The 3:10 To Yuma On Film -- II
Elmore Leonard was a famed writer of westerns and crime fiction. Early in his career, he wrote a short story for a pulp magazine "The 3:10 to Yuma", This short work has been filmed twice. The first film, in black and white and from the golden age of westerns in 1957 was directed by Delmore Davies and starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. This second version dates from 2007, long after the genre was thought to have died. It was directed by James Mangold and stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. I was familiar with Leonard's story and much of his other writing, I took the opportunity afforded by stay at home time to watch both versions of the "3:10 to Yuma".
Films generally vary from and interpret the original. The 1957 film changed many details of Leonard's story but captured its spirit and its focus on character. The 2007 film does not take a separate look at Leonard's story; instead it works from the earlier film which, in its turn, it interprets and modifies. The two films have essentially the same plot but the latter film adds many details and scenes. It runs about one-half hour longer than the 1957 film. It is also for the most part darker in tone and more violent. Both versions follow Leonard's story in capturing the developing relationship between the outlaw and the man hired to bring him in. The 1957 film, however, emphasizes dialogue and the interplay in the Contention Arizona room to which the outlaw is brought more than does the latter film.
Both versions of the film tell the story of a struggling rancher who become involved in taking a violent outlaw, Ben Wade, from Bisbee to Contention, Arizona, and putting him on a train to the notorious Yuma prison. Although it has a great deal of additional violence, the 2007 film also focuses, as does the earlier version, on the relationship between the outlaw and his guard as the two men form a grudging respect for each other. The story is about honor, courage, and loyalty as the rancher feels he must prove himself to himself as well as to his two sons and his wife. This 2007 is beautifully acted throughout, with convincing scenery and an enhancing musical score. Tension builds throughout the film as the character of both the rancher and the outlaw are developed. In this 2007 film Ben Wade's chief henchman, Charlie Prince, played by Ben Foster, has a particularly sinister role.
I thought the 2007 remake had a darker, more nihilistic feel overall than did Leonard's story or the 1957 film. This is due, of course, to the differences in the time between 1957 and 2007 and reflects the factors which made the old western genre fall out of favor. With that difference, I still thought the re-make highly effective and captured something of the western's toughness and ideals under modern day realism. Both these films are outstanding and compliment each other and Leonard's story.
I found it a worthwhile and enjoyable use of time during the current pandemic to watch both versions of "The 3:10 to Yuma", and to think about both films and about the United States and about changing ways to understand our country and the West, through the context of the western.