The Rawhide Years (1955)
Universal International continued to put Tony Curtis in to “B” films as his apprentice years in the star making machine were coming to a close with this western from his frequent director Rudolph Mate’.
With his hair slicked back and a gambler’s suit of clothes we find Tony (or Stony for you Flintstone fans) aboard a river boat dealing poker. He’s a first rate card mechanic and can very easily dictate who will win and lose at the tables with a card off the bottom as he pleases.
When he is accused of ruining a man by taking all he’s got he proves to have a conscience and sets out to right a wrong. The end result is he makes a friend who is promptly murdered and the killer leaves Tony practically holding the smoking gun. He quickly finds himself a wanted man. This complicates matters for Tony and the girl he loves played by Colleen Miller.
Tony leaves the territory using an alias but tries to keep in touch with Miller by letter. When she no longer writes him back he sets out to return and prove his innocence. It’s along the way back that we are treated to a change of pace role for Arthur Kennedy. He turns in a surprisingly engaging performance here as Tony’s sidekick. I have to admit I kept waiting for him to go bad on us and be unveiled as the mysterious killer that set up Tony at the outset. Considering Arthur’s many western roles it’s hard to blame me.
When Tony returns by river boat to Miller he finds her entrenched in the grasp/arms of Peter Van Eyck. With Robert J. Wilke hanging around Van Eyck we the viewers should have a pretty good idea who just might be responsible for framing Tony.
This is a fast moving “B” western from the genre’s glory days. It also happens to be Tony’s only starring role in a western, He had appeared in a few smaller roles in oaters starring Audie Murphy. Sierra and Kansas Raiders as well as the classic Winchester ’73 with James Stewart. Tony had been billed in these films as Anthony Curtis.
Colleen Miller gets to do a couple of songs for the saloon patrons but according to her she was dubbed on this occasion. Perhaps it’s just me but Miller sure looks like Tony’s other leading lady of the era, Miss Piper Laurie.
Turning up as well is an unbilled role is Victor Sen Yung and we also have William Demarest joining the proceedings as the brother of the man Tony was supposed to have killed.
Director Mate was working with Tony for the last of their four films together. The others being The Prince Who Was a Thief, Forbidden and The Black Shield of Falworth.
Until now I had never seen this Tony film which makes it rare around my house. Thanks to a patron of youtube I finally had a chance to catch up with this harmless bit of fun that features Arthur Kennedy stealing every scene appears in.