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Tonight on TV: cruel striptease scene in a great western by Gary Cooper, weakened by cancer



The man from the West : a western marked by cancer by Gary Cooper

After signing with The Devil’s Door (1950), Anthony Mann made a series of films of this genre featuring, among others, The hungry (1952) e The man of the plain (1955). Then it was in 1958 that he made perhaps his best film: The man from the West. The film begins with the attack on a train in which there are a dancer, a casino player and above all Link Jones, a repentant outlaw. They then find refuge with Link’s old gang. But his former accomplices will take the opportunity to help them rob a bank, and will not hesitate to attack those accompanying Link.

The man from the West it is, as is often the case with Anthony Mann, a film on which it is based characters with tormented pasts. More precisely about a complex and tortured hero “tormented by the thirst for revenge and the death instinct“, as he wrote Telerama. The type of figure that Sam Peckinpah will develop even further later and which appears here in the guise of Gary Cooper. While the filmmaker worked with James Stewart (six films together), it is Gary Cooper who gives the keys to this dark work, the last great western of each.

Gary Cooper - The Man from the West ©United Artists
Gary Cooper – The Man from the West
©United Artists

Inside, it must be admitted that Gary Cooper impresses and seems, as previously mentioned, more tortured than ever. This must be said at the time the actor was battling cancer and was very weakened at the time of filming – he died a few years later, in 1961. This is felt, but it does not prevent him from being true to himself, despite being sober, and from offering himself a great performance.

“Some of the cruelest scenes”

However, if The man from the West is now considered a cult film, it was not praised when it was released in theaters. Few were enthusiastic about it, except Jean-Luc Godard, which will consider it no more and no less the best film of the year 1958. However, the western was quite daring for its time. In addition to the representation of ambiguous characters, The man from the West can show itself extremely cruel during strong sequences. The simple confinement of Link’s group to an isolated farm proves particularly disturbing. Mainly because of Dock Tobin, the crazy and terrifying leader of the gang, well played by Lee J. Cobb. We even reach the peak of tension when the antagonist forces the singer Billie (Julie London) do a striptease in front of everyone.

Julie London - The Man from the West ©United Artists
Julie London – The Man from the West
©United Artists

Link then watches the scene helplessly, threatened by Dock Tobin’s knife. Everything passes through the glances exchanged between Gary Cooper and Julie London. Telerama also said that The Man of the West contains, with this passage and “the scene (of Julie London’s hair) being let down by the chef (…) among the cruelest“Cinema sequence.

Source: Cine Serie

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