Featured: Top of Home Page

'Way of a Gaucho' (1952)

A western the South American way.


Way of a Gaucho

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Cast: Rory Calhoun, Richard Boone, Gene Tierney
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1952
USDVD release date: 2012-6-20

Tall, dark and handsome Rory Calhoun plays an Argentinian gaucho in a story that casts him as a reactionary force who knows he's doomed against "progress." The dialectic in writer-producer Philip Dunne's script casts the gauchos as a vanishing species resisting "the soft ways of the foreigner" and "foreign ideas out of the gutters of Europe". These ideas have to do with public education and refraining from duels of honor. "He's a fool but he's very gaucho," says an admiring friend as Calhoun deserts the army and flees the canny, relentless martinet commander played by Richard Boone in his patented method-actor intelligence. Their simmering relationship is partly like Inspector Javert against Jean Valjean, and partly like Claggart against Billy Budd.

Our gaucho knows he's an outdated relic, like John Wayne's character in The Searchers except that he identifies with the Indians and goes to live with them, sparking an organized rebellion against those who would lay railroad tracks across the Pampas. City senorita Gene Tierney goes to live with him (in sin, though they keep trying to get married in the nearby Catholic church). This prompts a cynical troubador (Everett Sloane) to opine, "As for me, give me one of these Indian women. They ask for nothing more than to be beaten three times a day."

Our hero's story seems partly inspired by the Argentine epic poem about Martin Fierro. A few scenes are shot in the standard U.S. locales, but most of the film is shot by Harry Jackson in authentic Argentine locations in a lovely, shimmering Technicolor that seems somehow washed in soft, sepia-tinted tones.

Director Jacques Tourneur seems to be channeling his own father Maurice, whose silent films (The Blue Bird, The Last of the Mohicans, Lorna Doone) framed characters with a ravishingly pictorial eye; here Calhoun is constantly framed by evocative trees and Rembrandt-lit windows in one beautiful shot after another. Tourneur is most famous for his horror films (The Cat People) and noirs (Out of the Past) but this French immigrant had an atmospheric feeling for Americana (most conspicuous in his great Stars in My Crown), and here he transplants certain tropes of the Western into a South American. Newly available on demand from the 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives, this film is a feast for the eye, and the unusual story and setting isn't bad for the mind either.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".

Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.