Bravados, The (1958): Henry King’s Cinemascope Western, Starring Gregory Peck and Joan Collins

Henry King directed The Bravados, a lush Western shot in CinemaScope and DeLuxe color, starring Gregory Peck and Joan Collins.

The script, based on Frank O’Rourke‘s novel of the same name, centers on Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck), a rancher pursuing four outlaws who presumably had murdered his wife six months before.

He rides into Rio Arriba, where these four, Alfonso Parral (Lee Van Cleef), Bill Zachary (Stephen Boyd), Ed Taylor (Albert Salmi) and Lujan (Henry Silva), are in jail awaiting execution for an unrelated murder. Sheriff Eloy Sanchez (Herbert Rudley) allows Douglas to see the men.

Douglas reencounters Josefa Velarde (Joan Collins), whom he met and fell in love with five years previously in New Orleans. She has been looking after her late father’s ranch and has never married. Douglas reveals that he is now a widower, and that he has a daughter (Maria Garcia Fletcher).

Simms, the executioner, waits until the townspeople are at church, then while pretending to check the men’s height and weight, stabs the sheriff in the back. The sheriff manages to kill him, but the inmates escape and take a young woman named Emma as a hostage.

A posse rides out immediately, but Douglas waits until morning; he expects one of the prisoners will stay behind to cut off everybody at a pass. The posse finds a dead man, who appears to be the real Simms.

Parral is assigned the job of ambushing Douglas, but Douglas takes him from behind. Parall begs for his life, but Douglas kills him, then set out after the other three. Taylor hangs back, figuring he can take Douglas down. Douglas, however, evades his fire, then ropes him by the feet and hangs him.

The two remaining fugitives reach the house of John Butler (Gene Evans), a prospector and Douglas’s neighbor, and Zachary shoots him.

When the fugitives take Douglas’ last horses, he leaves Josefa with his daughter. Upon finding Zachary in a town across the Mexican border, Douglas shoots him dead. He then goes to the home of Lujan, the fourth man. Douglas points to Lujan’s sack of coins which was stolen from his ranch.

Lujan discloses that he took the bag from Butler, who turns out to be the actual murderer.

Douglas then realizes that, having killed three men in cold blood, he is no better than they were. He returns to town to ask for forgiveness, and the priest accepts his remorse.

In the last scene, Josefa arrives with Douglas’ daughter, and they all exit the church together.

Peck gives a solid performance as the man seeking–and obsessed with–revenge, only to realize that violence begets more violence.  The poignant moral at the end elevates the feature above the routine revenge western.

The movie, especially the outdoor scenes of canyons, towering mountains, forests and waterfalls, are extremely well shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Leon Shamroy.

The hangman is played by Joe DeRita, who became known as “Curly Joe” of The Three Stooges.

Cast
Gregory Peck as Jim Douglas
Joan Collins as Josefa Velarde
Stephen Boyd as Bill Zachary
Albert Salmi as Ed Taylor
Henry Silva as Lujan
Kathleen Gallant as Emma Steimmetz
Barry Coe as Tom
George Voskovec as Gus Steinmetz
Herbert Rudley as Sheriff Eloy Sanchez
Lee Van Cleef as Alfonso Parral

Credits:

Directed by Henry King
Produced by Herbert B. Swope Jr.
Screenplay by Philip Yordan, based on story by Frank O’Rourke
Music by Alfred Newman, Hugo Friedhofer, Lionel Newman
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Edited by William Mace
20th Century Fox
Release date: June 25, 1958
Running time: 98 minutes

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