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  Straight Shooting Hurry Up Harry
Year: 1917
Director: John Ford
Stars: Harry Carey, Duke R. Lee, George Berrell, Molly Malone, Ted Brooks, Hoot Gibson, Milton Brown, Vester Pegg
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the Old West, the biggest threat to freedom turned out not to be the authorities, or the Native Americans, but the invention of barbed wire. These lengths of dividing lines were more responsible for hemming in the open plains and the men and women who chose to make their farms there than any other single threat, and those who set them up would jealously guard the territory they had illegally claimed as their own to the point of using violence to prevent anyone standing in their way...

Straight Shooting is generally regarded as Western expert John Ford's first feature film, running as it does as just over an hour. He had been directing shorts before this, notching up dozens of titles, but as audiences began to be more tolerant to more involved stories told with greater detail, sadly probably thanks to the elephantine racism epic The Birth of a Nation from D.W. Griffith, the number of films edging up to an hour in duration - and going further - also grew, until the two-hours plus we have today.

Indeed, not many audiences in the twenty-first century would be happy to sit down with a blockbuster that lasted a mere hour, you have to feel as if you were getting value for money, after all, but back then, before Erich von Stroheim decided he needed to make his movies longer than anyone else's, a film lasting an hour was perfectly acceptable, and Ford used the additional time to go into more depth with his characters, as well as growing more ambitious with his action and suspense sequences.

Harry Carey was the star of this, a huge figure in his day for his Cheyenne Harry character who was enjoying his time in the sun in 1917 when this was released, though he would go on to be a respected character actor before his death from smoking-related causes in 1947 (you see him start to roll a cigarette at the end of this, then throw it away, and wish he had done that a lot more decisively in real life). Here he essentially began the story as a baddie, one of the heavies the leader of the villains has hired, demonstrating his tough guy status by getting into a drinking competition and eventually, a brawl combined with a shootout.

But after the nice guy settler sees his son murdered by the villain's henchmen, Carey has a change of heart and joins the other side, recruiting his former associates of an outlaw gang to bolster his chances against the evildoers. Even in 1917, audiences would have been aware he was fighting a losing battle and it was the nobility of the gesture, that advancement of a personal freedom that was such part and parcel of the myth of the American West and indeed the American Dream that marked him out as heroic material. Well, that and the settler's comely daughter (Molly Malone, as usual playing younger than her years) falling for him - Carey can't be as bad as all that if she sees the good in him, goes the thinking there. If it was at basics a simple morality tale, do not dismiss the innovations Ford was implementing in his technique, the framing, the long shots, and so on, it all went to advance the form.

[Eureka pair this with Hell Bent, another Ford/Carey silent rarity, on Blu-ray with all these features:

Limited Edition O-Card slipcase and reversible sleeve artwork | Both features presented in 1080p on Blu-ray from 4K restorations undertaken by Universal Pictures, available for the first time ever on home video in the UK | Straight Shooting - Score by Michael Gatt | Hell Bent - Score by Zachary Marsh | Straight Shooting - Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride, author of Searching for John Ford: A Life | Hell Bent - Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride | Brand new interview with film critic and author Kim Newman | Bull Scores a Touchdown - Video essay by Tag Gallagher | A Horse or a Mary? - Video essay by Tag Gallagher | Archival audio interview from 1970 with John Ford by Joseph McBride | A short fragment of the lost film Hitchin' Posts (dir. John Ford, 1920) preserved by the Library of Congress| PLUS: A collector's booklet featuring writing by Richard Combs, Phil Hoad, and Tag Gallagher.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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