Jul 31, 2015

Man in the Shadow - 1957 -Movie Review by Charles Kuenneth MPHS 66

Here are my thoughts on "Man in the Shadow".  This harkens back to the late 1950's.  It mentions the Beverly Theater.  I'm sure you saw many a film at the Beverly Theater.  

It was part of my youth!   I suspect it was part of yours too.  

MAN IN THE SHADOW --- 1957 --- (in my group of 101 to 200 favorite films)

I was 10 years old when I first saw this movie at the Beverly Theater on the southwest side of Chicago in 1957.  To this day the film still resonates with me.  It is a movie about a man standing up for what is right against everyone else.  He (in this case a sheriff played by Jeff Chandler) tries to delicately investigate the death of a migrant worker who becomes a bit to familiar with a wealthy cattle baron's daughter.  Chandler's outrageous insolence is rewarded by brutality and the turning against him of family, friends and co-workers.  But his unwavering pursuit of what is right and just eventually wins the day.

This movie is no "Citizen Kane" even though Orson Welles is the co-star.  The film garnered relatively good reviews but ultimately disappeared, crowded into obscurity by the more significant films of this period.  For me, however, "Man in the Shadow" triumphs.  The reason for this is the fabulous, tortured portrayal of Ben Sadler by Jeff Chandler.  The other actors are quite good and the production values decent, but there was something about Ben Sadler's strength and 
determination, as played by Chandler, that scorched my soul. 

Perhaps, at that time in my 10 year old life, I too had been challenged to do the right thing.  I probably failed, but how many at that age have the courage, confidence and determination to go against everyone else?  Seeing the Chandler character, who was no pompous braggart, hesitantly at first, then resolutely seek justice if not inspired me, then at least it seared my memory.  After being dragged behind a pickup truck through town, Ben Sadler pushes away the doctor's warning shouting "I've lived here all my life… but it took me until today to teach me there isn't a yard of guts in this whole town!  This isn't a town… it's a trained dog act… I'm through being pushed around!  One way or another I'm going to get myself a couple of murderers tonight… and if any of you…DESCENT people want to try to stop me… there's room for you in Kelley's (the coroner) back room too!" Hopefully it made me a better person.  If it did, then how many movies have that power?

In conclusion, you will not see this movie on any top ten list.  In my opinion, at least for me, it was an highly effective, if not inspiring, film.  Perhaps the script is a bit predictable and the production values average (Universal Studios did not consider this a prestige film) but for me Chandler's performance was, and still is, golden.

Jeff Chandler ----- Ben Sadler
Orson Welles ----- Virgil Renchler
Colleen Miller ----- Skippy Renchler
Ben Alexander ----- Ab Begley
Barbara Lawrence ----- Helen Sadler
John Larch ----- Ed Yates
James Gleason ----- Hank James
Royal Dano ----- Aiken Clay
Paul Fix ----- Herb Parker
William Schallert ----- Jim Shaney

More classic movie reviews by Charles at:


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