This past weekend I watched The Man from Laramie in the Criterion Channel’s Anthony Mann Directs James Stewart collection. This was the fifth and final film Mann directed with Stewart as the star, and it was a great watch.
Even with all their problems, I still love a good Western. I grew up watching them and they still captivate me. Especially one that has something interesting to say – and that’s what surprised me the most about this movie: it’s politics seem pretty progressive for 1955.
Some plot spoilers…
The motivation of Stewart’s character was to hunt down and kill the person he felt responsible for his brother’s death. His brother was in the Cavalry and his entire group had been gunned down by nearby Native Americans.
Yet, he didn’t blame nor was looking for the Native Americans, he was instead looking for who sold the “repeater rifles” to them. Since, to him, the person who sold the arms is just as guilty, or more, as the people who used them. The movie presents this as a very plausible and sensible motivation.
This is currently being debated back home in the US: can gun manufactures be held liable for how their weapons are used? Now manufacture vs. dealer is different, sure, but it really seemed so “current” when watching this film.
Also, this movie appeared to be “trying it’s best” for 1955 and not fall into every trope or harmful portrayal… but still it’s a Western from 1955 and does briefly present indigenous peoples in disparaging ways.
It has 100% on the tomato meter, and it deserves a high score for sure. Stewart’s performance was captivating, and at times gut wrenching. I recommend giving it a watch. And I plan to watch the other four films in the collection.