Ride Lonesome (1959): Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher

by Paul on August 8, 2012

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Over the past couple of months, I have read a few different posts about Budd Boetticher and some of his westerns. Then asRide Lonesome I was going through my “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, I came across Boetticher’s Ride Lonesome (1959). I love westerns anyway, so I decided it was time to see this one.

Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) is a bounty hunter who is tracking a wanted outlaw, Billy John (James Best). When Brigade catches John, John tells his men to head out and find his brother, Frank (Lee Van Cleef). Billy John thinks that Frank can catch up and save him before Brigade delivers him to Santa Cruz.

Ride LonesomeThe first stop is at a stagecoach station in the middle of the desert. The stationmaster isn’t there, but Brigade does meet his young attractive wife, Mrs. Carrie Lane (Karen Steele). There are also a pair of small time outlaws, Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and simple-minded Whit (James Coburn), who have also been looking for Billy John.

Indians come and try to trade a horse for Mrs. Lane, but because the horse happens to be her husband’s, she breaks down crying and the Indians leave, insulted. Brigade rounds this mismatched bunch together and heads off for Santa Cruz once again.

Now Brigade really has his work cut out for him. It turns out that Boone and Whit want Billy John for themselves because amnesty has been offered to the man who can bring him in, but Brigade says he won’t give him up. All three men concede that they will have to shoot it out, but they should wait until they’re closer to Santa Cruz. The Indians are chasing from Ride Lonesomeone side, and Frank John and his own gang are coming from another. The distraught Mrs. Lane just seems along for the ride, but of course spends her free time meddling in everyone else’s personal lives, trying to understand their motivations.

The story is not the strongest, but a great script from Burt Kennedy more than makes up for it. The acting is great as well, especially Randolph Scott in one of his greatest roles.

Budd Boetticher (after seeing just one of his movies) seems to be one of the unsung greats in the western genre. Great direction drives this movie, from start to finish. Of course Boetticher did have the best helper possible: Cinemascope! Amazing landscapes and beautiful cinematography (Charles Lawton Jr.) make Ride Lonesome a wonderful journey through the west.

Ride LonesomeDeep down, Ride Lonesome is a revenge movie that shows Brigade slowly turning from his lonely existence, and once again learning to live within a group. By the end, of course, he is ready to move on from the horrors of his own past, but thanks to the slow developing story and direction, we get to see Brigade change right before our eyes.

If that doesn’t make you want to see Ride Lonesome again and again, the beautiful image of Scott in front of the burning tree should help too.

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