A Native American Civil War hero returns home to fight for his people.
A Native American Civil War hero returns home to fight for his people.
The Anthony Mann hero in transition, into the outdoors yet still encircled by shadows: "That’s a big horse you’re riding. It’s a long fall from it." The war never ends for the outsider, so realizes the Shoshone officer (Robert Taylor) who rides back to his Wyoming home with a Gettysburg Medal of Honor and a "saddlebag full of dreams." The saloon that once welcomed him hardens into a lattice of inhospitable diagonals, a detail from My Darling Clementine ("No liquor for Indians") gives way to a scuffle so intense that the combatants' grimaces and fists appear to scratch at the edges of the screen. When his own land is taken from him, he sees justice split between the wheezing attorney…
As much as I love "revisionist westerns" sometimes you watch one of the more bullish John Fords or literally any Anthony Mann and you wonder how anyone came up with a genre tag like that when the best of the classic westerns are already so suspicious, if not outright hostile to our pioneer mythos. This is such a caustic, outraged film, so furious in its depiction of white hostility that even the liberal lawyer who agrees to help Lance save his homestead has to admit when he presses her on it that yes, she thinks white people should be able to take and exploit his land. (That she calls the Cavalry to intervene and broker peace when the locals start…
Anthony Mann's Broken Arrow but vastly, vastly more powerful. It says a lot that despite Robert Taylor's brownface turn as a Native American, not even that unfortunate flaw stopped me from appreciating the vividly drawn systemic oppression on display in Devil's Doorway. Surprisingly, it's a western that doesn't sugarcoat its message with a dollop of 1950s wholesomeness and denial.
Now I feel bad for Delmer Daves. I'm sure he had good intentions with Broken Arrow, but I can see how it's an inferior work when compared to the more hard-hitting Devil's Doorway - a film from the same year, no less!
Mann and Alton arrive for work on Western genre fresh from helping canonize the film noir aesthetic. Alton stages one of the great bar fights in the cramped quarters of penumbral saloon using extreme closeups as ghoulish bystanders look on like figures out of Goya charcoals; the low-angle dynamite battle between the Indians and homesteaders shot from horse shank level; and final dramatic goodbyes said in the mote-swirling light of a dark cabin.
They also bring with them to the Rockies a noir plot and tropes ready to assemble: a veteran returns home from the war and finds trouble adjusting. The fix is in against the little guy because someone powerful and shady is manipulating the system. A women represents…
Robert Taylor's indian civil war veteran returns home and grows rich raising cattle. wyoming becoming a territory brings laws that forbid him from any kind of land ownership and he is soon brought down by racist lawyers and land hungry sheep farmers.
It's a film so bleak that MGM shelved it after test screenings and film so intelligently put together, beautifully shot and powerfully written that it actually gets past the fact it stars Robert Taylor in brownface. Most of the other indians with speaking roles are jewish or samoan but despite this it becomes a genuinely moving attack on racism.
Despite the make up Taylor is very good in the role and Paula Raymond is beautiful and suprisingly nuanced…
”My father said, 'The Earth is our mother.'”
-Reference to growing cattle
-Shot of moose milk
-A young man's goal is to bring back the talons of the eagle
Shelved after negative press screenings apparently made the studio think twice, and released as a bottom-of-bill filler after the success of the similarly themed BROKEN ARROW, this film actually made a minor profit (Wikipedia says 25,000 dollars!) but it's easy to see why the studio might have second-guessed middle America's reaction to it--in form, this is a civil war officer returning from the army to his beautiful home on the range, and forced to guard it against marauding raiders who want the land--only, Anthony Mann flips the script so that the landowner guarding his space and family is a Shoshone tribesman who's flush with visions of the American dream and a new era of interracial harmony after fighting alongside white…
Ma sensibilité moderne n'a pas pu ne pas ressentir un malaise pendant 1h30 devant la redface de Robert Taylor (faut dire aussi que c'est laid et parfaitement ridicule), mais sinon, oui, c'est un western singulièrement progressiste. Taylor, en Shoshone, aussi cowboy et héros de la guerre civile, ayant combattu avec les blancs, tente de défendre la terre de ses ancêtres, là où il a enterré son père, mais selon le gouvernement elle ne lui appartient pas puisqu'il n'est pas reconnu comme citoyen, il n'a aucun droit. D'un côté, c'est poche qu'Hollywood se croit obligé de passer par une star pour permettre au spectateur de l'époque de s'identifier au personnage, mais de l'autre, combien de films ont fait ressentir, en les…
Moral clarity isn't something I expect or even really want from an Anthony Mann movie - one of the things that distinguishes his stuff is his willingness to deal in various shades of gray - but this could use a good dose of it. For one, the Native American hero is played by a darkened and wigged Robert Taylor, and it occurs to me that the entire movie couldn't have been made without this concession to the same white supremacy it's supposed to be fighting against, that the moments of sexual tension between him and Paula Raymond were only acceptable because the audience knew a white man was underneath the makeup, the boundaries of white bigots being challenged but still…
"It's hard to explain how an Indian feels about the earth. It's the pumping of our blood... the love we got to have. My father said the earth is our mother. I was raised in the valley and now I'm part of it. Like the mountains and the hills, the deer, the pine trees and the wind. Deep in my heart I know I belong. If we lose it now, we might as well all be dead."
I have a thing for stories involving land and earth, both in literature and cinema. There's something about that strong sense of belonging that appeals to me. Land is the motive that drives this story as Robert Taylor finds he cannot claim his…
Devil's Doorway is a surprisingly sympathetic toward Native Americans look at relations between American settlers and indigenous peoples in the post Civil War era. The surprising part is how much empathy the script has for the cause of Native Americans. Though it is easy to dismiss the film outright due to the fact that Robert Taylor, a white man, (regrettably) plays an Indian, the movie does have a great deal of sympathy. It's an interesting case study that shows how progressive sensibilities have changed in the past 70 years. The character is a veteran who received the medal of honour fighting in the Civil War who returns home and finds success in business before white men change the laws to…
Making a western in 1950 that tears the myth of the frontier and the American Dream to shreds seems pretty ballsy, but Anthony Mann does just that in Devil’s Doorway. Granted, its message is scarred by its Native American protagonist being portrayed by Robert Taylor in brownface. Taylor gives a good performance but that dated and uncomfortable aspect takes some bite out of the film’s themes.
Still, Devil’s Doorway works well as Mann’s transition from noir to the west, bringing the grey nihilism of the former to the latter. Amid post-Civil War tension, the frontier’s promise of freedom is exposed as systemic oppression that turns laws into weapons against the other. In Mann’s West, the law is a monolith of…
Incredible Western from Mann, even better than some of his James Stewart collaborations.
"Devil's Doorway" still carries a lot of Mann's Noir Beginnings with it even up to John Alton's Cinematography.
The Film takes a very realistic look at US western Expansion, how poor white Immigrants were encouraged to settle Land in the West and if Native Americans answered with Violent attacks the US govt used it as an excuse to drive more and more Natives onto Reservation Land.
Subject matters like this were rarely seen especially in the late 40s.
The Film still uses actors in Brown Face especially in the main cast but Native american actors were also mixed in. (standard practice at that time).
Louis Calhern also could've gotten a better Death scene.He plays an absolute Bastard who deserved a longer Death scene.
I found this to be such an interesting combination of non-PC and surprise at respect for a people usually vilified.
Of course Robert Taylor was miscast, but I'm sure that without a "name" the film never would have been made. And was so surprised that Native Americans were so much more than the scalp hungry stereotypes usually present in westerns of that time period.
Well worth watching!!!!
“A hundred years from now, it might’ve worked.”
Criterion’s “Western Noir” series finds full effect given the stark lighting and shadows cutting through the sweeping natural expanse in John Alton’s striking cinematography boasted by Anthony Mann’s DEVIL’S DOORWAY. The 1950 film itself is also an important document for modern audiences to weigh over the frustrations and successes of incremental progress in media representation. While the narrative and characterization strongly advocate for the rights of native Americans to live on their own terms, on land of their own choosing, the movie yet features a white man (Robert Taylor) in the lead role of Lance Poole, a Shoshone Indian returning home to Wyoming after serving with the highest distinction as a commanding…
"Devils Doorway" ist ein US-Western von Anthony Mann aus dem Jahre 1950, mit Robert Taylor und Louis Calhern in den Hauptrollen. Der deutsche Titel des Films ist "Fluch des Blutes".
Dieser Film wird bis heute straeflichst unterschaetzt, bekam selten grosse Aufmerksamkeit und ist ziemlich vergessen. Das wundert mich doch sehr, denn ich sehe den Film als Meisterwerk, moeglicherweise sogar Mann's bester Film, noch vor den Jimmy Stewart Western. Er erzaehlt auf komplexe Weise eine sehr bittere Geschichte: Lance Poole (Taylor) kommt hochdekoriert aus dem amerikanischen Buergerkrieg zurueck in seinen Heimatstaat Wyoming, ein echter amerikanischer Held. Doch in der Heimat faellt das Willkommen trostlos aus - denn Pool ist indianischer Abstammung, seine Familie gehoert zu den Indianern die sich den Weissen…
Fairly progressive and well-intentioned Western for its time, but unfortunately, Robert Taylor does play a Native American.
The more classic Westerns you go through, the more you realize that the idea of the "revisionist Western" coming around sometime in the late 60s or the 70s is kind of ridiculous. There were plenty of Westerns from before then that didn't glorify the West; plenty that did, yes, and probably the dominant tone overall, but Anthony Mann's run in the genre is a great example of films that did not, and Devil's Doorway is the best in his first run of five, better, harder, and more powerful than the efforts with James Stewart or The Furies, all of which were also really good.
It's 1950, so yes, Robert Taylor is unfortunately in brownface to play a Shoshone who has…
Before the great cycle of westerns Anthony Mann did with Jimmy Stewart, there were Devil's Doorway and The Furies, dark noir westerns which had an edge, an anger, and a bleakness to it. And this movie is a dark, tough, excellently produced and directed, action-packed, tragic picture, capped off with the opening of the proud and dignified Shoshone hero, and capped off in the end with the wounded, dying hero, who falls, in the same costume, all his dignity ineffectual to save his land. Whereas in other Mann movies the hero is obsessed in something of a dysfunctional way, here the hero is obsessed with maintenance of his land, and is proud. but in such a way that something of his "health" is unfitting for a world that is coming in. A bitter noir western, and one of the best of its kind in the early days of the classical western.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
(Originally posted on Corrierino on September 27, 2020)
I watched Devil's Doorway about a week ago and it totally floored me. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when a Mann Western is incredible, but I'd heard so little about it compared to his other Westerns (apparently on its release it was overshadowed by the far more didactic and milquetoast Broken Arrow, even though it was made first).
You have to get past the white actor in "redface" thing - though it's less conspicuous than it is in color films from the era - but it's probably the most uncompromising and complex condemnation of America's westward expansion and the exploitation of indigenous Americans that I've seen in a Western. That includes any and all…
-- Final and favorite movie in my Anthony Mann marathon --
Weren't classic westerns supposed to glorify the west? I thought cynicism about western ideals was invented sometime in the '70s.
It's breathtaking to see a movie from 1950 attack the bigotry and false promises of white American's this fiercely. Most Native American's here are played by white actors in problematic make-up, but they at least made an effort to cast First Nations actors: this was the final movie of Chief John Big Tree of the Seneca Nation playing Thundercloud, the main character's father. They also hired Chief Sky Eagle as an extra, who was at the time believed to be of the Mohawk tribe - however after his death this was revealed to be false. His real name was Basil Heath. Highly recommended!
Problematic for sure, but wildly modern sensibility for this western.
All respect to Troster and Mann who made a movie deeply sensitive to indigenous causes, but I have trouble finding a strong need to see this red-face mess.
I like Mann’s filmmaking a lot, and there are 3 or 4 scenes here that really show it off, with their great sense of framing and dramatic tension, but the better qualities of this movie are drowning in soppy melodrama. Between the overly dramatic lines and the white as day Taylor pancaked in makeup I just couldn’t take the message seriously.
Not the worst old western, but there are many many better ones to see.
It's a real shame about casting Robert Taylor as a Shoshone war vet, because aside from that (if you can get aside that), it's spot on about everything else: a brutal excoriation of American history, completely inverting the Western genre by keeping every single plot beat, but changing its perspective. Once again, the Western proves to be one of the most elastic film genres, invisibly adapting its mythology to anyone's point of view. Mann and co. hammer us relentlessly, systematically removing every bit of comfort and security the genre can offer: the town, the good people, the law, the cavalry, the good woman, civilization, the showdown... nothing remains except a systemic, targeted dehumanization, genocide by way of manifest destiny.
Hannah 🌙 1,557 films
Includes proto-noirs/noir precursors, classic American noirs (+in color), British noir, international noirs, and classic period crossover films (noir westerns, various…
Chris Sweet 845 films
I cloned this list from here: letterboxd.com/anne_f_/list/1000-noir-films-they-shot-dark-pictures-didnt/ and updated it through January 31, 2021.
I also rearranged it chronologically, to…
Bart D'Alauro 2,641 films
2600 extra films listed in the back of Peary's book, to be used as an addendum to AKA's extremely helpful…