What I find most interesting about this movie is how much I empathized with Barbara Stanwyck's character. This movie had a way of making me really feel what she was feeling, with the exception of her liking Wendell Corey's character... er, is she nuts? But her love of her father (Walter Huston) and the ranch and her best friend (Gilbert Roland... more on him in a bit), then her reaction to Judith Anderson's presence (is she ever not scary?), her helplessness as the ranch starts slipping away from her. Then I felt the same hatred for her father when he does something completely nasty. I wanted revenge on him myself... I mean, how dare he do that? GAH! Then, watching Walter Huston on his cattle drive, taking down the bull single-handed, emotionally coming around again and not being able to maintain the hate... just like Stanwyck's character.
It was a fascinating roller coaster ride that I did not expect to come full circle like that. After what he did, I didn't think I could ever like his character again, and yet I did. Good filmmaking that, but then this movie is directed by Anthony Mann, so no surprise at all.
Walter Huston is fantastic. He's always been my favorite of the Hustons, and he's so full of energy and gumption, grins and anger. He grabs your attention everytime he's on screen. Barbara Stanwyck is, as usual, at the top of her game, playing an even more strong-willed, stubborn woman than usual. I think it's that steely core and her very confidence, that when she finds that she could lose everything she's worked for despite that confidence -- when she's shaken that badly, the vulnerability her character's worked so hard to hide really resonates.
When Wendell Corey first walked on screen, I thought he was James Donald. The two look remarkably alike at first glance. But Wendell Corey is so flat and devoid of emotion in this movie, except for that delicious smirk he gets when he takes $50,000 instead of Barbara Stanwyck. That's a priceless moment. He seems an odd casting choice, really. Honestly, I wanted someone more classically handsome, more charming and deceitful, cuz I just couldn't see Barbara Stanwyck falling for him.
Then there's Gilbert Roland, who doesn't have a big role, but it's a pivotal one. I've liked him since I first saw The Bad and the Beautiful back in the late '80s. Gilbert Roland has this sensual ease about how he physically moves, rather cat-like. He's a neat actor to watch, and I always love catching him in something new. He's everything Wendell Corey isn't, but Barbara Stanwyck only sees him as a friend. Actually, their relationship in the movie was very refreshing, as it's rare to see a guy/girl best friendship. I love their dialog together, particuarly as it's with him that Stanwyck's character lets her guard down.