RAWHIDE has 20th Century Fox’s reliable prince hero, Tyrone Power, and their newly acquired hellcat princess, Susan Hayward, trapped in an isolated desert outpost by a gang of scurvy outlaws. The 1951 noirish western is well acted, directed and photographed, if rather pointless and nasty, including one bit of child peril that considerably pushes the envelope.
When word of the robbery-murder at another stop on the line reaches a remote desert stagecoach rest station, trainee ‘Tom Owens’ (Power) has to make room for transit passenger ‘Vinnie Holt’ (Hayward), a single woman bringing her toddler niece back East. She’s upset and quarrelsome, but real trouble shows up with fugitive killer, ruthless ‘Jim Zimmerman’ (Hugh Marlowe) and his crew. ‘Yancy’ (Dean Jagger) is a cretin, not all that dangerous. ‘Gratz’ (George Tobias) isn’t much for brains, either, but will do whatever he’s told. Worst is ‘Tevis’ (Jack Elam), a depraved, literally wild-eyed lunatic.
Since you know going in that Power and Hayward will make it out and the craven curs won’t, it’s just a matter of how well the suspense plays out, as directed by veteran Henry Hathaway.
At 36, Power was laboring and beginning to chafe in a trench of unremarkable projects that demanded little beyond his presence and professionalism. He does well in an atypical role (he spends most of the movie getting pushed around), though he’s really too old for the character. Hayward, 33, was being showcased that year in David and Bathsheba, I’d Climb The Highest Mountain and I Can Get It For You Wholesale. She’s all right, not yet going full-on with her tendency to histrionic posing. *
Dudley Nichols script reworks, without attribution, a 1935 Fox gangster flick called Show Them No Mercy! Likewise pillaging from the studio chest, the music score, credited to Sol Kaplan, swipes from one Alfred Newman had done 11 years earlier for another Fox western with Power (and Jagger), Brigham Young. Then, just three years earlier the exact same title theme had been trotted out for again for Yellow Sky.
Hathaway directs the actors and action to good effect (although it’s hard to get much from Marlowe), and Milton R. Krasner’s fine black & white cinematography captures some swell exteriors, especially in the evening shots, at the locations in the Alabama Hills around Lone Pine, California. Most compelling is Elam, 30, whose slavering psycho was so vivid it marked him almost exclusively as a really bad bad-guy until the late 60’s when he was finally allowed some comic relief. Elam gets the most harrowing scene in the film, when he taunts Power by taking near-miss potshots at the little girl.
Grossing $5,600,000, Rawhide rolled to #51 in ’51. With the always entertaining Edgar Buchanan, Jeff Corey (about to be blacklisted), James Millican, Louis Jean Heydt, (Millican and Heydt so similar they’re easy to confuse) Kenneth Tobey (unbilled), and 2-year-old Judy Dunn as the ricochet-whizzed tot.
* Power noticeably aged over a few years in the early 50s, but several times was asked to play characters considerably younger than himself (The Long Gray Line, The Eddy Duchin Story, The Sun Also Rises, Witness For The Prosecution). Hayward, apart from a home run in I’ll Cry Tomorrow, basically did a vixen variation through the decade (Garden Of Evil, Demetrius and the Gladiators, The Conqueror, Untamed, Thunder In The Sun), wolfing scenery like it was watermelon.
The hard-nosed Hathaway whipped through three more jobs in 1951, handling The Desert Fox, Fourteen Hours and You’re In The Navy Now. The easygoing Power put up with the director’s legendary tantrums in The Black Rose, Brigham Young, Johnny Apollo, and Diplomatic Courier. Hayward, not shy about arguing, sparred with Hathaway in two other potboilers, White Witch Doctor and Woman Obsessed.