Dark Times on the Ranch: Ramrod (1947)

So back during my 30 Day Challenge, several years ago, I talked about something I had accomplished-my intense thesis paper. The professor had noticed my love of film, and recommended that I choose that for my project and I did. I chose to write about the Civil Rights era and Western film.

SayWhat?BuffyVampireSlayernosense

I know, it sounds weird, but there were actually a lot of Western films that correlated with the changes occurring due to the Civil Rights Movement. It was different, it was ambitious, it would be a perfect change from anything anyone else had done. And it was all those things , and a lot of work and time.

Afterwards, for another class I decided to stick with the idea-but this time with women in Post WWII Westerns. WWII allowed women more freedoms, as they had to take on previously masculine roles and duties. Westerns became the perfect avenue for this as historically women played a major part in “settling the West,” for example, thousands of women journeyed West under the Homestead Act. I discussed five influential western films that presented strong cowgirl characters and broke away from previous molds: Ramrod (1947), Red River (1948), Montana (1950), Rawhide (1951), and Calamity Jane (1953).

They were all fantastic films, but only two could work for Horrorfest VII: film-noir Ramrod and suspense-thriller Rawhide.

As I reviewed Rawhide a few years ago, I thought I would include Ramrod this year.

In Ramrod, Veronica Lake plays a rancher’s daughter, Connie Dickason, who is trying to fight against the town bully and main villain, Frank Ivey. Her father wants them to marry, but she refuses as she cannot stand the brute. She originally hopes that her fiancé Walt Shipley will stand up to Ivey, but after he takes off (too scared of Ivey), Connie decides to forgo pinning her hopes on a man and tries to take down Ivey’s regime herself. She and her ramrod, or foreman, Dave Nash (Joel McCrea), intend on doing everything by the law, but after Ivey attacks and wounds a friend, Connie takes matters into her own hands.

This is a revolutionary role, as while Connie is depicted in domestic roles, cleaning and cooking, we are shown this is not the extent of her knowledge as she is a strong, smart, woman, who can ride a horse, work with animals, and knows the land. When she first declares her intent to run the cattle farm, the other ranchers state that she is “emotional and excited”, and that there is no way they will let her move her cattle onto “their grass”. To such blatant chauvinism, Connie coolly responds that it isn’t “their land” but open range, therefore open to all and they have no legal way of keeping her from it.

In the beginning of the film, Connie is shown living off her father wealth, everything about her life is not her own; however, after she is deeded the ranch, and decides to run it, she claims the West as her own, proving that she belongs there and has a place in that society. She takes on what was at the time considered a male-dominated concept of striking out on her own and carving a future for herself. At first Connie tries to accomplish her goals through others, but we later see Connie donning the “white hat” and decides to go after Ivey herself.

“Dave: What did you expect him to do?

Connie Dickason: Marry me and stay and fight! Not stick a note under my door and run…wasn’t strong enough was he?

Dave: [Shakes head] No. Connie

Dickason: Well I am. Strong enough to beat both dad and Ivey at their own business. They broke Walt and I’m going to fight back! I’ll make Circle 66 an outfit they’ll respect.”

The only thing I don’t like about this film is that Connie is supposed to be seen as not the main villain, but morally corrupt. Her plans to stampede her own cattle in hopes to frame Ivey and imprison him, go awry, leading to the death of many and causing her to lose her ramrod Nash to the demure dressmaker, Ruth. Even though we aren’t supposed to root for Connie, as she went about things following the concept that the “ends justify the means”, I did. This same type of character was used quite often in male heroes, such in Destry Rides Again (1939) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962). In both of those films the main characters make a decision to not use guns, but rather words when dealing with problems. However, both main characters reach a point where they realize that the only way to handle the situation is on the enemy’s terms, such as Connie does. This makes Connie a cowboy vigilante who is not afraid to break the law in order to achieve justice.

Another concept I feel is extremely interesting about this film-noir western fusion, is that Veronica Lake’s character not only has a lot of similarities with Western heroes, but is also more like the male protagonist in a Film-Noir than our “hero” Nash. Most film-noirs have a male protagonist who is on the hunt for something, trying to solve an issue, or achieve justice; and a lot of times they fall in that morally gray area; breaking the law, using deceit to get answers, fighting or shooting an opponent, etc. They are clearly better than whatever crook, gangster, mobster, or murderer they are facing off against-but at the same time they do things that are not morally right in their pursuit of truth and justice. Nash is very boring and unmemorable; and while he “cares” about justice, he does very little to try and accomplish it. The writer of this may disagree with me, but to me the real hero is Connie.

Another feature of this film that I feel is incredibly well done is Connie’s complete motivation: she wants justice done. I cannot think of another film that allows the female protagonist to stand up against the villain for the simple fact that they want to stop their corruption. Most films a woman has to have her heartbroken by a man, a family member killed, trying to prove themselves to their father, etc.-making it more vengeance rather than justice. From the very beginning when we meet her character her only goal is to stop Frank Ivey.

“Connie Dickason: And there’s something else you might as well hear now. This isn’t just a fight between father and daughter. You’ve pushed Frank Ivey at me ever since I can remember. For years I’ve watched him run things his way–the town, the valley, you and now me. No one’s ever had the nerve to stand up to him, well I have! And I’m warning you dad, don’t get in my way. And that goes for Frank Ivey! NOW GET OUT! GET OUT!”

Yes, she was planning on marrying a man who was “run off” by Ivery, but that was never her motivation to stop Ivey. In fact the film made it clear the only reason why she wanted to marry Shipley was not for any romantic reason, but because she thought he was strong enough to stand up to Ivey. When she loses him she isn’t heartbroken, but even more determined to stop this villain herself. It’s incredibly different from films made then, and now, and is such a great concept. I wish there were more films that used this type of motivation.

In my opinion, it is a great film. Connie is a fantastic character who knows her purpose in the West, a cinematic cowboy (cowgirl), and is a strong, individual character that is a far cry from the previous depictions who’s only purpose was to ride off into the sunset with the hero.

I highly recommend it for any Western or film-noir fan.

For more westerns, go to Will We Survive the Night?: Rawhide (1951)

For more film-noir, go to This Is Fate We’re Talking About, and If Fate Works At All, It Works Because People Think That THIS TIME, It Isn’t Going to Happen!: Dead Again (1991)

Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Homespun Bride

So this is something I started a while back. We all love Jane Austen and it is such a bummer that there isn’t more of her works to read.

Variations are a ton of fun, and there are great ones out there, but sometimes you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read?

Hmm…

That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but is something fresher than a retelling.

Homespun Bride (The McKaslin Clan Historical #2) by Jillian Hart

Thad McKaslin has returned home after being away for eight years. He always wanted to live in Montana-dreaming of owning a plot of land and having a ranch for him and his wife-who he hoped to be Noelle Kramer. There was no happier day than when he proposed and she said yes.

How sweet!

But it was not to be as her father, the banker who owned the mortgage on Thad’s family farm, threatened to evict his family-including his sick mother-if he didn’t leave his daughter alone.

Choosing not to meet to elope with Noelle at their meeting place, he instead left for the West and cattle drives-planning to never return, but did when his family needed help-his younger brother (who got into trouble) has just been released from jail and his older brother widowed.

Aw, that’s sad.

He expects Noelle to be married to her father’s choice, have children, and to never run into her. But as he is out running an errand, a runaway horse almost plunges two women and their carriage into a river. He helps them and is surprised to see they are Noelle and her Aunt Henrietta, and Noelle is blind!

Huh?

Noelle was heartbroken when she went to meet Thad and he wasn’t there. When she returned him crying, she confessed to her father who assured her she was better off than to be with that cad-probably persuaded by the thrill of going out West and sowing oats than being married. Noelle had given up on love and planned on marrying her father’s choice as she didn’t care anymore…

But then Noelle was in an accident that killed her mother and father and left her permanently blind.

Her fiancé didn’t want “damaged goods” and left her-her aunt and uncle (and their four girls) moving from the East to take care of her. Noelle has never stopped loving Thad but having him back makes her anger come out-how could he have been persuaded by the Wild West, how could he have left her.

Thad realizes that Noelle doesn’t know the truth of what happened, but decides to not say anything as he knows how much she loved her father and he doesn’t want to taint her image of him. He decides to stay far away, but her matchmaking aunt who worries about all her girls being settled and her uncle Robert who has no horse sense and is in severe need of aid, keep him coming around.

After Robert has an incredibly dangerous fall, Thad joins the household by taking care of the ranch and spending more time with Noelle, his love reigniting. Will the two be able to move forward? Or be stuck in the past? Will each be able to overcome their insecurities of not being enough (Thad’s “lower class background” and Noelle’s blindness) or will they let that keep them far apart?

So the first reason why I recommend this for Austen fans is that it instantly made me think of Persuasion. Two people in love, separated by youthful persuasion, reuniting wiser and more experienced, a bad fall bringing them together, etc.

In this, Thad is like Anne Elliot- In Persuasion Anne wants to marry Frederick Wentworth, but is persuaded by the fear that he could die, she’d be left alone, etc outweigh her love and she refuses him-him thinking that it is because he is lower than her, not knowing really how Anne loved him. Thad is the same way as he knows the full reason why the engagement ended and has both hurt and pain, but not anger or bitterness.

Noelle is more like Frederick. Both have misunderstood the reason why the person they loved left and start the first half of the book angry and bitter, but then after a bad fall (for Noelle, her uncle Robert and Fredrick, Louisa Musgrove) they realize who they love and want to be with that person. While Frederick writes a letter of his love for Anne, Noelle anonymously sells the land she owns that Thad has been dreaming of buying to show her love for him.

Aunt Henreitta reminds me of a combination of Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Jennings, and Aunt Gardiner. Aunt Henrietta is the mother of four girls and is constantly worrying about marrying them off, providing dowries, etc.

Hardly a page goes by when she isn’t plotting some sort of matchmaking, but unlike Mrs. Bennet she isn’t silly or has gauche behavior. Like Mrs. Jennings she wants to marry off any eligible man or woman she likes and has a forceful presence. Like Mrs. Jennings, Henrietta will back and protect anyone she cares for, so don’t mess with either one’s girls.

But unlike those two ladies, Henrietta is also very sensible and has a great relationship and love with her husband Robert. She reads the emotions of Thad and Noelle early and tries her best to get them together.

I thought it was a cute story and recommend it for Jane Austen fans.

For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters

For more on Persuasion, go to You Ever Notice That The Gossip Girl TV Show is a Lot Like Persuasion?

For more Westerns, go to Will We Survive the Night?: Rawhide (1951)

Will We Survive the Night?: Rawhide (1951)

So a while back during my 30 Day Challenge one year, I talked about something I had accomplished-my intense thesis paper. The professor had noticed my love of film, and recommended that I choose that for my project and I did. I choose to talk about the Civil Rights era and Western film.

SayWhat?BuffyVampireSlayernosense

I know, it sounds weird, but it there were actually a lot of Western films that correlated with the changes occurring due to the Civil Rights Movement. It was different, it was ambitious, it would be a perfect change from anything anyone else had done. And it was-all those things but after a lot of serious work and time, and sleepless nights-I did it and it was good. And I won an award.

Afterwards, for another class I decided to stick with the idea-but this time with women in Post WWII Westerns. WWII allowed women more freedoms, as they had to take on previously masculine roles and duties. Westerns became the perfect avenue for this as historically women played a major part in “settling the West,” for example, thousands of women journeyed West under the Homestead Act. I discussed five influential western films that presented strong cowgirl characters and broke away from previous molds: Ramrod (1947), Red River (1948), Montana (1950), Rawhide (1951), and Calamity Jane (1953).

They were all fantastic films, but only two could work for Horrorfest VII: film-noir Ramrod and suspense-thriller Rawhide.

I was having a hard time trying to decide which one to review as I thought two Westerns during Horrorfest VII was a little much. I finally decided on Rawhide as thus far, I have only reviewed one 1950s film while four 1940s film.

Hmm…

Well enough background-let’s move forward. So this film is a remake of a 1930s film Show Them No Mercy. This black and white film stars Tyrone Power as Tom Owens, the son of a stagecoach tycoon, having been not living up to his father’s expectations he sent Tom out West at a stopover station, Rawhide Pass.

A coach comes through with a group of passengers, one being Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward) and her niece Callie. Vinnie is a singer turned cowgirl, who is taking her niece to be raised by her maternal grandparents as her sister and brother-in-law died in a brawl.

They are going to head out but the calvary arrives with the news that there are escaped convicts after a gold shipment. They are there to escort the stagecoach, but they cannot take Callie as children are not allowed in such dangerous situations. Vinnie stays behind with her niece and upsets Tom’s life.

“Tom Owens: What are you doing?

Vinnie Holt: I’m taking this room.

Tom Owens: I’m sorry, this is mine.

Vinnie Holt: [Authoritatively] Not tonight, it’s not!”

That night Vinnie wants a bath for her and Callie. He’s angry and points out the trough, but Vinnie is harsh and won’t be cowed-getting him to admit where the hot springs are in the area. She doesn’t trust anyone-she’s a woman living in the West, and takes Tom’s gun with her just in case.

Meanwhile, a man comes over on a horse. Tom waits behind, while the other Rawhide worker Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan) goes to check it out. The man shows a Sheriff badge, but it turns out he is the convict, Rafe Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe) who was supposed to hang for the murder of his girlfriend and lover. He and his crew of three, all being guys from cells around him, take over the place. They kill Todd, and imprison Tom in his room.

Vinnie and Callie come back, and Vinnie quickly grapples the situation. She tries to hide, but is discovered when Callie cries out, but does manage to hide Tom’s gun before they imprison her too.

They think Vinnie and Callie are Tom’s wife and daughter. They keep them alive to use as collateral in order to ensure that Tom does what they ask. This soon turns into a game of cat and mouse as Tom and Vinnie try to figure a way out of the situation without revealing their plans to the outlaws.

Another coach comes by and Zimmerman pretends to be a sheriff assisting Tom with those convicts on the loose. Tom tries to find a way to slip a note, steal their gun, or get the one hidden under the trough. He and Vinnie also try digging out a hole in the wall of their room in hopes that they can all escape these madmen. But will they be able to make it through the night?

This is a great film you should see for yourself. Susan Hayward is a powerful character.  While Hayward’s role of Vinnie is similar to the 1930s Western films as she provides a love interest, and creates a way in which to distinguish which of the outlaws is the true villain; however, she doesn’t allow her gender or temporary motherly duties keep her from her true character; a strong, brave, cowgirl–equal to any man. Throughout the film, Vinnie is also shown to be equal to her male counterpart. Not only does she instruct and command Tom, but will not tolerate anyone trying to take advantage of her as she knows how to survive the West and does not allow anyone to push her around because of her sex.

The film also reverses the damsel in distress cliché that one would expect in a love triangle-themed film. Throughout the movie, Vinnie is constantly harassed and attacked by the convicts, but never saved by anyone. Instead, Vinnie uses her strength, cunning, and resoluteness she needed to survive living in the West to disarm and dress down her opponents, even going as far as physically harming one in order to stop him.

Digging a way out

***Spoiler Alert***

And the end of the film is great. Instead of Vinnie being the damsel in distress in need of a savior, she saves Tom. One of the convicts, Tevis, had disarmed Tom and forced him to lay down on the ground, but before Tevis has a chance to shoot him, Vinnie steps in.

To start Horrorfest VII from the beginning, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)

For the previous post, go to Once, There Was Even a Man Who Had Scissors for Hands: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

For more Susan Hayward, go to The Misery That Walks Around On This Pretty, Quiet Night: Deadline at Dawn (1946)

For more Westerns, go to Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks

Book Club Picks: Until the Day Breaks

So as you all know I started a book club last year. Because you know me and books…

Every month we read a book and I do a little post on the book we read and discussed. What can I say, I just love books.

There is no theme, other than with each month, a different member gets to pick a book, whichever one they want. This time was my turn and I picked:

Until the Day Breaks (California Rising #1) by Paula Scott

I was first introduced to this book when the author came into the museum I was working at as she needed to discuss something with the curator. We started talking about the book and California and Western history as I absolutely love it.

I read it and the sequel, and enjoyed both of them. So of course, when a few months passed and it was my turn again-I picked it.

So the book takes place in 1846. California “belongs” to Mexico, but not really being more independent. The United States looms closer and closer, Manifest Destiny gobbling up more states. Rachel Tyler grew up in Massachusetts, is Protestant, and raised by her grandparents. She is a sweet woman and engaged to minister hopeful, Stephen. (As soon as his mother dies and releases her control over him)

Well that all changes when her father, Joshua Tyler, awakens their long silence. After Rachel’s mother died, he took off to California to make his fortune and has, in some nefarious ways. He married a wealthy Californio’s niece, Sarita, a girl only a year or so older than his daughter and has brokered a deal matching his daughter with Sarita’s cousin, Roman Vasquez.

This match will work for for Joshua Tyler-as if California remains in Mexico’s control he will have protection in the match. If the United States take over, Tyler can secure the Vasquez land and money through his daughter.

Rachel is hurt over the broken engagement with Stephen and in even more dismay over her upcoming marriage to Roman. Roman is a lusty, passionate, and angry man. Rachel is afraid of that passion, especially as she starts to find herself falling in love with him.

Roman has returned from fighting in the American Intervention with Mexico, known as the Mexican American War by the United States; injured, angry, and finding California completely different then what he left. His family thought he was killed, his fiancé married Joshua Tyler, his family fortune and land is dwindling through his uncle’s gambling, and now he has to marry this Yankee?

But as Roman gets to know Rachel she touches him in a way no one has in a long time. Her kindness, sweetness, and relationship with Christ starts to affect him. But can he really overcome his lust, passion, and anger?

To complicate things further-Sarita is a witch who is angry that Tohic, the god she worships, lied to her about Roman’s death. Even though she is married and Roman is engaged-she will sacrifice anything and do everything to get what she wants.

And as California looks more and more like war is coming-all are uncertain what that means and what exactly to do?

Then to everyone’s surprise Rachel’s ex-fiance shows up! And he brings his friend and ship Captain Dominic Mason.

This is a power firecracker of a novel. It is enjoyable and a real page turner. Every one of us ladies finished long before book club was scheduled to meet.

So while we discussed our book, I thought that in the flavor of Daring Chloe, we should meet in my California town’s historical Saloon that existed in the same time this book is set in. It really was a lot of fun. Here’s a couple of snaps I took. I meant to get a pic of the book in the restaurant,but forgot-maybe I’ll stop by and do it again.

For more book club picks, go to Book Club Picks: The Illustrated Man

For more Christian fiction, go to Book Club Picks: The Masterpiece

For more bible verses, go to Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

 

Book Club Picks: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

So every month  a different member in my book club chooses a book for us to read and discuss the next month.

So the member who’s turn it was, was thinking of possibly doing a mystery. When our group met, she decided on this:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

Hmm…

Julia Stillwater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

This could get ugly.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

What have I gotten myself into?

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Seriously

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Hmm…

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Hmm…

So let’s start with what I didn’t care for or thought wasn’t as finished.

1)First of all Jillian is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable.

Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California.

2) What happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

3) There are a lot of little details missing.

Hmm…

In my class, The History of the Novel, we read an article about how hard it is for a nonfiction author to switch to fiction as there are a lot of little things they aren’t used to writing about-how they look, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, etc. Moore falls into the same issue as she doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Julianna “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut?

I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

4) The mystery isn’t really mysterious

I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal

So what was good?

1) The characters

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more of my book clubs reads, go to Book Club Picks: At Home in Mitford

For more mysteries, go to Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)

So after this book it is my turn to pick the next book. I was going to bring a few choices to the meeting and pulled out a western, as you know I love stuff like that:

I also took out My Fair Godmother as that book cracks me up.

I was trying to think of a third option, when I decided on one book that’s been sticking in my mind:

Yes, my book club is going to read The Darcy Monologues. This will be very interesting as:

  1. One member has read the book and seen the 1940, 1995, and 2005 versions.
  2. One member has only seen the 1995 and 2005 versions, never read the book.
  3. And the other member has not seen any film or read the book.

Will they love it? Will they hate it? I don’t know, but I am sure of one thing:

And we all know what I thought of it:

Read what I think of Part I: The Regency and Part II: Other Eras