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Nevada Smith (1966)

Nevada-Smith-tt0060748-de-66

In 1964 Alan Ladd played the character of Nevada Smith in the The Carpetbaggers starring George Peppard. This film takes the character and gives us a prequel with Steve McQueen in the title role. McQueen was as popular as any movie star on the planet at this time having secured his stardom through a series of films topped by his motorcycle run in The Great Escape. Also in release the same year as this film was The Sand Pebbles which earned McQueen his only Oscar nomination.

From director Henry Hathaway comes this revenge motivated western with a cast of over a dozen familiar faces. Martin Landau, Karl Malden and Arthur Kennedy viciously murder McQueen’s parents and he sets off after them without much knowledge of life outside a farm. The always reliable Brian Keith turns up to teach McQueen how to shoot and warns him what to expect on his journey for blood. From there the film breaks into 3 segments as McQueen hunts down each man and finds himself drawn into a life where he is no better than the men he hunts. From a knife fight to a prison in the swamps to joining an outlaw gang, McQueen goes where the trail leads him in his thirst for vengeance. Along the way he is given opportunities for redemption in the forms of Keith, Raf Vallone and Suzanne Pleshette. Our 3 protagonists all do well in their roles as killers with no conscience that McQueen seeks and there is a great scene where Malden realizes just who McQueen is during a heist.

Rounding out Hathaway’s cast are western regulars Paul Fix, Gene Evans, Strother Martin, Pat Hingle and John Doucette among others. Hathaway himself was no stranger to westerns having directed films such as True Grit and Rawhide not to mention the noir classic Kiss of Death among others. As for McQueen, it’s hard to believe he’s been gone from the movie screen since 1980. Glad to say I saw his last 2 films at the movie theater growing up before his untimely passing.

6 Comments »

  1. A pretty good movie overall but it could have been better in my opinion. It’s a very episodic affair which can be a problematic structure in itself, but this is highlighted for me by the lengthy middle section which slows the pace too much. It’s all well done of course but flails around too much during that prison sequence.

    • Overall it’s not bad. For me it’s the sum of the parts that add up to a decent film although a tad overlong. If it was done today they could do it over 3 nights as a miniseries with each episode showing him catch up to another killer. The prison sequence reminds me of 2 other films, Papillon and Cool Hand Luke. Top notch cast for sure and solid performances all around.Really like Brian Keith in this one. Thanks for checking in.

  2. well you said the magic words George Peppard. I’ve seen the Carpetbaggers but not this, but what a great cast! and Hathaway was a great possibly underrated director wasn’t he?

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