Old guys rule
We’ve been reviewing recently some of those Westerns that producer AC Lyles (right) made for Paramount in the 1960s, the likes of Hostile Guns, Waco or Town Tamer, and another such was Young Fury. Lyles’s formula was to make traditional 1950s-style oaters with a cast of old hands, and this one starred the excellent Rory Calhoun, backed up by Virginia Mayo, Lon Chaney, Richard Arlen (who was in quite a few of them), John Agar and, in a very short cameo, William Bendix.
This picture was leavened with quite a list of ‘And introducings…’ and so the old-timers act alongside some inexperienced newbies.
Steve Fisher (left) did the screenplay. He had worked on a couple of goodish Westerns – The Man from the Alamo and San Antone, for example – but mostly did TV work. He was Lyles’s go-to writer for these 60s B-Westerns.
There’s music by Paul Dunlap and the picture was shot on that nice Paramount Western town lot by highly experienced TV-Western cinematographer Haskell Boggs (who had also served as a cameraman on Anthony Mann’s The Furies, so must have learned something).
This time the director was Christian Nyby (below), who as an editor worked for Howard Hawks and won an Academy Award for cutting Red River. He was uninspired as a director, though, churning out The Roy Rogers Show and The Adventures of Jim Bowie on TV and helming certain episodes of many other small-screen Westerns, especially Bonanza. Young Fury was his first and last feature Western and it does suffer a bit in pace. It wasn’t the best of these late Lyles oaters.
Still, it’s a lot of fun for sad-case Westernistas.
We start with a Mexican pueblo invaded by a rabble of ex-Reb hooligans known as the Hellions, on their way to fight for Juarez against Maximilian, who hurrah the village and finally accept cadaverous knife-throwing Pancho (Marc Cavell, the kid who helped Glenn Ford in The Man from the Alamo twelve years before) into their midst. The leader of the mob, Tige (pronounced with a hard g and presumably short for Tiger) is played by Preston Pierce, billed only 7th after all the old guys but in effect the central character. Pierce, 25 at the time, is ‘famed’ for such pictures as Girls for Rent and Angels’ Wild Women (movies you doubtless know and love) and did no other Western films.
It stars Rori Kalhun and Vilijam Bendiks
The louts learn that the famed gunslinger Clint McCoy (Rory, natch) had been in the pueblo, on the track of his erstwhile accomplices the evil Dawson bunch, but has now returned to his home town in Texas, and it appears that Tige is Clint’s son and hates him viscerally so the wolf pack abandon their Juarez plans and return to the Lone Star state to do in Clint.
Rory and Virginia on the set
They arrive at the Texas town, locate Clint, and duly start treeing that burg too. The place has an ineffectual older sheriff (Arlen) who is powerless to control the violent and drunken band, and soon the climax will come when the Dawson gang, headed by John Agar, will ride in to kill Clint and there will certainly be (because it’s a B-Western) a shoot-out in the street which the goodies will finally win.
As for the old-timers, Calhoun had started Westerns right back in 1949 in Massacre River (also Guy Madison’s first), had of course been The Texan on TV from 1958 – 60, appeared in several other Western TV shows and had starred in 26 big-screen Westerns before this one, so he was a really seasoned hand at the oater, and ideal material to lead for Lyles. He is convincing as the aging gunslinger. I liked it when one of the Hellions says to him, “Mr. McCoy, will you put away the gun? It might go off accidental like” and Clint replies, “If it goes off, sonny, it won’t be accidental.”
Rory as The Texan
As for Mayo, she was near the end of her Western career but was a notable leading lady in the genre. I think of her especially as Colorado in Colorado Territory with Joel McCrea in 1949, but also in Along the Great Divide with Kirk Douglas, The Iron Mistress with Alan Ladd, Devil’s Canyon with Dale Robertson, The Proud Ones with Robert Ryan, The Big Land with Ladd again, and Fort Dobbs with Clint Walker. Young Fury was her first Western since Westbound in 1959. She was always good. In this one she plays the ex-wife of Rory, become blousy saloon owner and mother of Tige, though Tige does not know this.
Lon Chaney Jr. had started in Westerns as a lead in RKO’s The Last Frontier in 1932. He rarely led again after that but became a B-Western regular who also got small parts in some big pictures in the late 30s like Union Pacific and Jesse James. In the 1940s he continued that trend in the likes of North West Mounted Police, Billy the Kid and Albuquerque, big Westerns all. In 1952 he was memorable as the arthritic former marshal in High Noon and later in the decade he was Chingachgook in Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans on TV (a series I followed avidly as a boy) and he became a stalwart of other TV Westerns. So he was another very familiar face to Western lovers. He plays the tough saloon barman in Young Fury.
Lon in High Noon
Richard Arlen, born 1899, got his big break when William A Wellman cast him in the silent movie Wings in 1927 and he worked with Gary Cooper again when he was Steve in the 1929 talkie The Virginian. He led in early sound Westerns such as the 1930 version of The Light of Western Stars and continued leading, but in rather more B-Westerns, into the 1940s. In the 50s he was getting smaller parts in feature Westerns and also started appearing on TV shows. AC Lyles used him a lot and the Lyles Westerns were his last. He died in 1976.
Arlen in Wings and below in Young Fury
Agar started at the top and worked his way slowly down. He was chosen by John Ford in Fort Apache in 1948, along with his wife Shirley Temple, and again for the color sequel, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon the following year. Ford, who could be a real bully, made his life hell on the sets but John Wayne stood up for him and helped him out, giving him parts in Wayne Westerns when his career was on the skids. He did a lot of TV work too in the 1950s and was well known to Westernistas, though never really a great actor in the genre.
Agar, and below in the showdown with Calhoun
As for Bendix, I never rated him in Westerns, to which he seemed unsuited, and which, to be fair, he largely avoided. He had started as the comic-relief Wahoo in Streets of Laredo, the late 40s color remake of The Texas Rangers, but otherwise only did TV Westerns (notably Overland Trail in 1960) until Lyles used him for a couple of his mid-60s oaters. He plays the blacksmith with a three-line bit part, a role which he persuaded his pal Lyles to give him (it was not originally in the script). It was Bendix’s last movie.
He largely avoided Westerns. Wisely.
As the blacksmith
Lower down the cast list we have Jody McCrea, Joel’s son, as one of the Hellions and William Wellman Jr., the director’s son, as one of Agar’s henchmen.
There’s an attempt at psychological Western when Clint McCoy, his ex, Sara, and Tige are in town, and Tige, who is determined to bring his father down for having deserted him and his mother, finally finds out who is ma is. Tige meets a girl (newby Linda Foster) who softens him a bit and he gets all boo-hoo when visiting the derelict family home outside town. The girl astutely tells Tige that the reason for his loathing his father is that he is jealous of him. Then there’s an action finale when the four-strong Dawson gang, who are said to make the Hellions look like choirboys, ride in to exact their revenge on Clint.
Certain key characters fall in the hail of bullets (as to who they might be, my lips are sealed) but the ending is too trite and sudden.
It tried for a Western version of the then fashionable juvenile delinquent/teen-rebellion movies but largely failed on that score. Paramount distributed the picture on a double bill with The Girls on the Beach, a dire teen-girl comedy, so it probably seemed OK by comparison.