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USA 1954
Directed by
Edward Dmytryk
96 minutes
Rated PG

2.5 stars

Broken Lance

Spencer Tracy plays Matt Devereaux, a self-made Irish ranch owner who rules his sons, Ben (Richard Widmark), Danny (Earl Holliman), and Mike (Hugh O'Brian) with an iron hand . Only to his youngest son, Joe (Robert Wagner), the only child he had with his Indian second wife (Katy Jurado) does he show any tangible affection. When he gets into a legal stoush with a copper mining company polluting his water with their tailings he has to sign over his title to his sons and, what is worse, Joe has to serve a three-year prison term. The three other brothers, led by the embittered Ben, take over the ranch, Matt dies of heart attack and Joe is left with the burden of trying to avenge his father.

Although Philip Yordan won an Oscar for his original story (distantly related to King Lear but apparently owing much Joseph Mankiewicz's 1949 film, House of Strangers), this Western is somewhat of anomaly for its time and Broken Lance has very few of the traditional characteristics of the genre bar Joe MacDonald's marvellous CinemaScope landscape photography which is particularly prominent in the early part of the film. Although this is certainly a standout, Dmytryk directing is no more than dutiful, with the film lacking any palpable dynamic  Spencer Tracy is far too avuncular to convince as the tyrannical father/boss and Richard Wydmark is equally ill-fitted as the spineless eldest son, if nothing else because he is too old (he was 40 at the time) and overall the Western trappings are ill-suited to what is essentially an urban tale of money and power at the Big End of town.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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