Face of a star

Just saw Face of a Fugitive on Film Four, and what a great B-movie Western it is. But more than that, it caused me to reflect as I watched Fred MacMurray’s effortlessly charismatic performance, on how every great American star tried his hand at the genre, and nearly always came up smelling of roses: Wayne and Scott, sure, but also Peck, Stewart, McCrea, Cooper, Lancaster, Fonda. The only A list actor I can think of as absent from the list is Cary Grant. Hard to imagine him sporting chaps and chewing tobacco, I suppose. I checked back through the MacMurray filmography. A string of comedies in the thirties (ah, Carole Lombard), branching into thrillers in the forties (Double Indemnity, famously), and of course everyone remembers him as the venal boss in The Apartment (Did Wilder choose him because of that earlier collaboration?) But of Westerns I only found one I had seen before, At Gunpoint, a kind of High Noon derivative in which he looked less at ease. But here, one year before The Apartment, in a film that also seems to use the main street set from High Noon, he is confident, benign, almost youthful, but ever so capable of handling himself, as he tosses Alan Baxter one-armed over his saloon table. Here’s to you, Fred.

face of a fugitive