PURSUED is ‘Jeb Rand’ (Robert Mitchum), haunted by childhood trauma, victimized by family assignments of guilt, shadowed by a remorseless figure from the past who follows him to exact vengeance for a deed done by Rand’s deceased father. Maybe not the first “psychological” western, it certainly shoulders its hefty share of frontier neuroses. Written by Niven Busch (Duel In The Sun), directed by no-nonsense Raoul Walsh, its success in 1947, along with his roles in Crossfire and Out Of The Past, put 30-year-old Mitchum on firm footing as a star to reckon with. *
New Mexico, the Old West edging into a new century. His family murdered, child Jeb Rand is adopted by the widowed ‘Mrs. Callum’ (Judith Anderson) and raised with her two children. Grown, after serving with distinction in the Spanish-American War, Jeb desires his foster sister ‘Thor’ (Teresa Wright), and she him, but foster brother ‘Adam’ (John Rodney) is lethally jealous of Jeb’s good fortune (war hero while Adam’s stuck tending cattle). In-cabin anger not enough, what’s with the mysterious one-armed ‘Grant Cullum’ (Dean Jagger), who keeps showing up with obvious dark intent? How many irritated relatives do you have to shoot before they’ll leave you alone to brood? With your ‘sister’ named Thor?
Location shooting in New Mexico around Gallup and at Red Rock State Park provides outdoor space to vent the claustrophobic studio settings. James Wong Howe’s fine black & white cinematography adds a noirish look to the story laced with envy, violence and a whiff of something close to incest. Max Steiner gives it a tense but subdued score. Well-done but downbeat 101 minutes material, and the finale feels anti-climactic as the 101 minutes come to a close.
Produced for $1,678,000, grosses appear to have reached $7,800,000, 31st in ’47. With Alan Hale (dialing back his usual boisterousness), Harry Carey Jr. (26, one of his first roles), Ernest Severn, Erville Alderson, Ian Wolfe, Lane Chandler, Ray Teal.
* Harry Carey Jr., on Mitchum: “It’s over fifty years later, and I still haven’t met another guy like that in my life. He was just an overwhelming personality. Big. Powerful looking. I mean, I knew Duke Wayne, and Mitchum at that time was a much more overpowering figure than Duke Wayne was, no question. And Mitchum—I don’t if they even had the word then—but Mitchum was cool. If they didn’t have that expression he must have invented it, because he was just the coolest guy who ever lived.”