Straight Shooting (John Ford, 1917): USA

Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed on VHS.

Straight Shooting

In one of John Ford’s earliest, and perhaps his first, feature films, Straight Shooting shows some of the talent Ford would later develop, but also shows a director still in training.

The film has a familiar story in the western genre pitting evil Ranchers against hard working farmers. Rancher Thunder Flint (Duke R. Lee) wants to force farmer Sweet Water Sims (George Berrell) off the land and goes about cutting off his water supply. He also recruits some cold blooded killers including Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey). When one of Flint’s men kills Sims’s son Harry is supposed to finish the job, but at the sight of Sims and his daughter, Joan (Molly Malone), mourning their dead son/brother Harry turns over a new leaf an switches sides. Harry’s sudden allegiance to the farmers is also due in no small part to his attraction to Joan who is already with one of Flint’s men.

The film shows the young Ford already has an eye for composition. The action moves swiftly and there is a nice showdown scene between Harry and one of Flint’s men. Overall, the film flows well for its time with little drag.

Harry Carey is a solid performer, however, the lack of development in his character is the film’s main fault. His sudden change from ruthless killer to gentle, reformed cowboy at the first sight of a mourning family is not believable. The only thing that would make the scenario plausible would be if the whole gunslinger persona was just an act to begin with, but we are led to believe Cheyenne Harry is a known ornery guy with a reputation for meanness.

A decent copy of this film may be difficult to find but it is worth watching for the silent film fans with an interest in the early development of the western, John Ford, or cinema in general.

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