Presented by The Chicago Film Society
Westerns became bigger, louder, and safer in the 1950s. The exception that proves the rule: Samuel Fuller's FORTY GUNS, a propulsive, devil-may-care Western shot in black-and-white Cinemascope in two weeks. Barbara Stanwyck stars as Jessica Drummond, the Tombstone titan who commands as many thieves as Ali Baba. Her central conflict—protecting her ne'er-do-well brother (John Ericson) or giving it all up for the ex-gunslinger she comes to love (Barry Sullivan)—may sound rote, but the execution and emotional nuance are anything but. The overall attitude owes something to other proto-feminist westerns of the era but the melancholy/mercenary savoir faire is specifically, spectacularly Stanwyck.