Lee Sholem | Rankings | The Redhead from Wyoming

Cheyenne: Trial by Conscience | The Imposter | Incident at Dawson Flats | The Greater Glory

Bronco: The Freeze-out

Lawman: The Bandit

Maverick: One of Our Trains Is Missing

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | Television Western Articles

Lee Sholem

Lee Sholem is an American film and television director.

Some common subjects in the films of Lee Sholem:

Characters:

Civil Rights: Non-Violence: Economics: Religion: Parents: Subjects and Imagery: Mystery: Story Structure:

Rankings

Here are ratings for various films directed by Lee Sholem. Everything at least **1/2 is recommended.

Feature films:

Cheyenne: Maverick: Bronco: Lawman: Death Valley Days:

The Redhead from Wyoming

The Redhead from Wyoming (1953) is a Western.

Characters

The Redhead from Wyoming is unusual in that it centers on a glamorous woman, a saloon keeper (Maureen O'Hara). It preserves much of O'Hara's screen persona: feisty, independent, a fighter, a woman who wants to get married, a Christian woman (she refers to preachers, and later to Christmas). She also fits in with the Lee Sholem heroines: gutsy, feisty, fiery and determined.

Other characters also relate to Lee Sholem character types. Rich cattle king Alexander Scourby is an interesting "man's man" type. His house is a fascinating piece of set decoration, showing a purely male environment, as the dialogue points out. He relates to Peter Whitney's Western rich man in The Imposter, an even rougher cob. Both are self-made men. Both are ultimately sympathetic.

Villain William Bishop wants to be Governor, like the villainous town boss in Trial by Conscience. Like other Sholem villains, he is smooth, well dressed, and full of financial schemes. William Bishop specialized in well-tailored menaces, so this is right up his alley.

Hero Alex Nichol is the "mild-looking leading man" sometimes found in Sholem. Nichol is not especially macho. But he is interestingly wiry, and determined. He also seems intelligent and penetrating. He makes a "different" and pleasing hero. Like James Drury in The Imposter, he is a sensitive man with a sad history he recounts of family tragedy.

Links to Metropolis

The characters and situations in The Redhead from Wyoming resemble a bit those in Metropolis (1927). This might be a coincidence: after all, it is not clear that people who made Hollywood Westerns in the 1950's, were watching German silent films. Still, there is a resemblance: The parallels are not exact: the Master of Metropolis is the leader of the rich; villain William Bishop is not a member of the rich cattleman, but rather an opportunistic politician. The poor in Metropolis work for the rich; the poor in The Redhead from Wyoming are homesteaders, working for themselves.

The Hero's Scheme - and Non-Violence

Alex Nichol comes up with a scheme at the end, to defeat the bad guys. He is one of several Lee Sholem heroes who devise such schemes. The schemes tend to be clever, ingenious - and based on deceit: see Trial by Conscience and The Imposter. The schemes tend to require the cooperation of a lot of people, as in Trial by Conscience.

Nichol's scheme in The Redhead from Wyoming also serves as a "non-violent solution" to trouble. Eventually, there is a final gun battle, though - although it comes when the bad guys turn down his offer of peaceful surrender. Many of the schemes in Lee Sholem movies have such non-violent aspects. But the non-violence is most pronounced in The Redhead from Wyoming. It explicitly involves both peace making, and an alternative to violence.


Cheyenne: Trial by Conscience

Trial by Conscience (1959) is a Western. It also incorporates crime and mystery elements.

Like a number of Westerns, such as My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946), it has a subplot about a troupe of Shakespearean actors, and includes scenes of Shakespeare performance. These characters and scenes are highly vivid.

Trial by Conscience, like The Imposter, has a well-constructed story, and is an absorbing experience on that level. I have no idea if Lee Sholem deserves credit, or whether he just happened to get a good script. The same is true of The Imposter.

The writers, Alan Lipscott and Bob Fisher, mainly wrote comedy for television. Trial by Conscience is not a comedy, despite occasional welcome touches of humor. It thus seems atypical of their work.

Glenn Strange, the bartender at Miss Kitty's saloon on Gunsmoke, has a small role. He has a vivid presence, and his actions have a lingering effect on the plot.


Cheyenne: The Imposter

The Imposter (1959) is a clever episode of Cheyenne, in which the hero's encounter with an imposter is mixed in with many other story elements.

Story Structure

The Imposter and Trial by Conscience both are complex, detailed stories. Both have plots that move through several stages, in the lives of their characters. Some of the multi-stage structure of The Imposter is apparent, in that the title imposter does not emerge till half way through the film.

Both films are also mystery stories. But not of a conventional "a murder occurs, a detective figures out who done it" structure. Instead, The Imposter has a series of mysterious events throughout, which are only gradually explained to the viewer.

Story Elements

SPOILERS

The Imposter shares story elements with Trial by Conscience:

James Drury

A 25-year-old James Drury gives a good performance, as a mystery man. Drury was three years away from stardom as hero of the Western television series The Virginian in 1962. At this stage of his career, Drury was guest starring in many TV series, one of a large number of young hopefuls in Hollywood. Despite his youth, he is playing a ranch foreman, just as he will on The Virginian. He is also wearing a leather vest and hat, but they are not black, unlike those he will wear on The Virginian.

James Drury in The Imposter fits in with Sholem's "mild looking leading man types". He is young looking, and seems small and and a bit frail when standing next to giant Clint Walker. On The Virginian he will look more grown-up, and a bit tougher.

Walker and Drury have good scenes of male bonding. They try to reach out to each other, despite a maze of plot complications that "should" keep them apart.


Cheyenne: Incident at Dawson Flats

Incident at Dawson Flats (1961) is a Western that combines elements of the Thriller. It is somewhat middling in quality: there is plenty of plot that keeps rolling along, but it is also a grim tale. If you're in the right mood, this can be an absorbing story, but it also lacks real originality or strong positive virtues.

The villain has sinister schemes that involve creating illusion: like the bad guy in The Imposter. Or like the good guy's schemes in Trial by Conscience and The Imposter.

Characters

The characters seem like variants on Sholem types:

Non-Violence

There is not a "clever non-violent scheme" by the hero at the end, unlike some other Sholem films. But there is a rejection of violence. SPOILER. Apparently no-good brother Jasper unexpectedly reforms, rejecting both violence and his father's conceptions of violence equaling manhood. Such a reform is atypical of Westerns: usually such no-good sons trying to measure up to their father's macho ideals come to a bad end - see The Man from Laramie or Gunman's Walk. The unexpected mercifulness of the story is heartening. It suggests that people can improve themselves, and follow good ideas instead of bad ones.

Cheyenne: The Greater Glory

Religion

The Greater Glory (1961) is a Western with religious themes.

Partly The Greater Glory is a fairy story, about Divine Providence looking out for its faith-filled heroine. Even hero Cheyenne seems skeptical and amazed about what happens. It is not plausible, but you just have to accept it and enjoy it, to appreciate the story.

It is good that hero Cheyenne is made the skeptic about all this. He shows that one can be a morally committed person - and still have serious doubts about the idea that God is directly intervening on a daily basis in people's lives. This is a controversial idea, both promoted and dismissed by many major religions and philosophers.

Parts of The Greater Glory have resonance beyond the fantastic, however. The way the heroine's nobility inspires Stricklyn's character to reform, actually recalls the way the peace-loving monk causes a war-mongering war lord to reform in The Flowers of St. Francis) (Roberto Rossellini, 1950). In both cases, there is something inspiring about goodness causing other people to bring out their better natures. Goodness can accomplish astonishing this in life, and it is important that films show this.

Similarly, the way the good guys reach out to the Native Americans offers real life lessons in racial brotherhood, too. As well as the way that good deeds can resonate and have positive consequences.

Characters

The heroine is definitely one of Sholem's courageous, feisty women. But it is harder to link up the others in the cast to Sholem character types. Ray Stricklyn's young man might be one of Sholem's "mild looking, young leading man" types. His appearance suggests this - but his personality is far more aggressive. He is another Sholem "bad guy who reforms".

Non-Violence

Oddly, it is one of the bad guys who is originally a believer in non-violence, trying to seize the heroine's property illegally, but without bloodshed. But eventually his crookedness and greed lead him into full scale violence. This whole progression is not one I recall seeing elsewhere.

Bronco: The Freeze-out

The Freeze-out (1958) is the third of sixteen episodes Lee Sholem directed of Bronco.

The Freeze-out is grim, and not fun to watch. It has a nightmarish quality. It takes place in a ghost town, and people are camped out in the ruins. The whole effect is weird and creepy. It is a painfully minimalistic way to live.

Although Bronco is a Western series, it is not clear that The Freeze-out is a Western, strictly speaking. It takes place in Alaska, and the plot revolves around a glacier.

Characters

The characters show variations on Sholem traits: One of the new identities a suspect takes on is "James Jones". In 1958, this was also the same of a famous US novelist.

The Hero?

While Bronco is nominally the hero, he does remarkably little. Aside from occasionally protecting the heroine, he is passive. In some ways, one could argue that James Drury's suspect is the real hero of this story, with Bronco a supporting character. SPOILER. Drury gets the girl, and succeeds at his plot goal: two characteristics of the hero in much film history.

A whiny note: Ty Hardin, who plays the lead Bronco, is often hard to understand. He has poor diction, seems to mumble, and buries his dialogue under a thick accent, supposedly Texan. This is unusual for his era: virtually all the other stars and guest stars of Warner Brothers TV series had superb diction, and were always easy to understand and follow.

The theme song for Bronco asserts that every woman who meets Bronco wants to marry him. Frankly, the performance of Ty Hardin as Bronco doesn't live up to this. He is lacking in charisma in a way that is surprising in a TV star.

Both Hardin and the suspects wear some of the cruddiest looking clothes I've seen in any Warner Brothers TV show. By contrast, the heroes of Cheyenne and Maverick were typically well-dressed in sharp costumes.

Sinister Imagery

A character is briefly injured and needs a tiny bit of looking after.

Instead of Lee Sholem's traditional "bodies in rocky graves", at the end we have bodies buried in snow and ice.


Lawman: The Bandit

The Bandit (1959) is the best of three episodes Sholem directed of Lawman. The simple but involving plot combines two Sholem subjects: The two women characters are also quite feisty and determined, in the Sholem tradition.

The Bandit is notable for its visual beauty. The outdoor scenes are well composed.

Some objects, often unusual, add to the visual interest:


Maverick: One of Our Trains Is Missing

One of Our Trains Is Missing (1962) is the final episode of Maverick. It is "just" another episode of the show: it does not try to tie any series plot lines together, or show the ultimate fate of the Maverick family.