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Angel and the Badman (1947)


John Wayne portrays Quirt Evans, a man that other men gossip about, recalling his days as Wyatt Earp's deputy in his fight against the Clantons and fearful of his subsequent reputation as a gunfighter. His name is enough to cause a change of heart in a rancher who has inconsiderably blocked the water supply of his neighbor; his presence is sufficient to draw the attention of Marshal McLintock (Harry Carey Sr.), waiting for the chance to take his man.

At the very start of the film we see Wayne's six guns blazing away past camera, then Wayne's flight on horseback from a band of pursuers in a hectic chase. He shakes then off but his wearied horse stumbles and throws him to the ground outside the home of a Quaker family, the Worths. They take him in and tend to his injuries sustained in the fall. The daughter of the house is Penny (Gail Russell), intrigued and attracted by this stranger who drapes his arm, still holding a six gun, around her, talks of other women in his sleep, and is such a handsome figure of a man and the Wayne character is attracted to her.

Gail Russell presents what film historian Don Miller has aptly described as a "haunting mixture of sweetness and sex appeal." So the process of Wayne's reformation gets underway, conflicting with his desire to avenge the death of his foster father by killing Laredo Stevens (Bruce Cabot). The screenplay artfully contrives to deny Wayne any further use of his revolver. When Laredo Stevens and his men confront Wayne in the Worth home, Wayne bestrides a chair, half in shadow, his six-gun pointed at them, cautioning one man as he contemplates drawing his gun by asking "You nervous?" and controlling the situation; but little does he know that his gun has previously been emptied by Mr. Worth. Wayne still won't set aside his way of life as his interest in Penny deepens; "I've got places to go," he tells her, and instead of beating up a rival for her affections hauls the man off to encourage him to give her the kind of life she deserves. Wayne then takes the initiative in stealing a herd, helped by his friend Randy McCall (Lee Dixon), from Laredo (who has himself rustled it) and does the trick without firing a shot. When action seem necessary to enliven the picture later on, the film introduces an exuberant saloon brawl that is all good knockabout fun.

Laredo renews Wayne's resolve to kill him when he ambushes him and Penny while the pair are picnicking, Wayne having agreed to leave his gun behind and so forced to flee in the wagon they are using. When this ends up in a river, Penny becomes seriously ill after being rescued, and Wayne straps on his gun to ride into town. There is a splendid tracking shot of Wayne striding down main street; there is a Stagecoach-like moment of summoning Laredo from a saloon during which Penny arrives, having risen from her sickbed, and persuades Wayne to hand over his gun. At this very moment, Laredo emerges and prepares to shoot down his unarmed adversary. Marshal McLintock, still dogging Wayne's heels, is at hand to shoot down Laredo, making this the most unusual and unexpected outcome of any Wayne gunfight, enabling Wayne to hang up his weapon for good.

It was rare in 1947 for a leading man to be able to assert himself as a producer but then Wayne was so important to Republic that they were probably not very obstinate about it as a means of retaining his willing services as a star. So Angel and the Badman came to the screen with a prominent credit, "A John Wayne Production," and not other identification of a producer. Republic also had to back Wayne in giving a chance to the film's writer, James Edward Grant, to direct his work. The result was surprisingly good. It is an unusual and impressive film, modest in size but most effectively handled. Its message of opposition to violence made a refreshing change to the career of its star.

Though, as a writer, James Edward Grant gives excessive wordage to some of the supporting characters, he handles the drama with some flair, providing a good number of the kind of powerful images that mean so much in the cinema and enhance the appeal of the player they favor, Wayne and Gail Russell. The action scenes were delegated to Yakima Canutt and put over with considerable panache, yet smoothly integrating with the rest. The result is a distinct plus to Wayne's career as he obviously recognized in relying so much on James Edward Grant subsequently as a writer (if not director) of his later films.

Cast
Quirt Evans John Wayne
Penelope Worth Gail Russell
Marshal Wistful McLintock Harry Carey Sr.
Laredo Stevens Bruce Cabot
Mrs. Worth Irene Rich
Randy McCall Lee Dixon
Johnny Worth Stephen Grant
Dr. Mangrum Tom Powers
Frederick Carson Paul Hurst
Bradley Olin Howlin
Thomas Worth John Halloran
Lila Neal Joan Barton
Ward Withers Craig Woods
Nelson Marshall Reed
Townsman Hank Worden
Baker brother Pat Flaherty

Shooting (under title The Angel and the Outlaw) from late April/early May until early July 1946.
Released February 15,1947 (US), circa March 1947 (Great Britain).




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