casually asks cop questions.
[ Click foto for character actor names ]
McNally’s impact as Pete the cop is also felt when he’s NOT on screen. De Carlo recounts to Lancaster getting muscled by his friend. We can leave it to our imagination how he approached her. He thinks she’s no good from waaaaay back.
De CARLO: “…Your mother, your brother, your whole family. And your lovely friend Ramirez.”
De CARLO: “You didn’t know.”
LANCASTER: “What’d he do?”
De CARLO: “Told me to stay away from you. He was afraid I was poisonous. He told me to get out of Los Angeles and stay out!”
LANCASTER: “How could he do that?”
De CARLO: “He said if I didn’t he’d run me in, every time he saw me. He said he’d frame me.”
De CARLO:“That’s right. Send me to jail, to the women’s prison in Tehachapi. He wanted me up there with the rest of them. My hair cut short, wearing striped cotton, digging potatoes and working in a factory.”
LANCASTER: “I don’t believe ya.”
De CARLO: “Ask him. Go and ask him. He brought me down to headquarters, sent two men in plain clothes.’ LANCASTER: “Why didn’ you come to me?”
De CARLO: “ ‘Cuz I was sick and tired of running after you all the time!”
Lancaster’s got two people in his corner, but listens to neither one of them.
Lancaster is allllll messed up. He’s tight and belligerent at the bar. Bartender Percy calls McNally ~ once again ~ to diffuse the situation. Ha! To diffuse Lancaster. Drunk, Lancaster takes a swing at McNally who deftly avoids the blow, leaving Lancaster flat on the floor. He does not want to be rescued. Saps and big lugs cannot be rescued in film noir.
“Yeah, I got it all figured out. You’re no crook Steve. You weren’t born for a hold-up. I don’t get it. How did she get you in on this deal? What’d she do, make you promises? Were you gonna run away together? What kind of a stunt did they pull on you anyway? Did they get you into a tight corner where there was no other way out? Tell the truth, Steve.”
McNally tries one last time to offer sound advice. He’s friends with the family. He doesn’t take advantage of his drunk friend. But nothing penetrates. De Carlo is under Lancaster’s skin. McNally tries…gives it the good ol’ college try. Gives it the ‘knowing-the-family-since-we-was-kids’ try. He’s a nice guy in this film. I hope you watch the film and sees how it all unravels for Lancaster. In their last scene together, I think now…NOW McNally realizes he will never reach him.
“I should have been a better friend. I should have stumped you. I should’ve grabbed you by the neck. I should’ve kicked your teeth in. I’m sorry Steve. I’m sorry.”
Like I said…saps and big lugs cannot be rescued in film noir. It’s the Law.
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“WINCHESTER ’73” ( 1950 )
DUTCH HENRY BROWN
Staring down the barrel of Stephen McNally’s gaze.
I know John Ford is the King of the Westerns, but Anthony Mann is not chopped liver either. Yes, he’s a film noir and police procedural guy with films like “Raw Deal” “Railroaded!” “Side Street” “T-Men” but he’s no tenderfoot out where the west was won: “The Furies” ~ “Bend of the River” ~ “The Naked Spur” ~ “The Far Country” etc., etc., etc..
“WINCHESTER ‘73” marks Mann’s first association with the affable, romantic comedy star James Stewart as a rough and tumble Western hero. The film is chockfull of character actors, and I’ll point ‘em out as we come across them. But my main focus is on the dastardly Stephen McNally. He is one bad hombre in this film. He’s just not a likeable guy. He’s quick~tempered, taunting and a sore loser. In “Winchester ‘73” the famed rifle goes through many hands. I guess this is IT’s story. Only one man wins it, earns it in a shooting contest. When the rifle is stolen…the hunt for it takes Stewart and his friend and sidekick ‘High Spade’ on an adventure. High Spade is played by character actor Millard Mitchell (who repeats the sidekick role in “The Naked Spur”). He’s got such a true and authentic persona in whatever he plays.
When a man draws on you immediately, you know he’s done something wrong. But Neither Stewart or McNally have their guns on them. That realization lets McNally go from scared or startled to mocking confidence.
GEER: “That’s Dutch Henry Brown. I thought you said you didn’t know him?”
STEWART: “I said I didn’t recall the name.”
All guns in town have been confiscated by Wyatt Earp played by the most unlikely casting of Will Geer. He does a decent authoritative job in the role.
No one can stare ya down with contempt like Stephen McNally. Side-Eye.
He’s got two saddle tramps with him as part of his gang; actors Steve Brodie ( of “Out of the Past” fame ) and James Millican. They do follow him not out of a sense of friendship and loyalty, but because of a big heist they’re going to pull off. Uneasy lies the friendship of a man with a hair trigger temper. It’s not that they fear him exactly, but they are wary.
Got Milk? McNally taunts Stewart by ordering a glass of milk for him. Stewart is not amused.
The shooting competition commences and McNally and Stewart vie for the sleek and deadly Winchester ‘73. McNally doesn’t care where he points that thing.
GEER: “You call it luck or you come by it natural?”
STEWART: “Let’s just say I learned from a good man.”
GEER: “Looks like you fellas might’ve learned from the same man.”
STEWART: “He taught quite a few folks how to shoot. The only trouble was he taught ‘em how, but he didn’t teach ‘em WHAT to shoot at.”
McNALLY: “Maybe he figured a man should know that, without telling him.”
STEWART: “That was his big mistake. He lived just long enough to find it out.”
The two men are evenly matched, so McNally does have skillz.
GEER: “Looks like another miss.”
STEWART: “I wouldn’t want to say you’re wrong Marshal, but I didn’t miss it.”
GEER: “I don’t see any mark, except maybe this scratch on the inside rim.”
STEWART: “That was my mistake, I shot through it.”
McNALLY: “Ya missed it!”
STEWART: “I’ll do it again if you want.”
McNALLY: “You mean you want another shot, is that it?”
STEWART: “No, not exactly.”
Losing fair and square, McNally still wants what he wants and makes his pitch:
McNALLY: “How much will you take for it?”
STEWART: “It’s not for sale.”
McNALLY: “That’s too bad. That’s too much gun for a man to have for shooting rabbits.”
STEWART: “Or for shooting men in the back.”
A fella can be a big man on campus with this repeating rifle. McNally doesn’t take NO for an answer. He wants that gun.
He really is a rat bastard….who now has the Upper Hand.
GEER: “I don’t know what your quarrel was before, but you can add the rifle to it now.”
The three tramps are on the road for a heist they’re going to pull in Tascosa. But first they’ve got to stop and rest at this small outpost to buy some food, guns and…ammo for McNally’s new Winchester.
McNALLY: “What I wouldn’t give for a pocket full of shells.”
MILLICAN: “While you’re at it, dream up a few for me, will ya? And a six-gun to go with it. You know, I ain’t felt so naked since the last time I took a bath.”
BRODIE: “You got a long memory.”
MILLICAN: “Funny man, huh. But I still want a gun.”
McNALLY: “You’ll have one as soon as we get down to Rikers. Maybe he’ll buy you a bath too.”
See, he can crack a joke too. Sort of.
They wind up Riker’s place looking to buy guns and run into an Indian trader played by character actor extraordinaire: John McIntire. Geeez, AGAIN with the stare~down. When McNally looks at a man sizing him up, he looks at him HARD. He’s racist ( but who isn’t in 19th century Cowboys & Indian America ) … and he shows us he has no compunction against killing ANY one if he has to.
McNALLY: “You selling these?”
McNALLY: “You a half-breed?”
McINTIRE: “I’m White. And you haven’t got a gun.”
McNALLY: “That’s right. I’ll buy some of these. I might even get one that was meant to kill a white woman. Or a kid.”
This Winchester ‘73 mesmerizes everyone it meets. See how protective McNally is about it.
McINTIRE: “Yes sir, that’s a real fine gun. Don’t suppose you wanna sell?”
McNALLY: “I’m buying, not selling!”
Unlucky in cards and ( probably ) unlucky ( never the hell EVER been ) in love. I’m a bit nervous in this tense scene. McIntire has suckered McNally by acting like he doesn’t know HOW to play Solitaire and now in poker, he’s a whiz~kid. He talks pretty cavalierly to a man with a hair trigger temper:
McINTIRE: “Three Kings. I’ve heard of Beginner’s Luck but I didn’t know it could be this good. That clean you out?”
MILLICAN: “Well at least we ate.”
BRODIE: “I’m about to give mine back.”
McINTIRE: “I could act like an Indian trader, lower the price, but I won’t. Offer still goes. $300 in gold for your Winchester, whatever you pick.”
He’s lost all his money. McIntire wants to play him for the Winchester. His boys try to talk him out of it. Guess how THAT goes.
And yet again, when things don’t go his way, he takes what he wants. Or at least tries. McNally explodes and is ready to shoot it out. But seems the proprietor of Riker’s has other ideas.
With McNally and his boys sent on their merry thieving way ~ and the rifle in HIS possession now ~ McIntire can do what he does best…some ‘horse trading’ with a young Indian Chief played by that great “Native-American” actor very early in his career: Rock Hudson. ( Hey, it’s 1950…you take the parts you can get at Universal ). Do I have to remind you of the last line in that title card from the beginning of the movie?
Things don’t go according to Hoyle out on the frontier for our Indian trader.
Stewart and Mitchell are still plugging along, following McNally’s trail, just missing him at Riker’s. They get some information and also a bite to eat:
STEWART: “He said he was going to Tascosa, huh?”
ALEXANDER: “To meet up with Waco Johnny Dean, which in any man’s language means trouble. I’d say ‘good riddance.’”
McNally is nothing if not single~minded. He has lost fair and square but that doesn’t matter. He wants ‘his’ gun back and tracks down the Indian Trader. He’ll do what he has to and if that means shooting McIntire in the back from a great distance…so be it:
McNALLY: “There’s $1,000 in gold and my gun.”
[ He shoots down at the Indian trader. ]
MILLICAN: “You missed him.”
McNALLY: “If I did, then he’s dead. That’s the trouble with these old Henrys. Takes them too long to kill. Let’s go down and get a gun that does it, right now.”
MILLICAN: “I don’t think it was a bullet.”
[ They ride down to the campfire. ]
MILLICAN: “I said it wasn’t a bullet.”
BRODIE: “Why do they always scalp when they kill? You’d think they let a man keep his hair.”
There’s no gun…and #POSSESSIONISNINETENTHSOFTHELAW
Riding into our story is Charles Drake and ( meeting her once again ) Shelley Winters, playing a dancehall girl who was run outta Dodge the first five minutes of the movie.
WINTERS: “Is it a pretty place, Steve?”
DRAKE: “Uh huh. The old Jameson place. About forty miles outside of Tascosa.”
WINTERS: “Can we move right in and start living there?”
DRAKE: “Yep. You can.”
WINTERS: “What about you?”
DRAKE: “Well, like I told ya. I gotta meet some fellas. It’ll only take a day or so. Well, it’s a deal.”
WINTERS: “Oh please Steve, please. No more deals. That’s why I worked in Dodge City. That’s why I got the money.”
DRAKE: “That’s what I mean. YOU got the money. Now I gotta get some.”
Surveying the land is Young Bull ( Rock Hudson ) and he spots this little wagon. He gives chase…with his newly acquired Winchester.
He shows his mettle pretty soon when he
runs out, uhhh, rides out to find help. Well…what the heck’d YOU do if a war party of marauding Indians came gunning after you.
Drake does comes back for her and they make for a camp of soldiers. You can’t tell ME Shelley Winters was acting when she had to ride in that wagon she was pretending to drive away from the Indians. She looked scared, for real.
They make it safely to the cavalry and into the arms of another great character actor: Jay C. Flippen.
WINTERS: “Do you mind if I kiss you?”
FLIPPEN: “No ma’am, I’d like it. As long as your man don’t mind.”
WINTERS: “Thank you for saving my life.”
FLIPPEN: “Now you disappoint me. I thought it was because I’m pretty.”
With everyone going to meet up in Tascosa, the 1992 movie “One False Move” comes to mind. We’ll have good guys’ and unsavory characters’ story lines converge in this small town.
STEWART: “Well hello again.”
DRAKE: “You know him?”
STEWART: “Not exactly. We sorta met without talking.”
WINTERS: “He’s the fella I told you about who offered to gun Wyatt Earp for me.”
STEWART: “I didn’t know it was Wyatt Earp.”
MITCHELL: “I don’t like to break up this gab fest, but we make a wonderful target standing here in front of that fire.”
FLIPPEN: “You guys, what are you looking at, Keep your eyes where they belong. Be coming any minute now.”
STEWART: “At night?”
FLIPPEN: “Best time for a raid, ain’t it?”
MITCHELL: “Hope they wait ‘til I have a cup of coffee. Got any working?”
WINTERS: “I’ll get you some.”
Nice quiet talks while waiting for the Indian raid:
FLIPPEN: “One of them Johnny Rebs hung me up on a bannister. Real group of fighting men. Never knew when they were licked. They gave us a real bad time at Shiloh and Bull Run.”
STEWART: “I see you done my chores for me again.”
MITCHELL: “This cavalry. A little on the young side, most of ‘em. What’d you guess for our chances?”
STEWART: “What chances?”
Stewart gives Winters a gun to help during the raid…and–
WINTERS: “I understand about the last one.”
P.S. Shelley can’t shoot worth a damn! They are outnumbered by the Indians but they give as good as they get, especially with these young handsome recruits on the cavalry side:
When the shootin’ is all done, and the Winchester left behind in the heap of dead bodies, we head with Winters and Drake to the little house just forty miles from Tascosa.
THERE HE IS. Dan Duryea. He plays Waco Johnny Dean and has a spectacular entrance, slinking through the door as he’s being chased by a posse; busts in on the joint frightening women and children alike.
WINTERS: “You’re about the lowest thing I’ve ever seen standing on a pair of boots. Why don’t you let this woman outta here! She hasn’t done anything to you. And these kids! You oughta be ashamed to look at them, you two-bit, four-flushing gunslinger.”
Getting yelled at by her don’t bother him none, and then there’s that gun….
…and that woman.
DURYEA: “No bad habits?
WINTERS: “No. Just bad company.”
DURYEA: “Maybe we can change that. I’m a likeable person when you get to know me.”
WINTERS: “Are you?”
DURYEA: “And you’re a whole lotta woman. Too much woman for a—”
[ INTERRUPTED BY A GANG MEMBER ] ~ L’il Abner!!!
HIM! You know him!! He’s in “HIS GIRL FRIDAY.”
DURYEA: “What was I saying?”
WINTERS: “You were talking about yourself.”
DURYEA: “Where did I stop?”
WINTERS: “You didn’t, but you can now. I already know about Johnny Dean, the fastest gun in Texas.”
DURYEA: “Texas? Lady why limit me?”
Again I like this scene for the friendship between these two men where Mitchell gives Stewart food for thought:
MITCHELL: “You ever wonder what he’d think, you hunting down Dutch Henry?”
STEWART: “He’d understand, he taught me to hunt”
MITCHELL: “Not men. Hunting for food, that’s alright.” Hunting a man to kill him? You’re beginning to like it.”
STEWART: “That’s where you’re wrong. I don’t like it. Some things a man has to do so he does it.”
MITCHELL: “What happens when the hunt is over? Then what?”
STEWART: “Haven’t given it much thought….You’ve been real fine people High Spade, riding along with me.”
MITCHELL: “That’s what friends is for, isn’t it? Least ways, that’s the way your Dad always said it.” STEWART: “Yeah he did, didn’t he. He said if a man had one friend, he was rich. I’m rich.”
0h It Hits the Fan Alright ~ I was very nervous when these two meet b’cuz their own screen personas scream ‘Crazy Meets Dangerous’. ( They previously appeared together in “Criss Cross” ). Duryea plays a cad, a heel and McNally, I’ve seen just all out badass. And the Winchester brings them together…THIS is gonna be good!!
MILLICAN: “Hey, he’s got a woman with him.”
MCNALLY: “Maybe that’s what kept him. As though I didn’t know.”
BRODIE: “Sometimes I think he’s a little on the crazy side.”
MILLICAN: “Yeah, so do I. But I think quiet.”
McNALLY: “Where did you get my gun?”
DURYEA: “YOUR gun? Well this was given to me by a very dear friend.”
McNALLY: “It’s my gun and I want it.”
DURYEA: “And if you don’t get it?”
McNALLY: “Do you want in on this Tascosa deal?”
DURYEA: “I didn’t ride out here to pick blueberries.”
McNALLY: “Then I’ll say it again. That’s MY GUN!”
McNally ain’t trusting no dames either. He’s just a badass hardcore badass:
McNALLY: “Take a walk. You hear what I said. Take a walk.”
DURYEA: “She’s doing swell right where she is. Now, uhh, what happens at Tragilla?”
DURYEA: “He doesn’t like you.”
WINTERS: “Well don’t tell him now, but I don’t like him.”
McNALLY: “Get smart and I’ll crack you across the ear.”
It all happens here:
The bank heist turns into a shit~storm of confusion and gunfire and death. And while others fall, McNally escapes…with Jimmy Stewart hot on his trail. This thing will get settled one way or the other.
And neither man will back down.
♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
“JOHNNY BELINDA” ( 1948 )
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen “JOHNNY BELINDA.” Why? I dunno. The poignancy of it is a mood I must prepare myself for. Since discussing Stephen McNally’s performances, I knew I had to get this in there. But I avoided it until the end because McNally’s Locky McLaughlin is such a son of a bitch.
It’s Max Steiner’s music sweet and soft that just tugs my heartstrings and kills me. I guess he’s the master of all the masters though I can’t and won’t choose between him and my beloved Bernard Herrmann. Director Jean Negulesco is not the first name that jumps to mind with us classic film buffs, but you know him if you’ve ever seen: “Nobody Lives Forever” “Humoresque” “Deep Valley” “Road House” “Three Came Home” “Titanic” “How to Marry A Millionaire” “The Best of Everything.” See…you know him. Jerry Wald produced this very well~told tale and Negulesco is given a cast who is perfection.
We start in a little fishing village in Nova Scotia.
Stephen McNally has a good bit of screen time for the first twenty-minutes of the movie. We follow his character, get to know him and he is a thoroughly surly lot. We can see he hates his job, causes a man’s accident and is NOT at all remorseful about that.
He’s a ladies’ man, apparently playing with other men’s ladies as this exchange shows:
McNALLY: “Hello Dolly.”
TOWNS GIRL: “Hey Locky. Going to the dance Saturday?”
McNALLY: “Why, your Gus going out with the fleet?”
TOWNS GIRL: “I’ll be on the wharf tonight.”
McNALLY: “Well, don’t catch cold.”
He also doesn’t pay his debts and sees no problem in threatening those he owes. Geeez! How does he get that way?! He roughs up the owner of Pacquett’s General Store played by Dan Seymour. This film is peopled with character actors. All that’s missing is John Ridgely!
McNALLY: “It’s about time somebody took you down a peg. You sell our catch for fancy prices yet you knock down 12c a pound on us farmers.”
SEYMOUR: “You do not like that, huh. Now you listen to me Mr. Locky McCormack. Your big bill in my store…Well you pay or I’ll take your stinky boat.”
McNALLY: “You try and take the boat and I’ll gut you out like a cod.”
But his girl is Stella. Jan Sterling plays housekeeper Stella. She seems an easy, saucy girl. He takes her for granted, but doesn’t want her to be with anyone else but him. She yearns for someone better for herself. By the end of the movie, I was quite taken by Sterling’s performance.
STERLING: “You keep your hands to yourself.”
McNALLY: “Oh…pretty tony since you’re working for his Lordship, huh?”
STERLING: “You mind your own business. I’ve got to get supper ready.”
McNALLY: “I don’t like seeing you work for this man, Stella.”
STERLING: “He’s a fine doctor. He’s a psy–anyway, he’s something big. Something even YOU can’t pronounce.”
McNALLY: “Probably something not fit to mention. What are you working your head off for anyhow. What’s good a dead uncle if you don’t use his money?”
STERLING: “No hurry. Anything can happen between now and when the deeds’ll be signed.”
McNALLY: “You’re going to try and run it yourself? That’s a good farm, needs a man. We could make a lot out of that place.”
McNALLY: “Sure. I’ve been thinking things over. You and me make a great pair. We ought to get married. The sooner the better.”
STERLING: “Well this is a surprise Mr. Locky McCormack.”
She’s the housekeeper of the new local doctor, actor Lew Ayres. To think, Ayres has been around since “All Quiet on the Western Front.” This baby~faced cutie played opposite the great Garbo in her last silent movie. Yes, he had a hit series in the Dr. Kildare movies but he mostly played roles supporting the big hunks of M-G-M. He’s got a good meaty role here and does well with it. His earnestness is endearing.
Sterling’s character is in love with him. It’s unrequited and the love and pain on her face is evident. She’ll never get a man like this.
There she is…the one…the only Agnes Moorehead as Aggie MacDonald. She is probably the Queen of Character Actresses. She worked throughout the 1940’s playing different types of women.
STERLING:“Only Aggie MacDonald from the mill. Nobody has anything to do with them. And there’s never a penny you’ll get from her.”
Poor Stella ( Sterling ) she wants the doctor to herself, but he wants to help people.
Here she’s a hardworking farmer with a Scottish brogue and no emotions to spare. She needs help. She needs the doctor to come out to her farm for an emergency. Seems a cow is giving birth and the vet is nowhere to be found…
And then we’re introduced to Belinda…
JANE WYMAN does an exquisite job of playing Belinda MacDonald. It’s not a saccharine cloying performance, but one of a young woman who has a gentle strength and resilience. She just needs encouragement, which she gets from Lew Ayres.
Wyman was a working actress starting with so many uncredited roles in the 30’s. My friend Wendy finally found her in the background of “My Man Godfrey.” ( Way to go, Wen ). I always say in classic films the bench ran deep. How one has to wait to get their shot. We see her briefly as the hatcheck girl in “Smart Blonde” with that blonde herself, Glenda Farrell. She has a good part in “Brother Rat” with future husband Ronald Reagan. What catapults her to the front lines? How was she picked for “The Lost Weekend” and then “The Yearling”?? Well. she gets her shot in “Johnny Belinda” and wins a well~deserved Academy Award for it.
BICKFORD:“She can’t hear ya. She’s deef, dumb.”
AYRES: “Oh, that’s too bad. You ever think of sending
her to school?”
BICKFORD: “School? She’s deef and dumb, man. No
teaching her nuthin’.”
Never the romantic lead, though he sometimes was the lead, Charles Bickford was a rough-hewn character actor who had a career as long as your arm.
Jan 1, 1891 ~ November 9, 1967
BICKFORD: “Would she be saying ‘Father?’”
AYRES: “Yes she did.”
BICKFORD: “It’s the first time she ever called me that.
Daughter. My daughter.”
But while Sterling is mooning over Ayres ( who’ll she’ll never have ) McNally spots Belinda. And she catches his eye.
McNALLY: “Hey, the dummy’s dancing.”
BICKFORD: “The name’s Belinda.”
McNALLY: “She looks kinda cute fixed up that way.”
And he gets ideas.
STERLING: “You keep away from that dummy.”
McNALLY: “The dummy and me?!!”
STERLING: “I saw you looking at her legs.”
McNALLY: “Awwwww, jealous of a dimwit. I’m
proper shamed of you, woman.”
STERLING: “One thing, she’ll never tell on ya. But keep
away from her!”
Sealed with a kiss. Or is it.
The instrument of a crime
McNALLY: “Hello dummy. Look what I brought you. Wanna dance?”
McNALLY: “I caught a seagull once. Had the same scared look.”
Not that I was ever for him, but the seagull line turned me totally against him. His line gives a window into his cruelty with innocent, trusting things. Gack!!! McNally commits to being brutish and ugly and cruel. I could see Stephen Boyd doing this role as well about ten years later.
But is there hope.
She sees…he knows.
Attending church…like a good Christian, upstanding citizen.
A master class in acting is done by the great Agnes Moorehead.
AYRES: “I have to tell you Aggie. You’re the only woman she knows. She’ll be in need of your sympathy and help.”
MOOREHEAD: “My help.”
AYRES: “Belinda’s going to have a child”
MOOREHEAD: “Oh no. No, it’s not true.”
AYRES: “There isn’t any doubt.”
MOOREHEAD: “When her father finds out, he’ll kill her.”
AYRES: “That’s why I told you. She doesn’t know. Doesn’t even realize it herself yet…Do you have any idea who the man was?”
MOOREHEAD:“No. Don’t let anything happen to her. I’ve been, pretty blunt with her.”
AYRES: “You’re making up for it now.”
MOOREHEAD: “We MacDonalds are high-tempered. We fight amongst ourselves. But let trouble come from outside and we’ll stick together.”
I was amazed. In that small scene, just Moorhead’s facial expressions go from being hard to shock…sad…sympathetic…remorse. Her final break down…stifling her anguish into the towel, brilliant choice. I just love her. ( Or can’tcha tell? )
But she lets the cat out of the bag to Bickford. He does not take it well. Nice tableau:
AYRES: “Even if she could talk, she couldn’t tell you. You’ve no right to go on this way!”
BICKFORD: “No right? I’m her father.”
AYRES: “Then act like a father. You’re the one person who can give her what she needs most ~ help, comfort and understanding. What are you trying to do, drive her insane? Now Mac, you’ve got to listen to me. I understand how you feel and I don’t blame you, but believe me, it’s blotted out of her mind, the way you forget a nightmare because you want to forget that terrible fear. I’ve seen it in the war. It’s Nature throwing up a barrier to prevent something worse.”
BICKFORD:“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve got to find the man.”
AYRES: “Now WHAT good will that do her?”
BICKFORD: “I’ll lay what he done before the men of the Village. We’ll show him what justice is.”
AYRES: “But if you do, how will that help the girl? Dragging her into a mess, a scandal when she doesn’t even know what it’s all about. It’ll crucify her, is that what you want?”
BICKFORD: “No, it tisn’t. What am I going to do? The shame of it.”
AYRES: “Mac, you’ve got to think of her now and not of yourself or your pride. There’s only one shame: failing a human being who needs you.”
And now Ayres has to explain her condition to her. Wyman takes it all in.
I don’t know if my screencaps can even begin to capture the beauty of Ted McCord’s cinematography but he has some gems in the movie; this scene for instance when the MacDonalds wait for Belinda’s baby. McCord may not be as famous as John Alton or the great James Wong Howe, but he painted films like “Young Man With A Horn” “East of Eden” “The Damned Don’t Cry” and “The Hanging Tree” “Deep Valley” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” among others. Light, dark, shadows…lit alllllllll the way to the back, deep focused.
Belinda and her new son, Johnny:
Stella, played by Jan Sterling also gives a wonderful performance. She’s turned against the good doctor Kildare. I mean– She can hide her unrequited love behind the town’s rumor mill of hate and distrust for the Doctor.
AYRES: “Did Mrs. Poggety tell you to keep away from men with blue eyes? A grown~up girl about to be married swallowing that old–”
STERLING: “Can’t you mind your own affairs? Always being so superior. Always finding fault in everybody. You of all people, after what you’ve done.”
AYRES: “What have I done?”
STERLING: “You know well enough. A girl who can’t defend herself, who can’t even talk. Shaming her.”
AYRES: “What do you mean? Who said it? Locky?”
STERLING: “Everybody says it. The whole village is talking about it. That’s why nobody calls you.”
AYRES: “So Locky said it. I wouldn’t have thought you’d believe that Stella.”
McNally walks this razor’s edge in the movie, for me with how he plays some scenes. He’s proud he’s got a son but there’s this touch of arrogance about it too. How DOES he do that?
McNALLY: “Well. Don’t know me huh? You ought to, though.”
McNALLY: “That’s a cute lad. Never seen him before.”
BICKFORD: “Keep away from him.”
McNALLY: “What’s the matter? No harm in looking at him is there? Don’t be scared, I’m Lockey.”
BICKFORD: “Take your hands off him!”
McNALLY: “Alright, alright. He’s a big boy, isn’t he? Spittin’ image of his father.”
The jig is up.
McNALLY: “Where you goin’?!”
BICKFORD: “With you.”
McNALLY: “Where to?”
BICKFORD: “Where ever you’re going.”
BICKFORD: “To tell them.”
McNALLY: “Tell them what?”
BICKFORD: “What ya done! So they’ll know how low a man can get.”
Belinda senses something’s wrong. She will be tragically correct.
Life goes on elsewhere in the village as Lockey, that rascally dog, is taken off the market.
SEYMOUR: “He’s a good man, Stella.”
Belinda must carry on without her father. But the doctor has plans for them both.
Everyone in town knows what’s best for Belinda and her baby. Everybody’s got sumthin’ to say!
SEYMOUR: “It is the honor of the community we have to think about. Respectable people do not stand by and see shameful things like this happen and do nothing. As a member of the Town Council, I say it is our duty to correct this unfortunate situation. And we do not want anyone to come from outside and meddle of this. We want to do this quietly. We want to take care of this ourselves.”
TOWNSPERSON #1: “Isn’t it cruel to take a baby away from its Mother?”
TOWNSPERSON #2: “A creature who’s a disgrace to the whole Village who can’t teach the child his own prayers.”
TOWNSPERSON #3: “Is it a crime to save a baby from a life of misery.”
TOWNSPERSON #4: “These women can’t provide for a child. Already they’ve sold most of their cattle. Place is rundown. There’s no man to work it. Why, the baby ought to be like her, running loose like an animal.”
Lockey doesn’t look quite comfortable. Not shamed…but just hoping the town doesn’t find out. It’s just something about the way McNally can play two emotions. There’s some embarrassment in there. Stella ain’t got her groove back here, either. She’s a wreck!
SEYMOUR: “Nothing better could happen to the child than the offer we got. He will have a name and a home with respectable parents, Mr. And Mrs. McCormack.”
STERLING: “What’re we stopping for?”
McNALLY: “Lets end this bickering. He has the makings of a fine sturdy lad.”
STERLING: “I’m telling you again I’d sooner not take him and let you turn him into a farmer.”
McNALLY: “And I tell ya, he’ll have to earn his keep when he’s growed. What if he gets sick, it’ll cost us money.”
STERLING: “Who’s money? I don’t recall you bringing in any.”
McNALLY: “It’s ours ain’t it? You’re my wife.”
STERLING: “And you expect me to pay for the honor? You needn’t worry, I’m not fooling myself for why you married me.”
McNALLY: “And I know what started you on the idea. You want the kid because of that doctor. Because you think he’s his. “cuz you’re sweet on him and couldn’t hogtie him for yourself.”
STERLING: “I loathe him. Man who would do a thing like that.”
McNALLY: “Alright, don’t think of pampering the boy. He’ll work as soon as he’s able.”
I could be mis~reading this but it’s the first time I think I see shame and/or guilt in him. Sterling goes in to get Belinda’s child. Her looks and heart softens, but she’s on a mission.
I think this moment is what opened my eyes fully to Jan Sterling’s talent. It’s the non~verbal moments when you have to put an idea across that gets me.
McNALLY: “What happened?”
STERLING: “Lockey I can’t do it.”
McNALLY: “What are you talking about? He’s ours. Been given to us all legal and proper.”
STERLING: “We must give him up. We’re being mean Lockey, mean to the dummy. You’d think she had no feeling ‘til you see her with the Baby. We just can’t take him. She’s his mother.”
McNALLY: “His mother. Well let me tell you something. I’m his Father.”
McNALLY: “His father I’m telling ya. He’s as much mine as hers.”
STERLING: “Lockey I told you to keep away from her.”
McNALLY: “It’s all over and in the past. And fortunate it is, it happened. A man wants children. And I want him. Something in here wants him. By the Godfrey I’ll have him.”
He gets to confess and confession is never good for the soul for people in classic films. Ask Ellen Berent. But again with just the raise of one eyebrow, McNally non~verbally is proud of what he produced, even if he tries to sweep under the rug HOW the child was conceived. He’s going in to take his child and it doesn’t matter what anybody says about it. He’s mean and selfish and wants what he wants and only cares for himself. McNally puts that over. And now his character gets what’s coming to him.
The bastard is dead.
I think this moment is what opened my eyes fully to Jan Sterling’s talent. It’s the non~verbal moments when you have to put an idea across that gets me. A woman scorned and how to avenge.
McNally was a working actor but why did he get the call for THIS film? The movie just before this one was “The Magnificent Doll” when his name was Horace McNally. The film after was “Rogue’s Regiment” What had he shown producers to warrant this big budget production. Who was around at the time as he…especially those late 40’s? His dangerously cruel good looks was just meant for Film Noir. Yet in real life he married once and had eight children. Why wasn’t he really an “A” list star? He was a good solid actor. I don’t have time to go into his nice doctor role with Sidney Poitier in “No Way Out.” And you must see his stone~cold sociopath in “Split Second” where he’d shoot you as soon as look at you. ( He’d be a great entry for a VILLAIN blogathon ). As a hide~out, he leads a group of people to an atomic bomb testing site and…WHAT?!!!
Richard Egan, McNally & Alexis Smith
“This is Sam Hurley. If you want to know who I am, take a look at the front page of your morning paper. A friend of mine has a bullet in him, he needs a doctor. No Doc, he wants YOU. Why? Because I’ve got your wife. If anything should happen to my friend, she might not look so pretty anymore. A couple more things…show up with anyone else you’re still a widower. I’ll blast her in two right in front of you. And don’t try to get smarter than me. Play it straight, ya got yourself a wife. Get cute, ya got yourself a corpse.”
JAN STERLING, KEITH ANDES & STEPHEN McNALLY
McNALLY: “She your girl?”
ANDES: “I just met her today.”
McNALLY: “What’s your name?”
McNALLY: “I said what’s your name!”
STERLING: “Now look Mister. You can use that tone on the Pasadena divorce case in there. I cut my teeth on tougher guys than you.”
McNALLY: “You must have real tough teeth.”
JAN STERLING & STEPHEN McNALLY
McNALLY: “You might be handy to have along. I like a girl who fights for a guy.”
STERLING: “I didn’t think I did too well.”
McNALLY: “If you did any better you’d be dead. Sit around and count your blessings, I don’t kill you for what you tried.”
There are more Stephen McNally movies that I want to explore on my own as soon as I can get my grabby mitts on them. And I sincerely hope I’ve made you curious about him as well. To paraphrase Mae West: When he’s bad he’s better!
♦ ♦ ♦
Thanks to the “WHAT A CHARACTER! Blogathon” and the ladies who host this popular journey into discovering more of those names below the title. Thanks so much for reading!
( …and don’t worry, before the weekend’s up I’ll give you the links to all the other great writing for this blogathon. 😉 )
[ H O M E ]
Wow, are you back with a vengeance! Almost a book length post! So so good. Love all these films and you’ve made me want to watch them all again – tonight!
Great photos too and superb dialogue quotes.
A wonderful tribute to NcNally.
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Hulllllllloh, Vienna. Vengeance is right. I needed that. And Stephen McNally was inspiring. Can you imagine writing about someone who terrifies you but intrigues you at the same time.
Thank you soooooooooo much for sticking with my wordiness. ( Honestly, the pictures and the quotes took up the bulk of my post. ) Thank you again!!!
GREAT tribute! I should really check out Violent Saturday, sounds amazing!
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“Violent Saturday” is a good one, Carol. I recommend it. He’s pretty tame in this one. Thank you so much for reading my work and commenting. I really appreciate that. ( Check out some McNally movies! )
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No worries! I adore your blog!
You’re so kind, thank you Carol!
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Love this…I’m not all the way done reading it yet, but I have to say yes, I feel like lawyers and actors are cut from the same cloth.
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Hahahahaha, Paula. All the world’s a stage.
…or a courtroom.
Thank you for reading, commenting and hosting this perennial blogathan, Paula. I appreciate. You’ll see links back to the blogathon by week’s end. Thank you!!
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Great selection of films highlighting an exemplary actor’s career and a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening read. Television roles would make for another fine post. Although, I think you’ll need a rest cure before tackling it.
If anyone ever doubts Stephen McNally’s versatility (?!) just remind them that the despicable Locky in Johnny Belinda played the compassionate doctor in the Broadway production of 1940.
Have you seen The Lady Gambles with Barbara Stanwyck? McNally is another bad guy, but he has one cute scene where the character who only goes by his last name confesses to the dreadful first name of “Horace.”
“All that’s missing is John Ridgely.” – You made me spit out my coffee.
Not that I want to push anything on you, but if you want to know anything more about the proprietor of Rikers, I wrote about John Alexander for last year’s blogathon. There’s even a John Ridgely mention.
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Hiya Paddy…how are ya!!!
I didn’t expect any one to read this long account I wrote on an actor folks hardly remember. So I thank you so very much checking it out and coming here. I haven’t seen “The Lady Gambles” in years and years. I tried to find it for this piece but I couldn’t. I didn’t realize he played the Doctor on Broadway. Dang! That’s acting.
John Alexander? Send me a link.
Thanks again for reading. You’re soooooo supportive.
“Send me a link.” Music to my ears.
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Paddy! L0L0L!!! I’ll read this as soon as I get a chance!
WOW! This is fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to write this big dose of Stephen McNally movie inspiration.
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Hi there Sarah…glad you enjoyed my piece on Stephen McNally. Hope you try and see more of his films. Thanks again!! 🙂
Stellar post, Theresa! I’m not all that familiar with Stephen, but I have seen in him in a few things. Thanks so much for giving so many more films to seek out!
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That’s swell. It’s great when we film fans can hep someone to another movie star. You’re very welcome, Maddy! Now that I’m done being immersed in McNally, I want to check out YOUR post on Marius Goring.
And good luck on YOUR co-hosting duties for blogathons coming up on AVA, STANWYCK and HITCHCOCK. Sadly, I’ve slowed down a lot on my writing. But I can sure as hell read. Good luck with what you’re doing…and thank you for reading my work!
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I hope you enjoy reading through the contributions to the upcoming blogathons.
I’m sure I will. Thanks
Epic tribute to a bad man! He could sure play some stinkers, but he was kinda cute…..
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Hiya Marsha!!! Thank you for tiptoeing through the tulips of my blog post. Yeh…he was kinda cute, wasn’t he? Dangerously handsome.
This is another guy who I’m lacking in familiarity with his films, but as a kid who grew up on 1970’s TV Cop shows and westerns, there’s no way I didn’t know his face. As a self-anointed expert on all things “Rockford Files,” McNally is best known to me from the episode “Exit Prentiss Carr” as a police chief who covers for two “border-line” cops.
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Hello there J-Dub. Nice to meet’cha. I’d say the 70’s is a good way to know a lot of these character actors. They worked a lot of television when movies went on to newer, younger models. “Rockford Files” huh? I used to watch that show, but I’m no aficionado. See if you can watch some of McNally’s films. Thanks for stopping by!
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Wow, amazing post, Theresa! I’m thrilled that I’m learning so many new names this weekend—Steve McNally is the latest. I do recognize him, probably from The Harvey Girls, but will definitely add Tribute to a Bad Man to my watch list (I love Cagney).
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Thank you Jocelyn. Thank you for reading. I’ve never seen “The Harvey Girls” all the way through ( cinematic confession ) which I’ll have to rectify. It’s amazing a rat-a-tat-tat guy like Cagney can be plopped down in the West, but he can and believably so. Going to read about your boy Anthony Caruso who I’ve seen around, but don’t know much about. Again, thanks for reading.
Jeez, Theresa, next time don’t phone it in, why don’tcha?
I am not worthy…. The amount of effort you put into this in screen shots alone should win you an award, but then you also had to transcribe all the dialogue and then the commentary—an epic effort, and all with your trademark sass, side-eye, and trenchant observations.
McNally. Well, I mostly know him from Johnny Belinda, and you feel like I do on that one—it’s so painful (but beautiful), but McNally is so evil I almost can’t watch him.
I’m not much on westerns, but Anthony Mann is something else. Violent Saturday sounds like fun. That whole Peyton Place-style thing, ensembles where everyone has their own story playing out, which might go back to Grand Hotel but in the ’50s was all over the movies. I’m thinking of Minnelli’s The Cobweb, for one. But I’ma look out for Violent Saturday, for sure. And Criss-Cross: yeah, baby, sign me up for lots of that.
I’ve barely managed to blog myself this year, but managed to file a post for What a Character (the sainted Thomas Mitchell). Anyway, great to see you back in the saddle (ba-dum-dum!), let’s catch up soon.
Have a fine holiday season and a very very good New Year, Princess Side-Eye! ❤
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Helloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh Lesley ~ How you doin’?! You’ve written a mouthful yourself with this lovely complimentary comment. Thank you soooo much. ( And you’re sooo totally worthy! I love your writing ).
I dove in to the deep end of the pool with this blog. I haven’t felt much like writing for the past coupla months; not feeling inspired…got a new motorcycle so my interests lay elsewhere for a bit. But as I’ve said before…what blogger can pass up the ‘What A Character’ blogathon?
Westerns aren’t my first genre ( my heart belongs to Film Noir ) but yes…Anthony Mann is a different story and his teaming with Jimmy Stewart was good box office. And the bonus with Mann is he tackled the dark stuff too ( “T-Men“ “Raw Deal“ “Border Incident“ ). Check out more of McNally’s work. I need to get my mitts on “Iron Man” “City Across the River” “The Lady Gambles” for the rough trade of McNally. Thomas Mitchell is one of the premiere character actors of the classic era. I’ll be sure to get to your blog to check him out. Probably print it up, sit in a coffee house and settle into him.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year. We’ll see each other this coming April. I shall wear the mantle Princess Side~Eye proudly. I like that moniker.
I’m not going to Hollywood in April—got convinced to do the cruise instead. It will be cheaper, and a lot less grueling physically since all the movies are in two theaters, no sprinting and all those hours of standing…. Feeling weird about not being at the 10th annual fest, and also about not seeing you and my other once-a-year peeps. But will be in New York in October a few days before we sail (I’ve always wanted to say that!), so hopefully we can get together then. Any chance of getting Wendy to come into town? I would love to meet her in actual life.
I’ve read from people who LOVE the cruise even better than the Hollywood gig. More chance to rub elbow with the stars…no rush…chance to eat. Food, glorious food!! I think TCM might pull out the stops on the 10th anniversary, but it’ll probabl mean more if a person was going for their tenth straight year. Look at you: “…before we sail.” Sounds fancy schmancy like traveling on the Ile de France or sumthin’. I am positive I can get Wendy down to NY from Connecticut barring any kind of family thing she might have planned. I’m pretty sure of it.
Have a great time on the cruise. I hear it’s soooo much fun. I’ll hold down the fort for ya as I dash along Hollywood Boulevard. Have a great Christmas and a healthy Happy New Year.
Wow! What an epic post! Always love your work and haven’t seen your stuff in a while so I really enjoyed this. Violent Saturday is on the ‘to-see’ list!
H’ya doin’ Paul!! How ARE you? I haven’t felt up to the task of writing lately, but this annual blogathon is one not to miss. I’m so happy you enjoyed the writing. It was a beast but I loved ev’ry minute of it. I’m glad you liked it. I see you covered the “Skipper’s” father as your choice. ( The Skipper from Gilligan’s Island ). Alan Hale was one of the greats, could work with the best of ’em and hold his own in a scene. Nice to see you here!! I’ll be over to read your piece soon.
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I’m doing well and understand the struggle to write but wow you came back with a vengeance! I really enjoyed it and appreciate all the work that went into your article. I agree that Alan Hale was one of the greats and was never intimidated by anyone, giving an outstanding and seemingly natural, flawless performance every time. With the Xmas break for us in Australia (6 week summer break), I’ll be writing more and looking at writing a book too!! Hope all is well and Happy Holidays!
Hey hey Paul. I’m happy you read and enjoyed my dive into McNally. I’ll never get you folks below the equator. It is summertime…and you celebrate CHRISTMAS? Ever see that Preston Sturges movie: “CHRISTMAS IN JULY”?? Nice…the idea of writing a book. What might your topic be? I wish you luck with that. Uhmmmm…any chance in getting an autographed copy, Mate? 😉
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Yes, we have been celebrating Christmas here in the land of Oz, in very warm weather too! I have not seen Christmas In July but methinks it will need to be placed on the viewing list. 🙂 I actually have TWO in mind (a crazy notion but still…); with the first to be a collection of essays on film noir. I have mapped out a book on the classic gangster film cycle of the 1930s and I know it’s a highly ambitious goal. But you have to dream big! N’est-ce pas? An autographed copy will certainly wing it’s way to you! 🙂 It will be a pleasure, mate!
Best of luck on your book! Sounds like a great idea. Like they say: “Go Big or Go Home.’ Ssssssshhhhh! And Mum’s the word!!!
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Hi there I found your blog on Caftanwoman’s site and have to say I love it. Lots of really good articles. I’ll be sure to check them all out.
McNally is one of those fantastic underrated actors who’s not well known anymore nowadays. Winchester 73 is great and Split Second is one of my favorite 50s Noirs. I wrote about it a while ago.
Hello Margot…wait…MARGOT SHELBY???!!! L0L!!! Jean Gille from 1946’s “DECOY” right?? 😉 It’s so nice of you to stop by and I hope my work continues to be interesting. As I delve into McNally for this blogathon I came to like him more and more. I’ll check out your blog…see if I can find your write up on “SPLIT SECOND.” Thanks again.
Yes, THE Margot Shelby. She’s my favorite femme fatale. 🙂
Your blog is great and I’d like to add it to my blog role. Keep up the good work.
I’d be flattered. Thank you Margot. And b’cuz I’m a lazybones, do me a favor…send me your link to your post on “Split Second” okay? Thanks!
Here it is.
Whenever I see Stephen McNally I think, “Oh yeah – that guy. He’s good!” Well, no more “that guy” any more. I was happy to read your research (and fab observations) on this fellow. It was like taking a Stephen M film course. You’ve given me an even greater appreciation for his talent. Thanks!
Also: Happy Holidays to you and yours, Theresa. 🙂
Hello Ruth, thank you soooo much for reading. I know it was a lot. Whew! I gave birth to an encyclopedia amount of information just recapping his movies. And there’s more of him I want to see. Hope all’s well with you. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year. Keep blogging! And thanks again.
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Congrats on a wonderful post! Now I’ll have to find all of these movies.
L0L!!! You do that. You just DO that…and more. He’s a fine actor. Not showy…just gets the job done. Thank you for the compliment. 🙂
Are you not counting television?
Or do I get to mention Target: The Corruptors, Stephen McNally’s ABC series from 1961-62?
As it happens, I have a “collector’s set” of the complete series (35 hour-long episodes); in my view, this is one that deserves revival.
McNally plays Paul Marino, an investigative reporter who goes after corruption in business, politics, organized crime, and like that there.
Considering that it’s 1961, this is pretty potent stuff.
In the premiere (pilot), McNally goes after a crime-controlled garbage-collection combine, run by guest stars Walter Matthau and Peter M. Falk (as he was then billed).
The other episodes are like that: tough crimes run by major guest stars, and McNally every bit as tough (in a two-parter, he goes after Jack Warden as a thinly-disguised Jimmy Hoffa).
Target: The Corruptors only ran the one season: Friday night was a tough night that year.
I got my DVD set from Martin Grams’s Classic Video: it’s a big set, but very much worth the price.