3:10 to Yuma (1957): Western, Starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin

Many film historians regard “3:10 to Yuma” as a landmark Western that further redefined what the genre was capable of doing in the wake of “The Gunfighter” and “High Noon.”

Much like Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon” (made in 1952), “3:10 to Yuma,” is a mature psychological Western centering on one heroic individual who, having been deserted by the town officials, has face his adversaries all by himself, a process that calls for reexamining his code of ethics and conscience.

The direction of Delmer Daves, an underestimated and versatile craftsman, is gritty and efficient, considering that most of the action is confined to one location, the hotel room, relying on the power of taut narrative and close-ups of his stars, particularly Glenn Ford. Daves’ outdoor sequences are also good, particularly in conveying a vast, dry in a state of drought

The acting of the two male leads is superlative. Van Heflin excels in his intense portrait of a man caught between personal needs and social dutiessame conflict that Gary Cooper faced in “High Noon.”

In what’s considered to be one of his two or three best roles, Glenn Ford brings a mixture of amiable and monstrous qualities to his part, just as he did to another height of his career, “Gilda,” in 1946.

Van Heflin plays Dan Evans, a rancher whose family is suffering from the devastating effects of a long drought. Evans seeks $200 to build a much needed well. He learns that he can obtain the money as a reward for delivering Ben Wade (Glenn Ford), a notorious outlaw now in the hands of the law, to the state prison in Yuma, Arizona. Though this task puts Evans in danger, the otherwise peaceful man takes the assignment, knowing what the money means to him and his family.

The two men hole up in a small hotel in another town, while waiting for the train to Yuma (hence the apt title). Soon, however, the outlaw Wade begins playing with Evans’s mind, talking in a friendly way about the latter’s job and financial situation

Manipulating Evans with psychological games, Wade tries to convince Evans to take $10,000 and look the other way while he escapes. Evans finds himself in a quandary, on the one hand desperately needing the money and yet feeling bound by his word to carry out the job.

The plots get an energetic injection when Ford’s gang, led by Charlie Prince (Richard Jaeckel), discovers where their leader is hidden and sets out to rescue him.

Like the cowardly officers in “High Noon,” the town’s officials abandon Evans rather than put their lives in danger, leaving the troubled rancher alone to face off with the outlaws. In the end, Wade joins forces with Evans, helping his captor on to the 3:10 to Yuma, while noting: “I owed you that.”

Evans comes through the ordeal, body and integrity intact. And in what is a biblical and allegorical resolution, as if in answer to this baptism by fire, the skies burst forth with rains, putting an end to the drought.

Production values of this A-level Western, shot by Charles Lawton in black-and-white (just like “High Noon”) are polished.

Credits

Running Time: 92 Minutes.

Produced by David Heilweil.
Directed by Delmer Daves.
Screenplay, Halsted Welles, based on a story by Elmore Leonard.
Camera (black and white): Charles Lawton Jr. Editing: Al Clark.
Music: George Duning.
Art direction: Frank Hotaling.
Costumes: Jean Louis

Cast

Glenn Ford (Ben Wade)
Felicia Farr (Emmy)
Van Heflin (Dan Evans)
Leora Dana (Alice Evans)
Henry Jones (Alex Potter)
Richard Jaeckel (Charlie)
Sheridan Comerate (Bob Moons)
Robert Emhardt (Mr. Butterfield)
Ford Rainey (Marshal)
Barry Curtis (Mathew Evans)
Jerry Hartleben (Mark Evans)