Directed by Anthony Mann
Written by Charles Schnee
I was probably irrationally excited about The Furies for the simple reason that it had a Criterion Collection release. A Criterion western! It must be genius! Of course, My Darling Clementine, Stagecoach, and Red River all have Criterion releases too, but those are films directed by legends like John Ford and Howard Hawks. Anthony Mann is no slouch in reputation either, but he’s not exactly on those two giant’s level either. As a result, I have to say I was slightly disappointed by The Furies, while also still enjoying the film for what it was, which is a pretty darn good western. Just remind me not to anticipate 3:10 to Yuma as, like, the greatest western ever when I get to it in this marathon (since it too has a Criterion release). I’ve really got to get my expectations in check.
Life on The Furies, a massive cattle ranch in New Mexico is idyllic, as the Jeffords reign supreme over the land and serve as the marquee, aristocratic family in the territory. The Furies is owned and operated by TC (Walter Huston), who is aided by his entrepreneurial daughter Vance (Barbara Stanwyck). When TC begins to seek a loan from the Anaheim’s, certain things begin to change around The Furies. For one, TC starts evicting squatters at the request of the bankers, including the Herrera family, who have made their living on The Furies for a long time. This rubs Vance the wrong way, as Juan Herrera (Gilbert Roland) is her close friend. In retaliation, Vance pursues her romance with Rip Darrow (Wendell Corey), despite TC’s disapproval, and clashes with Flo (Judith Anderson), TC’s new woman from San Francisco.
I spoke of expectations, and in reality, I didn’t know what to expect when it came to the story. It’s a classic power struggle, empire western wherein both the antagonist (TC) and protagonist (Vance) have merit in their argument, both have their redeeming and their horrible attributes. What makes it an entertaining tale is the power struggle, the scheming and deceit. And who better to portray family members butting heads than Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston!? I mean Anthony Mann is a name worth knowing, especially coming off his introduction in this marathon with Winchester ’73, but who are we kidding, this is not his film. It belongs to Stanwyck and Huston.
As it should. These are two tremendous stars in Hollywood, and seeing Stanwyck again reminded me why I love her so much. In fact, it reminded me to wonder where in the hell she’s been, having not seen her since 1939’s Union Pacific. She’s such a treasure that I was giddy to see her in action again. And Walter Huston is the perfect match for her. The Furies really is just a vehicle for these two to play off each other, while occasionally allowing Judith Anderson and Wendell Corey some time to shine. I can’t say the story specifically gripped me, but these two masterful actors did. Their performances are the heart of the film and what really makes it succeed as much as it does.
Perhaps their big personalities do take a little bit away from the narrative, as it does feature some really nice moments between characters, most notably between Vance and her beaus, Rip and Juan. When all is said and done, however, I can’t say this is much of a stunner apart from the two central performances, which shouldn’t be read as a dig at the movie at all, because those performances from two the very best in Stanwyck and Huston are plenty enough to fuel the entire film. Come and stay for these two, everything else is just tangential, which perhaps means The Furies isn’t the classic western maybe I was hoping it would be, but I couldn’t imagine a legitimate westerns marathon that wouldn’t have included these two performances.