ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947)
- John Wayne, Gail Russell, Harry Carey Jr., and James Edward Grant (director).The wounded and unconscious “badman,” Quirt Evans (Wayne), is taken in by a Quaker family who espouse strict nonviolence. Delirious for days, he finally wakes up and continues his recuperation in the Quakers’ home. During Evans’s recovery, a strange thing happens to both the hardened outlaw and the naive, innocent girl (Russell) : the young girl, who has been tending to the badman’s injuries, falls in love with an outlaw, and the outlaw turns out to be not so bad after all. Evans is torn between his obvious love for the Quaker girl and his realization of the life that awaits him. The family adopts Evans, and he becomes devoted to the father and mother and the younger brother. Yet their life of gentleness and nonviolence seems alien to him. What he knows is the practical ways of life necessary for survival.At one point Evans confronts a heavy-handed landowner who has cut off water to the Quaker families in the valley below. Evans forces the landowner to open the dam, but more importantly, he forces the landowner to go down to the Quakers and apologize. They treat the astonished man royally, overwhelm him with goodness, and send him home with two baskets of pies, doughnuts, and goodies. The old life, however, haunts the gunfighter and complications arise. At one point he is given a Bible. A fellow outlaw reads it and is changed. Eventually Evans changes. At the end, instead of riding off into the sunset, Evans rides off with his fiancee, the young Quaker girl, vowing to be a farmer.On one hand, this is a powerful story, though the film borders on B quality. It mirrors the true story of many settlers who turned in their guns for the plow as they settled the West—the story often untold in Westerns. On the other hand, the film seems at odds with other Wayne pictures. Wayne presumably felt strongly about the story, since he produced it, but his character is incompatible with the values Wayne usually expressed, especially in the later films. Gail Russell and her family in the film give superb performances. Russell’s character, Penelope Worth, seems naive and simple, but she is a very complex character, driven like her father and mother by sincere beliefs. Penelope watches Evans while he is unconscious and delirious. During this time, she sees through to his deep subconscious, to the hidden goodness within him, and while shocked, she is not deterred; this insight becomes the key to her devotion to him.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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