Springfield Rifle

Gary Cooper in Springfield Rifle (dir. André De Toth, 1952).

Perfectly entertaining Civil War western directed by the sporadically great André De Toth. It's a Hollywood heel-rider on at least two levels: it's Gary Cooper's next role after High Noon, once again as a guy who has to prove he's not a coward; and the title at least is an attempt to cash in on Winchester 73. People have complained that the title is misleading, since the eponymous rifle plays a relatively small part in the story. Those would be people who don't understand metonymy. The real subject of the film is counter-espionage as a military tactic, which like the gun in question was a relatively untried quantity at the time (at least the filmmakers work under the assumption that it was--beats me if it's true).

As I said, it's diverting enough, though no masterpiece. Lon Chaney, Jr. is good as a big dumb brute (surprise). Max Steiner's score is interesting: most of the time it hums along predictably with variations on "Battle Hymn of the Republic," but every once in a while it breaks out into stylized Coplandesque flourishes for no discernable reason.

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