Thursday, May 21, 2009

Notes From an Insomniac on Saddle the Wind (1958)

This week's TCM blog is a blow-by-blow account of my bout with insomnia and my failure to wrestle it to a stand still thanks to the discovery of an intriguing late career turn by Robert Taylor in the psychological western Saddle the Wind (1958), which featured a young John Cassavetes, an intriguingly sullen Julie London, and several good character actors littering the spectacular Rocky Mountain landscape. Here's the beginning of the post:

Maybe it was the moon, or that 4th cup of tea I had that afternoon or just a touch of Spring fever. In any case, last week, the Sandman forgot my address. I was wide awake at 3a.m. Those burning coals that used to be my eyes just weren't eager to dive into the text of any of the books next to the bed, it was too cold to be star-gazing, (I'm always hoping to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis), and flipping on the tube, those infomercials about the joys of cryovacing food at home just aren't something I'd like to watch at any time. Inevitably, a perusal of those late night movies seemed to be a pretty good way to entice Morpheus to drop in soon. Except for the movie I came across while channel surfing.

It was a small scale western called Saddle in the Wind (1958). The movie was directed by Robert Parrish (and reportedly an uncredited John Sturges). The script, with a story credited to Thomas Thompson and an uncredited Daniel Fuchs, was written by the estimable Rod Serling before The Twilight Zone, when he was the new boy in town just beginning to cut his teeth in movies after his initial success on television with such innovative plays as Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Rack and Patterns, (all of which were made into movies that still hold up quite well today).

Saddle in the Wind asked us to buy the notion of a generational gap between the rapidly aging Robert Taylor (whose face really got interesting the more beat-up he became) as the elder brother, a reformed gunfighter, and his younger, juvenile delinquent brother, played by the perennial "loose screw" and bundle of talent, John Cassavetes. The younger actor, who plays his unbalanced broth of a boy like a native New Yorker, never suggests for a moment that he might be a lad who has grown up in the saddle in the same gloriously beautiful Colorado landscape as the much older and now more grounded Taylor. Not surprisingly, this pair...the rest of the article


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