My dear wife got for me for Father's Day a box set of Gary Cooper movies. So far we've watched two of them for our weekly family movie night. Two rip-roarin' westerns, Dallas and Springfield Rifle.
In both films, Coop plays a confident, strait-shooting guy who knows what he wants and will fight and sacrifice to get it. In both, he plays a man who is at odds with the law, but in the end is fighting for what's right. Also in both cases, Coop's characters are playing roles that are not quite what they seem to be.
In Dallas, Coop is Blayde Hollister (no, that's not a nickname), a former Confederate officer now turned outlaw after the war, on a quest for justice, or is it revenge? In Rifle, Coop is Union Major Lex Kearney, court-martialed out of the Cavalry for failing to protect a badly needed shipment of horses from horse thieves during the Civil War. But there's more than meets the eye going on. Tight-lipped Coop never complains, never tells anyone what he's after, and is willing to lose the lady-love interest in both movies (in Rifle it's his wife)to get the job done.
The movies are not long by modern standards, so the plot hums right along to some really good musical scores. There's plenty of gorgeous western scenery filmed in glorious Technicolor, film buffs will recognize a lot of the supporting cast as well: Lon Chaney and Alan Hale, Jr. appear in Rifle, Raymond Massey appears in Dallas. There's loads of exciting action scenes, and as was standard at the time, the fighting and shooting were near totally bloodless.
Despite the brisk pacing, the plots were not simplistic, I found that I had to pay attention to keep up with what was going on. Of course, Coop's laconic cowboy characters don't go in for exposition much.
We all enjoyed these two films a lot, especially Coop's tough/good guy performances. Both films had tense climaxes, but nothing happened that would be scary or upsetting for younger children. Next time we watch a Coop film it's going to be Sergeant York, based on the exploits of the real Sgt York in the First World War. Look for my review to follow.