Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Overlooked Movies: Hearts of the West

I like this movie a lot, but I don't know many others who do.  It does have its problems (it's a little slow sometimes), but the problems are small compared to the rewards (at least for me).  

This is the movie that made me a Jeff Bridges fan, and his performance as an aspiring pulp writer who becomes a B-Western star is one of the best things about it.  So is the performance of Andy Griffith, a far cry from Sheriff Taylor, as a conniving actor who seems to be a friend to Bridges but isn't.  Blyth Danner's very good as the Kid's romantic interest, and Alan Arkin as a bottom-tier director is dandy.  

My reference to the Kid, by the way, comes from the character that Bridges creates for his pulp stories, and the lines he comes up with for the stories are another highlight of the movie.

There's a subplot about some money hidden in a car that Bridges has stolen (with perfect justification), and that has its moments, too.

Before you start thinking you might like to see the movie based on what I've said, you should check out Ron Scheer's review of a few months ago.  He's not as fond of it as I am.  As for me, though, I'll still think of Bridges every time I hear the word "Bullwhacker!"

18 comments:

Todd Mason said...

So...you think of the film perhaps once in five years? Yet another I keep landing on thirty minutes in, and I think, I'll see the entirety of this one sometime, but haven't yet...

Rick said...

Loved this one since I saw it in aWestwood CA theater on it's original release. Watching it again it IS slower than I originally thought...and somewhat thinner too. But you know what? I still love it. The acting is delightful, the Gower Gulch 1930s Hollywood background expert; and I like that the Blythe Danner character would be right at home in a Howard Hawks movie. Thanks for reminding me, Bill:I've just ordered it from Amazon...

Anonymous said...

"Bullwhacker!"

My goodness.

How often do you hear that phrase come up in casual conversation?

What kind of riff raff do you associate with?

david m

Greg Daniel said...

Bill, I am not sure what this says about me (or for that matter you) but I love this movie and Joe Vs. the Volcano.

When I first cam across it I couldn't believe that I was unaware of a movie that starred Jeff Bridges and Andy Griffith that was about the making of B-Westerns ... hard to get deeper in my wheelhouse than that.

While there are some slow parts, the performances by everyone more than make up for it.

I have it sitting on the DVR right now waiting for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You can pretty much guess if Jeff Bridges in it, I will love it. And I love this one.

Deb said...

Saw it when it first came out and hadn't seen it for decades when they showed it on TCM some weeks (possibly months) ago. I don't think it's aged well, although Andy Griffin gives a great performance. I was disoriented by how much Blythe Danner then looks like Gwyneth Paltrow now (if GP had curly hair). Makes sense, but still makes it hard to suspend disbelief.

Randy Johnson said...

I like this one myself.

Anonymous said...

I love this. Bridges is great and so is Andy, and for me you can never go wrong with Blythe Danner. Gwyneth is not a patch on Mom, IMHO.


Jeff

Mike Doran said...

I saw this in a theater when it first came out.

Back then you could still make a slow, little movie and let word-of-mouth build you a small but loyal audience (nobody knew what an "opening weekend" was in those days).

In addition to the other things you mentioned, Hearts Of The West is character actor heaven:
Dub Taylor, Frank Cady, Richard Shull, Richard Stahl, Matt Clark, Marie Windsor (briefly), and a whole bunch of others I'll remember just as soon as I hit Publish.

I may have the timing wrong, but I believe that when Blythe Danner was filming this, she'd just gotten word that she was expecting - and that the ultimate issue was Gwyneth (I could have that wrong, but you gotta admit it would be nice if it were true).

I think Hearts is now available frm MGM as an MOD-DVD; in the meantime I've got it DVRed from TCM, and will watch it again ASAP.

Richard Moore said...

I like this movie quite a bit. I'm a sucker for anything that harkens back to B-movie westerns. I feel it captures the actors and bit players hanging out, kidding around and waiting on the next shot.

An Andy Griffith movie I'd like to see again is the TV movie "Murder in Coweta County", which was based on a true story of a Georgia murder in the late 1940s. Griffith was excellent as the larger than life county boss/killer and Johnny Cash had one of his better roles as the sheriff.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I agree with you on COWETA COUNTY. Andy was chilling as the evil guy and Johnny Cash did a nice job as the sheriff. June Carter was in it too, as I recall.


Jeff

Anonymous said...

Mike, your memory was indeed off, but you were close. The movie was 1975 and Gwynnie was born in 1972. It was her younger brother Jake Paltrow who was on the way (born September 1975) during the filming.

Jeff

Anonymous said...

One more for Bridges fans: his second Supporting Actor nomination was for 1974's THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT with Clint Eastwood. It is being shown (here at least) on PBS in September. Check your local listings.


Jeff

Bill Crider said...

That one definitely deserves an "overlooked" post, Jeff. It's a dandy. And it's the one that got all the good buzz going about Cimino, right?

Richard Moore said...

Yes, Jeff, June Carter Cash had a small role as a country conjure woman. Years later I became friends with someone who worked for the production company. She told me that although the role was quite small June could not remember any of her lines and mumbled and mangled what she did remember. They had a tough time piecing together bits and pieces that would work. Thankfully, a backwoods conjurer can mumble and slur and still seem real.

I also recall when the filming was underway in Georgia, Atlanta Constitution columnist (and mystery writer) Celestine Sibley wrote several pieces about the original crime which she had covered as a reporter. She also covered the trial and electrocution of the killer.

Anonymous said...

Update: Jackie just told me THUNDERBOLT was on last Saturday so we missed it. It will be on AMC on Monday - Labor Day - at 8 pm and again at 12:30 am if you don't mind the commercials (and cuts?).


Jeff

Deb said...

If it hadn't been for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, there would never have been a Heaven's Gate.

Er, not sure where I was going with that one.

Deb said...

So, without Thunderbolt and Lightfoot there'd be no Heaven's Gate? It only goes to show how well-deserved is Eastwood's reputation for maintaining discipline--fiscal and otherwise--on the set.