Wellman’s Wild Bunch: “Yellow Sky”

William Wellman directed many serious films (The Ox-Bow Incident, The Story of G.I. Joe, Nothing Sacred) as well as superficial but pleasurable pop pictures like Yellow Sky, a 1948 Western wherein a band of thieves muscles in to take advantage of someone else’s gold claim.  The someone else is Anne Baxter‘s “Mike” (a nickname for a very pretty tomboy) and her grandfather (James Barton), certainly not a match for six armed lawbreakers.

Wellman’s wild bunch, filmed in long shots on parched earth, snub and pound each other until real schisms develop.  Gregory Peck is somewhat miscast as an outlaw, but at least his character grows in nobility.  He gives the same dad-gum performance, though, that he gave in every movie.  Lamar Trotti’s script is colorful and integrated.  All the same, it is hardly edifying that the film implies that what will set a young woman on the right path is being tackled and smooched, yea, even by a thief.  We’re grateful the smoocher is not a rapist.

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