Written by: Giuseppe Rijitano on September 14th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: USA, September 20th, 1948
Director: Norman Foster
Writers: Waldo Salt (screenplay), Howard Fast (story)
Cast: Loretta Young, William Holden, Robert Mitchum, Gary Gray, Tom Tully, Sara Haden, Frank Ferguson.
DVD released: September 20th, 2010
Approximate running time: 79 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 (PAL)
Retail Price: £9.99
David Harvey (William Holden) is a recently widowed farmer with a young son, Davey (Gary Gray), living on an isolated Ohio farm in colonial times. Since his wife’s passing David spends most days in silent contemplation, working his crops and visiting her grave but when he notices Davey is beginning to get a little too ‘woodsy’ and wild he remembers that his wife wanted their son to be raised well educated with bible studies and proper manners, so he heads into town looking for a solution. The preacher recommends a bonded servant Rachel (Loretta Young) who would make a suitable wife. David takes Rachel on to cook, clean and school Davey for him as a marriage of convenience. Although he treats her well, there is no affection between them, until his smooth-talking friend, Jim Fairways (Robert Mitchum) shows an interest in Rachel. Only then does David begin to realize just what Rachel has come to mean to Davey and himself……….
First ever DVD release of this forgotten RKO classic western romance from 1948. Based on the Howard Fast short story “Rachel”, this was one of the few films to address the role of women in the pioneer west, as well as portray early America’s indentured servant trade. Helmed by Norman Foster, husband of Loretta Young’s older sister Sally Blane and prolific director of TV and film with numerous entries in the Charlie Chan and Mr Moto series to his credit. This was one of RKO’s biggest hits of 1948, earning $395,000.
A surprisingly entertaining tale featuring wonderful performances from all of it’s cast. Hardest working man in movies William Holden looks almost unrecognizably youthful here as the widowed farmer stubbornly oblivious to the love of a good woman. Said feisty femme played by Loretta Young, supposedly 25 years old in the flick, Young was actually pushing 40 and older than Holden in real life but despite that incongruity she gives an excellent turn as the down on her luck bonded servant, with bruised pride eventually giving way to righteous indignation as the film progresses. Mitchum is a lively presence, singing and swaggering about with a glint in his eye and a constant sly smirk, he seems to be having great fun with the part. And finally a special mention for child actor Gary Gray who puts in a performance that surprisingly doesn’t make the viewer want to strangle him, no mean feat given the grating nature of his Hollywood contemporaries.
The whole film has a breezy, easy charm to it that makes it a joy to watch and for those seeking a bit of western action we’re even granted a last reel Shawnee attack as our protagonists are barricaded in their farm and have to fight for their lives.
Highly recommended and not just to fans of classic westerns!
The 1.33.1 fullscreen picture is very good, featuring good detail and solid blacks. Fair contrast levels however with night scenes suffering somewhat; appearing overly dark. The original mono audio track is clean and clear, with the understated score coming through well balanced with the dialog.
The only extra is a short photo gallery.