image  Ray Milland directs and stars in Republic’s A Man Alone.  Most of the film is set inside the confines of a small town and in particular the house where Nadine (Mary Murphy) and her father Gil Corrigan (Ward Bond) live. and many of the scenes are at night. So I think Black and White would have added to the tension, rather than color.

It seems perfectly natural that for the first half hour of the film Milland’s character, Wes Steele doesn’t speak. There is no one for him to converse with. In noir style, events overtake Steele – he is in the desert and has to shoot his horse; he finds a stagecoach with all the passengers dead; and when he takes one of the coach horses and rides into a nearby town, he is mistaken for one of the coach robbers.

imageIt becomes clear who the real killers are – Raymond Burr and Lee Van Cleef ,but they belong to the town. Steele is the suspicious stranger. He takes refuge in the Corrigan house which no one other than the doctor is visiting as the Ward Bond character has yellow fever. Milland’s first words of dialogue are to Mary Murphy, “I’m obliged to you for a jar of peaches.”  (He found them in the cellar where he has been hiding.)

As the townsfolk continue to search for him,he comments to Nadine, “This is a right unfriendly town you live in.” She tells him to go and he replies, “It’s not politeness that’s keeping me.”

She becomes more sympathetic as he helps her with her sick father, but the romance between Milland and Murphy was hard to take – Milland looked all of his 50 years and Mary Murphy,at 24, really was young enough to be his daughter.Maybe directing himself over stretched Milland.I’d have preferred a younger actor, say Rory Calhoun, in the lead. It could be Milland had to star in the film in order to get it made with him at the helm.

(It’s funny, I can accept John Wayne and Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo, or Clark Gable and Doris Day (25 year age difference) in Teacher’s Pet. But I was aware of the age difference here.)

I think Milland did a good job of directing  though I wonder why he chose a western – this suspenseful story is ideal noir material.

6 responses »

  1. A wonderful, underrated film that’s been crying out for a decent DVD release. I think Milland was a fine director and this kind of low-key suspense yarn played to his strengths.

    The cast is excellent, isn’t it? Murphy is an actress I’m very fond of and I really like her work on this movie. I guess Milland was starting to show his years here – he seemed to become middle-aged looking as opposed to more rugged, as was the case with the others you compared him to.

  2. That’s a good way to put it, Colin – middle-aged looking as opposed to rugged!
    I thought Raymond Burr didnt have much to do, and I thought Ward Bond’s part was going to be the same, but his character was quite well developed in second half of film.
    I like Mary Murphy and she did well, though I don’t think she suited being a blonde.

  3. This film was supposed to be forthcoming from Olive Films but
    sadly they have decided to cancel it. Its a release that I was
    really looking forward to.Even sadder because no doubt the
    DVD would have been in widescreen.
    I always thought it was sad to see Ray Milland appear in some
    of the terrible films that he made later in his career especially
    with his status in his glory days; he was top-billed over John Wayne

  4. That’s a pity. And I agree about some of his later films. What a come down.
    . I liked Ray in Reap The Wild Wind.

  5. A MAN ALONE is one of my all-time favorite Westerns, which I first discovered on TV as a kid. I looked for it for years, bought a horrible VHS tape a few years ago, then finally was able to record a lovely copy from Encore Westerns. I was really looking forward to that Olive DVD release, though, and wish they would still put it out!

    The age difference is definitely noticeable but for some reason it works for me. Maybe because I like Ray Milland so much. 🙂 Such a talented man to direct this too.

    Mary Murphy always reminds me a bit of CAROUSEL-era Shirley Jones in this one.

    Glad you were able to try it out!

    Best wishes,

  6. I wish Encore Westerns would come to the UK!
    I hadn’t thought of it, but,yes, Mary Murphy did look a little like Shirley Jones in Carousel!
    Maybe Olive Films will change their mind.

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