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Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Far Country

I hadn't ever heard of this movie until a couple days ago when I saw that Encore was running a "six-gun salute" to Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart being one of my favorite actors, I set the DVR to record it.

It's not he greatest western ever made, but it's not bad. But what struck me about this movie is that I'm fairly sure that, 50-some years before "Brokeback Mountain," this movie featured a couple of gay cowboys.

Jimmy Stewart and Walter Brennan speak often about their plans to buy a little house in Utah and "settle down" together.  Stewart's character has a bell on his saddle that Brennan's character bought for him, planning to hang it on the door of their house to let them know when visitors arrive. "It's a pretty small bell" says Renee (One of two women in love with Stewart) "Well, it's gonna be a pretty small house." answers Brennan.
At the end of the movie, when Renee leans in to kiss Jimmy Stewart, and the music swells dramatically, Stewart turns away, walks over to his horse and wistfully fiddles with the bell given to him by the now-dead Walter Brennan. He's clearly heartbroken and not at all interested in making kissy-face with Renee, or with Ruth Roman, from whom he also walked away when she tried to kiss him. 
That's right. THIS did not impress him!

Plus, three times in the movie, Jimmy Stewart reaches into Walter Brennan's pocket, pull out his pipe, puts it in Brennan's mouth and lights it for him. It's a very loving gesture, especially when, as he is doing this, he says to Brennan "I can take care of me. And in a pinch, I can take care of you, too." 
It's much more romantic than it looks in this picture.

The screenplay was written by Borden Chase and the film was directed by Anthony Mann. I can't find a whole lot of biographical information on either of them, so I don't know if either or both were gay or not, not that that would necessarily matter, I mean, I don't think Ang Lee is gay either.

Anyway, if anyone has seen The Far Country, I'd love to know what you think. Were Stewart and Brennan acouple, or am I just reading too much into their friendship? Because if I'm right, this film would be pretty groundbreaking and it's definitely not getting any credit for it.


jadedj said...

Some keen observations there Mr. C.

I have seen it...twice, but I never noticed these things. I'm going to have to watch it again, with a different eye.

Given when it was, I'm not convinced, at this point.

A lot of naive sexual mores were prevalent back in the 50s...and I think it unlikely that Jimmy Steward, who was known for his Goody-Two-Shoes roles, would have portrayed a gay cowboy...knowingly. I suppose the director and writers could have been in cahoots and pulled a fast one on ol' Jimbo.

Bob Slatten said...

It sounds kinda sweet, so i'm gonna look for it.

Brewella Deville said...

I don't know, Gary Cooper was a super conservative movie star who was very eager to help McCarthy's cause during the Red Scare yet he still managed to star in High Noon without having any idea the film was the screenwriter's indictment of Red Scare paranoia. So I think it's completely possible Stewart could have been as clueless about the film's subtext as Cooper was about his film's subtext. I know it's childish to think that actors in real life are anything like their characters, but if the film was a proto-Brokeback I'd like to think Jimmy Stewart knew and still didn't give a fig.