Monday, 1 February 2010

PERNELL ROBERTS: THE INDEPENDENT OBITUARY

My obituary of the actor Pernell Roberts appears in today's Independent, you can link to it online here. They've used a great photo: Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his three sons (Roberts, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon) in football stances, about to charge. That must've been about the end of the era for that style of photo to be fashionable; I have one of my dad in 1944, just out of high school and in his new Navy uniform, in his football stance about to tackle the original Axis.

In honour of Roberts, I watched Ride Lonesome again Saturday night. It's one of my favourite westerns, probably one of the top five of the 1950s, which was arguably the richest decade for the genre. Oddly, it was really the last decent film Roberts made. Roberts gets to shine partly because in the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott westerns the villains always do, they are flamboyant and superficially attractive counterpoints to the unfathomable and indomitable presence of Randolph Scott's usually obsessive hero, and also because, unlike Lee Marvin or Richard Boone or even Claude Akins in others of the series, Roberts hasn't lost, or at least has rediscovered, his moral compass--that task of total villany is left for Lee Van Cleef, who only appears late in the film (as he did in High Noon) and even he appears to regret his more villanous past. And for all the brilliance of Burt Kennedy's terse exchanges between Scott, James Best, Van Cleef, Karen Steele, and James Coburn, it's Roberts who gets the film's key line, when he tells Steele 'there's some things a man just can't ride around.'

4 comments :

Ruzzock said...

glad to have found your blog - Jazz leaves me a bit cold but the other stuff is great, and I very much enjoy your nfl work and I'm pleased to discover that the excellent Guardian obits are the same man ...

Robert Parker: do all crime writers fall in love with their tough guy henchmen - I think
Spencer's was the A team style Hawk - whereas Roger Crais (early works) is some impossibly cool Viet vet with tatts. Never fall in love with your characters ... James Crumley didn't, though he clearly approved of them.

Lets all hum the Bonanza theme ....

Diana said...

How can The Big Valley be dismissed in passing as a copy of Bonanza? It starred Barbara Stanwyck, and was created by the great A I Bezerides. I thought there was an air of the reference book in this piece. I recommend people check out The Big Valley.

Michael Carlson said...

I wasnt saying it was a bad show, it was far better than Bonanza, and it had Linda Evans. But it was certainly a copy of the format....

Paul Birchard said...

Hello again Mikey! Good writing, pal - I hadn't realized Pernell had popped off...I always admired him. I mentioned you in *my* blog
( http://www.youmetennessee.blogspot.com ), and there's a pic of you too ! The Tennessee Williams Journal selections I read for BBC Radio 4's A BOOK AT BEDTIME are up on that page of the BBC website for another five days or so, part of the "Capturing America - Writers" selections...Great to see you again in London before Christmas - Much love to you and the whole fam damily!