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Bad Day at Black Rock (7-Jan-1955)

Director: John Sturges

Writers: Millard Kaufman; Don McGuire

From short story: Bad Day at Hondo by Howard Breslin

Music by: André Previn

Producer: Dore Schary

Keywords: Western, WWII

John J. MacReedy arrives in the small town of Black Rock to present a posthumously-awarded medal to the Japanese-American father of a G.I. who was killed in action in the Italian campaign. He discovers a town run by corrupt officials harboring a dark secret. Tight western thriller which expertly unfolds. Nominated for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay Oscars. Watch in widescreen version only.

[watch trailer]

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Ernest Borgnine
24-Jan-1917 8-Jul-2012 Marty
Walter Brennan
25-Jul-1894 21-Sep-1974 Three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor
John Ericson
23-Sep-1926   The Return of Jack Slade
Anne Francis
16-Sep-1930 2-Jan-2011 Forbidden Planet
Dean Jagger
7-Nov-1903 5-Feb-1991 Twelve O'Clock High
Lee Marvin
19-Feb-1924 29-Aug-1987 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Robert Ryan
11-Nov-1909 11-Jul-1973 Billy Budd
Walter Sande
9-Jul-1906 22-Feb-1972 Character actor
Spencer Tracy
5-Apr-1900 10-Jun-1967 Two consecutive Best Actor Oscars


Spencer Tracy   ...   John J. Macreedy
Robert Ryan   ...   Reno Smith
Anne Francis   ...   Liz Wirth
Dean Jagger   ...   Tim Horn
Walter Brennan   ...   Doc Velie
John Ericson   ...   Pete Wirth
Ernest Borgnine   ...   Coley Trimble
Lee Marvin   ...   Hector David
Russell Collins   ...   Mr. Hastings (telegraph)
Walter Sande   ...   Sam (cafe owner)


Review by anonymous (posted on 16-Apr-2006)

One morning in 1945, for the first time since before the war, the Southern Pacific train stops at the southwestern desert town of Black Rock. A one-armed man named John J. MacReedy (played by Spencer Tracy) steps off the train. This event will have dramatic effects on the lives of everyone in the town. Those events make up the plot of a great movie that is part mystery and part western. If you can imagine a cross between High Noon (1952), and Crossfire (1947) you might be picturing this movie. Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) is an exciting film with an excellent cast whose performances create tension, conflict, romance and mystery that all contribute to the action of a film that effectively portrays the contrast between real courage and the posturing of bullies. It is also a powerful examination of the racism and crass self interest that all too often has masqueraded behind the name of "Americanism." MacReedys presence in Black Rock inspires uneasiness in the few residents of the town's tumbled down buildings and surrounding desert ranches. That unease turns to obvious fear when he asks about Komoko, a Japanese rancher who had vanished without a trace soon after the war started. It is clear that everyone in the town shares a terrible secret about Komoko's disappearance. Everyone is afraid to tell MacReedy anything because they have been terrorized into silence by rancher Reno Smith (played by Robert Ryan in one of his best portrayals of a neurotic character) and his two henchmen (superbly portrayed by Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin). Even the local lawman (Dean Jagger in a fine performance) is terrified of Smithand his men. Smith likens MacReedy to a disease carrier, "Since he's arrived this town's had a fever, an infection and it's spreading." But the towns elderly doctor (played by Walter Brennan) disagrees, suggesting that, "Maybe this fellah MacReedy's got the prescription" that the sick town of Black Rock needs. Tracy plays MacReedy with such gentleness, politeness, and even timidity that it is initially surprising that the imposing Smith should so obviously fear MacReedy and should refer to him as a "big" man. Smith says, "I believe a man is as big as what makes him mad. Nobody around here seems big enough to make you mad." That Ryan is right about the mild-mannered stranger is made clear in one of the films most emotionally satisfying scenes, where Ernest Borgnine tries to bully MacReedy only to be karate-chopped into submission. From that point on we know that MacReedy is at least a match for the forces arrayed against him. The plot moves forward to an exciting conclusion.

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