The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

The Violent Men (1955) Classic Movie Review 37

The Violent Men (1955)

The Violent Men (1955)

Don't force me to fight because you won't like my way of fighting.

The Violent Men (1955) is a great western with an outstanding cast. Many of the tactics used in the movie could be right out of Sun Tsu Art of War BC 513.

Rough Script The Violent Men (1955)

Due to his general badassery I had to get in one more Glenn Ford movie following up on Episode 35 – Blackboard Jungle (1955). Today we have a wonder western that features an all-star cast. The Violent Men (1955) is a unique twist on the lassie rage war theme. The level of violence in this movie is shocking for the time.

So I will jump right in with a little background on range wars. Three things play into this. The first is that government land taken from the Indians was free for anyone to use. I mean unless you are an Indian and it is your ancestral homeland. So of the early white and Hispanic guys that got out there found out that they could run large herds of hardy cattle, such as the Texas Longhorns, and they didn’t have to take care of them all year. They just ride out in the spring and brand the new calves. Easy – unless your mamma is from one herd and your daddy from another. Also, it’s a problem if someone just brands willy nilly. Just for note willy nilly goes back to at least 1000 ad in old English text as will he or nil he.

When farmers moved in they could own the land for free by settling it. This lead to farmers putting up fences and the cheapest way to put up a fence is to string barbed wire. Now I have to admit I was 35 when I found out it wasn’t bobbed-wire – obliviously invented by Bob. These barbed-wire fences tended to break-up the free range.

Another contributing factor was the lack of Riparian rights. In the east, the water is shared by all landowners through which the water flows. Generally, in the west, you could dam the waterways to dry your neighbor out.

All of the above combined with money and guns led to range wars. They are covered in so many western movies I will not attempt to list them except for Episode 2 – Chisum (1970), Episode 3 McLintock (1963), and any movie having to do with Billy the Kid.

With a little bit of background covered, I will jump right into the cast and it is a doozie. Glenn Ford played the role of John Parrish. Parrish was a cavalry officer for the Union in the Civil War and just wants to be left alone to ranch. To learn more about Ford you can listen to Episode 35 – Blackboard Jungle (1955) or read his short bio

Barbara Stanwyck played Martha Wilkison and man she was tough. Stanwyck has such an extensive and varied resume I’m sure I can’t do it just here. I will attempt just the highlights. Until I started my great film adventure I knew Stanwyck primarily as Victoria Barkley on “The Big Valley” (1965) TV show. However, there is so much more than that.

Stanwyck was born in 1907 in Brooklyn, New York. I’m seeing a trend. At the age of 17 got a job in a chorus line making $40 a week. He first role was that year in Broadway Nights (1927) being cast as a Fan Dancer. Basically nude with a big feather. In 1928, she moved to Hollywood.

She was an active actress for almost 60 years. It is reported that she was always professional and very easy to work with. That a formula for work success that more people should strive for today.

Stanwyck was in a lot of westerns such as Union Pacific (1939) and The Violent Men (1955). She took on dramas such as Forbidden (1932) and Stella Dallas (1937). In the comedy genera, Stanwyck was know was The Lady Eve (1941) with Henry Fonda. She starred in a couple of film noir classic that are near the top of any top ten list on the subject. The first is Double Indemnity (1944) with Fred MacMurray. The second is The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). This is a very interesting and complex story and everyone should add it to their list.

When Stanwyck died in 1990, she had performed in 93 movies.

Edward G. Robinson played the cattle baron Lew Wilkison. To me, Robinson is the king of the criminal roles. I really feel he was better at it than Cagney or Bogart who were both a Jedi level. Robinson was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1893. His birth name was Emmanuel Goldenberg and is much easier to pronounce than Bela Lugosi birth name. Robinson moved to the US at the age of 10 and his family settled in New York City. I’m seeing a trend.

He went to city college to be a rabbi or a lawyer but like so many others he was bitten by the acting bug. He started doing stock acting in 1913 and hit Broadway 2 years later. His first film role was in the silent The Bright Shawl (1923). However when sound came and he played murderous criminal Rico Bandello in Little Caesar (1931) he was on his way.

A very cultural man he played in biopics such as Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940) and A Dispatch from Reuter’s (1940). His dramas include Flesh and Fantasy (1943), Double Indemnity (1944) as the lead investigator for an insurance company, The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945). One of his greatest gangster roles was that of aging Johnny Rocco in Key Largo (1948) with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore.

He was a friendly witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy craze in the 1950s. I would be most remiss if I didn’t mention three other movies he was in: The first was as Dathan in The Ten Commandments (1956), Secretary of the Interior in Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and in his last movie as Sol Roth in Soylent Green (1973). Robinson died the year Soylent Green was released.

Dianne Foster played the daughter Judith Wilkison. Foster was a nice looking Canadian actress that looked very similar to Rita Hayworth, a common co-star of Ford’s. In college, she studies acting. After working in Toronto for a bit she went to England for more training. In England, she worked on stage and eventually met Orson Welles.

She began playing a bad girl in British movies and was eventually encouraged to travel to Hollywood. She landed a contract with Columbia Pictures.

Foster’s first American movie was a film noir titled Bad for Each Other (1953) with Charlton Heston. It was Lizabeth Scott who played the bad girl here. She was active in Westerns such as Three Hours to Kill (1954) with Dana Andrews, The Violent Men (1955) with Glenn Ford and Edward G. Robinson, and in Night Passage (1957) with James Stewart and Audie Murphy.

Foster was in two more films in the 50s: The Deep Six (1958) with Alan Ladd and The Last Hurrah (1958) with Spencer Tracy. The 60s found her working in TV. She made two other movies before retiring in 1967.

Brian Keith played the brother to the cattle baron Cole Wilkison. Keith was born to acting parents. He left acting to join the Marines in World War II. Following the war, he went back to Broadway. His career eventually led him to television and film. Keith is probably known best for the shows “Family Affair” (1966-1971) and “Hardcastle and McCormick” (1983). However, some of his movies are pretty good. These roles include Young Guns (1988), The Mountain Men (1980), Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970), The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966), The Hallelujah Trail (1965), The Parent Trap (1961) with Hayley Mills.

May Wynn played the fiancee of Parish, Caroline Vail. She had a pretty small role here and I wouldn’t mention her except for another movie she was in, The Caine Mutiny (1954). She tried out for the prostitute role in From Here to Eternity (1953) but lost to Donna Reed. out when the studio decided to gamble on the fresh-faced innocence of Donna Reed.

Basil Ruysdael played farmer Tex Hinkleman. I talked about Ruysdael in Episode 35 – Blackboard Jungle (1955).

Lita Milan played Elena, the Mexican love interest of Cole Wilkinson. Milan was a dancer and model and was suppose to be very beautiful although that was not shown in this movie. Some of her films were The Ride Back (1957), Naked in the Sun (1957), and The Left Handed Gun (1958) with Paul Newman playing Billy the Kid. In 1958, Milan married the son of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. Her husband seized power after the murder of his father but had to flee the country shortly after. She lived out her life in Spain.

Richard Jaeckel played gunslinger for the cattle baron, Wade Matlock. I have to say this is probably my least favorite actor of all times based on a role he played on Little House on the Prairie. However, he has some real acting chops. He was discovered while working as a mail-boy at 20th Century-Fox. His first role was in Guadalcanal Diary (1943). He joined the US Navy from 1944-48. After he got out he was in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) with John Wayne/ He is remembered for playing a Military Policeman (MP) in The Dirty Dozen (1967). He had a great death scene in Sometimes a Great Notion (1970). With over 70 movies Jaeckel died at the age of 70.

James Westerfield played the corrupt Sheriff Magruder. Westerfield was a southerner that played a lot of small roles. He is known for On the Waterfront (1954), True Grit (1969) and Hang ‘Em High (1968) where his was more worried about getting a big chaw of tobackee than about getting hanged. He also did a bit of work for Disney including The Shaggy Dog (1959), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), and Son of Flubber (1963).

Willis Bouchey played the fair Sheriff Martin Kenner but he was shot down about a minute into the movie. In a 30 year career, Bouchey was in almost 150 movies and television shows. He showed up a lot in John Ford directed movies and movies where Jimmy Stewart was the lead actor.

Bouchey’s movies include Pickup on South Street (1953) with Richard Widmark, The Big Heat (1953) with Glenn Ford, Suddenly (1954) with Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) with Jimmy Stewart where he delivered the last line – “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance.”

Richard Farnsworth played an uncredited Anchor Rider. I spoke about him briefly in Episode 19 – The Cowboys (1972).


The Anchor ranch hands are riding into town led by gunslinger Wade Matlock (Richard Jaeckel). Sheriff Martin Kenner(Willis Bouchey) warns John Parish (Glenn Ford) to stay off the street but he walks out and almost gets run down by the riders. Wade faces him to offer a gunfight but Parish continues on his way.

As the gang dismounts, a young Mexican girl Elaina (Lita Milan) comes looking of Cole Wilkison (Brian Keith) but he is not with the gang. In the saloon, the gang starts beating on a man that has recently been forced to sell out to their boss. When it spills into the street Sheriff Kenner goes and takes Wade’s gun. As soon as the sheriff turns his back Wade take another gun and back shoots him.

Parrish goes upstairs to be examined by the doctor. In Westerns. doctors offices are always on the second floor. It would seem easier to get sick people in on the first floor. As the doctor examines Parish we find that he was shot through the lung while he was a Union cavalry officer in the Civil War. He had come out west to die but got well and is now ready to sell his ranch, get married and head east.

Parish goes to his fiancee’s house still feel bad about not standing up for right. Parish is beating himself up for his own inaction but all Caroline Vail (May Wynn) talks of selling out, getting married, and moving east. When Parish leaves she follows him to the barn and I’m guessing here, has sex to convince him to sell. As Caroline does the purp walk back to her parent’s house she is accosted by an old boyfriend that says she only wants out of the town.

As Parish is telling his ranch hands that he is selling to Anchor his neighbors, the Purdues ride in and beg him to sell to them. The Purdues remind him of how they helped him in the beginning and what Anchor has done. He says he has no choice as they are the only ones with that kind of money.

Parish rides out to the Anchor ranch. As he gets closer more men follow him and it has the feel of an armed camp. The first Wilkison he meets is the daughter Judith (Dianne Foster). She has total contempt for Parish as he is selling out to her father.

He is called into the house by Martha Wilkison (Barbara Stanwyck) Wilkison where he meets crippled Lew Wilkison (Edward G. Robinson) and Lew’s brother Cole Wilkinson. The meeting is very tense even though Parish wants to sell. They offer him a ridiculously low offer and treat him rudely. Lew explains that he was shot in a range war 12 years ago as he tried to acquire the entire valley. Lew also says he got rid of Wade.

Martha sneaks to Cole’s room and begs him not to go see the Mexican girl. They talk of their plans after Lew is gone to bed.

The Parish hands see Anchor rider heading to attack Purdue. However, they have got the target wrong. Even though they don’t need to Cole as ordered the gang to send a message to Parish. They find Bud Hinkleman (William Phipps) alone and Wade leads the attack. The Anchor men lasso and eventually murder Bud.

After finding Bud murdered Parish and his men take the body into town to be bury. The former deputy now Sheriff Magruder (James Westerfield) won’t take any action. The Anchor gang is in the saloon waiting and the sheriff has his gang waiting to wipe out Parish and his men when they make move. All of Parish’s men want revenge but he forces them to leave town saying he will take Bud’s gun and spend the night at his fiancee’s house. He also tells the men that a trap has been set.

The Parish men ride out and Parish follows a little later. The sheriff’s men leave and the guards on the outside of the saloon go back inside. Parish places Bud’s gun under his coat and slowly rides back to the saloon. He calmly walks in and one of the Anchor men puts a gun to his back. Wade comes up and sees that Parish is unarmed. He orders him a shot of whiskey and then another. Parish has totally disarmed them with cool. He explains that no one needs to get hurt if Wade will just go┬áto the sheriff and confess. When Wade laughs Parish backhands him and in one move put Buds gun to Wade’s belly and pulls the trigger. He takes Wade’s gun before he falls and backs out of the bar with two guns raised. He gallops back to his farm.

In this one action Parish has avoided an ambush and destroyed their best asset. This could be right out of Sun Tzu’s Art of Warfare 513 BC for example “Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance or “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”
The next morning Parish goes to Anchor and runs into Judith. They have a few words before he goes in to see Martha, Lew, and Cole. Lew denies that he sent Wade and you see that Martha and Cole are operating behind Lew’s back. Lew denies Wade again. Parish keeps poking them until they want to fight.

Lew and Cole get into a fight about who has done a better job driving people out. Martha defends the work Cole has done. Finally provoked by his wife Martha, Lew orders Cole to burn them out. Robinson and Cole have it out. It seems that Parish set them up so they would attack him.
Parish goes back to his ranch and Caroline is there giving him the business. Bud’s dad Tex Hinkleman (Basil Ruysdael) and brother arrive and offer to help. They let Parish keep Bud’s gun. Because Parish is going to fight Caroline breaks off the engagement.

Parish gathers his men and moves out to the hills to the sound of a military soundtrack with blowing horns. The men can’t understand why they don’t protect the ranch or hit the Anchor rides before they attack. Parish explains they could be branded outlaws if they attacked first but after they burn the ranch the Anchor men will be night raiders and can be shot on site.

never meet the enemy on his terms 58

They watch from the hills as the Anchor riders burn everything. Parish expects them to let their guard down and return home by the quickest route. They do and ride right into Parish’s boxed ambush with a back door. In total Anchor lost eight men

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not will be victorious.

Lew is shocked when he finds out what kind of man he is fighting.
104 he let his ranch go up in flames just to set up an ambush. That’s a fine cold-blooded devil.

Parish tries to run Cole away and Judith gets ready to calls her mother out for the affair with her uncle. Martha, as cold as ices, tells Judith that she would never hurt her father. Shamed Judith runs out. Lew reminds Cole that the men here ride for money their not use to taking punishment. Impugning his manhood Martha goads Lew into getting ready for the fight.

Judith rides into the hills to find Parish. She blames all the trouble on Cole and begs for peace. Parish tells his men to keep her until morning as they ride off on their next raid. This time they are taking the fight to Anchor.

Back at Anchor Cole is gets ready to leave. Martha throws herself at him but he leaves for Elaina. To begin the attack Parish and his men stampede the cows and horses. This forces all the men to leave the ranch house area and head to the range. Parish’s men burn the outlying Mexican worker houses. At the main house, Martha tells Lew that Cole is gone. About that time a burring wagon crashes through a large window at the house. Lew and Martha start down the stairs but Lew drops his crutches. Martha picks them up, looks at Lew and throws the crutches into the fire. Martha runs out and heads to town with the Mexican workers.

Unknown to Martha, Lew crawls out of the burning house.

In town, Martha busts in on Cole and Elaine and tells him Lew is dead. He sends Elaina out as is seems money is stronger than love.

Judith rides back to Anchor and finds her burned father scorched but still alive. Lew knows Martha is with Cole. He has probably known all along.

Martha says it wasn’t just Parish but the farmers were involved in the killing of her husband and the burning of the ranch. The sheriff deputizes a mob to exact revenge, I mean restore order. As Cole rides out with the mob Elaina begs him to take her back to Texas. He knocks her down with his horse. Elaina begs Martha to leave Cole but Martha only offers money and contempt. The posse goes on a valley-wide rampage shooting and burning. Judith has taken her father to the house of former enemy Tex. Parish works on getting the innocent farmers out of the way.

The posse, Cole, and Martha all meet back at Anchor for the night. When Parish finds them Judith gives a peace speech to the two men. The three, Judith, Parish, and Lew decide they have to ride to Anchor to stop Cole.

Lew orders all of the men off his property. Finally, Cole and Martha come out of another house. Parish faces him down. Cole fires about 3 wild shots while Parish calmly draws a bead and finishes him with one shot. Faced with the site of Lew still alive Martha runs out the gate into a one person ambush set by Elaina. Elaina kills Martha.

Later, on the main street of town, Judith delivers at job offer for her father for Parish to run Anchor. He says he has his own place and begins to ride away. They face each other love music plays. Parish says that your father always told me he would get my ranch one way or the other.

World-Famous Short Summary – easterner uses eastern philosophy to tame the west.

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Beware the moors

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