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The Gunfighter

Screening on Film
Directed by Henry King.
With Gregory Peck, Helen Westcott, Millard Mitchell.
US, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 84 min.

The Gunfighter, spare and taut in its shooting style, bears witness to the great Westerns of the silent era. Uninflected by music, the terse and sparse dialogue reminds viewers of Bresson or Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man.  It suffices to follow the tight pans trailing people moving about in everyday life, and to heed the silence and spacing of the exchanges between Marshal Mark Strett (Millard Mitchell) and Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck).  If Stagecoach is the “classic” of American cinema of the pre-war era, the stylistic virtue of King’s film defines the post-war cinema of the 1950s. Inviting comparison too, with his Jesse James (1939) it anticipates the style of the oft-overlooked Bravados (1958).

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