The terse and popular series of adult westerns created by director Budd Boetticher with producer/star Randolph Scott came to an end with the 1960 release Comanche Station. Many of their films are similar in tone and characterization, yet each has something unique that may appeal to different audiences; a particular performance, dialogue, or plot twist. Burt Kennedy wrote the screenplay for five of the movies, including Comanche Station.
Kennedy was a child performer with his family, a decorated (Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart) soldier during WW2, and a radio writer who was contracted by John Wayne's Batjac production company in the 1950s. He knew the strong, silent type of man he wrote about in films such as 7 Men from Now. His first directing assignment was on a 1961 film shot in Canada and starring Robert Ryan, The Canadians. It was not successful, but future films were such as the supreme western spoof Support Your Local Sheriff!. You can learn more about his fascinating career in the memoir Hollywood Trail Boss.
Negotiations get off to a rocky start.
Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott) trades with the Comanche for the release of white prisoners. He is practically a legend in the territory for his relentlessness and honesty.
A chance to reflect.
Randolph Scott, Nancy Gates
Mrs. Lowe: "If you had a woman taken by the Comanche and you got her back. How would you feel knowing..."
Cody: "If I loved her it wouldn't matter."
Mrs. Lowe: "Wouldn't it?"
Cody: "No, ma'am. It wouldn't matter at all."
On this trip he returns with a Nancy Lowe (Nancy Gates). Unbeknownst to Cody, Mr. Lowe has placed a $5,000 reward on the return of his wife, but others are aware.
An uneasy alliance.
Skip Homeier, Randolph Scott, Claude Akins, Richard Rust
Ben Lane (Claude Akins) and his two followers, Frank (Skip Homeier) and Dobie (Richard Rust) have stirred up a bit of trouble with the Comanche in their search for Mrs. Lowe. There is a long history of bad blood between Lane and Cody that will add to the danger of the road back to Lordsburg.
There is no hiding from the danger.
Randolph Scott, Nancy Gates
In the economical 74 minutes that it takes to relate this tale, we have action combined with philosophy. The eminent danger is always physical and it could come from many directions. The philosophical bent comes from the young cowboy Dobie questioning his way of life. He has a natural dislike of his leader, Ben Lane, and an equally strong admiration for Cody.
A brief smile.
Heartbreaking and eye-opening secrets are revealed throughout the script which add depth to the characters and their behavior. The small ensemble of actors is given a fine screenplay and the opportunity to shine. Akins is given a speech similar that of Lee Marvin's star making turn in 7 Men from Now, which is just as unsettling if not as mesmerizing.
Stock music from a number of Columbia musicians including George Dunning, Max Steiner and Paul Sawtell is used quite nicely to underscore scenes of exceptionally beautiful Technicolor by cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr.
A dogged pursuit.
Comanche Station would mark the end of an extremely busy time for actor/producer Randolph Scott. Two years later would see the release of his last theatrical feature, Sam Peckinpah's elegant homage to a passing time, Ride the High Country.
Ms. Gates last feature.
Nancy Gates, Randolph Scott
If you are a regular viewer of TCM and classic television you have the opportunity to see leading lady Nancy Gates at various stages of her career. Some of her films shown on the network include The Great Gildersleeve, Hitler's Children, This Land is Mine, The Spanish Main, Torch Song, Suddenly and Some Came Running. Perry Mason, Wagon Train, and Burke's Law number among her 57 television credits. Keep your eyes peeled.
TCM is screening Comanche Station on Thursday, January 25th at 6:00 a.m., starting off a day of non-traditional 1960s westerns; the independently produced, the experimental, and even the far-out wacky.