The Ox Bow Incident

  • Directors: William A Wellman
  • Producers: Lamar Trotti
  • Writers: Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Lamar Trotti
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Western
  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews

The Ox-Bow Incident takes place in Nevada in 1885[3] and begins with Art Croft (Harry Morgan) and Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) riding into the town of Bridger’s Wells. They go into Darby’s Saloon and find that the atmosphere is subdued, in part because of the recent incidents of cattle-rustling (the stealing of livestock) in the vicinity. Everyone wants to catch the thieves.

Gil learns that his former girlfriend left town at the start of the spring and drinks heavily to drown his sorrows. Art and Gil are possible rustler suspects simply because they are not often seen in town. The townspeople are wary of them, and a fight breaks out between Gil and a local rancher named Farnley (Marc Lawrence). Immediately after the fight, another man races into town on horseback, goes into the saloon and announces that a rancher named Larry Kinkaid has been murdered. The townspeople immediately form a posse to pursue the murderers, who they believe to be the cattle rustlers. The posse is told by the local judge that they must bring the presumed rustlers back alive for trial, and that their deputization by a deputy is illegal, but little heed is taken of this. Art and Gil join the posse as well, as much to avoid being its target as to participate. Davies (Harry Davenport), who is vehemently opposed to forming the posse because of its capacity for “mob rule”, also joins. Among the other people in the posse are “Major” Tetley (Frank Conroy) and his son, Gerald (William Eythe). The major informs the posse that three men with cattle bearing Kinkaid’s brand have just entered Bridger’s Pass, and therefore shouldn’t be too difficult to catch.

The men of the posse gather back in Canby’s Saloon and drink in silence. Major Tetley returns to his house and locks the door so his son cannot come in. His son yells at him through the door, telling him what he thinks of him. Major Tetley walks into another room and shoots himself. In the saloon, Gil reads Martin’s letter out loud to Art while the other members of the posse are listening. In the closing scene, mirroring the initial scene, Gil and Art ride out of town to deliver the letter to Martin’s wife and family.

The Public Enemy

  • Directors: William A Wellman
  • Producers: Darryl F Zanuck
  • Writers: Kubec Glasmon, John Bright, Harvey F Thew
  • Genres: Action, Crime, Drama
  • Actors: James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Joan Blondell, Mae Clarke

The opening sequence of The Public Enemy is a montage depicting prohibition – beer parlors closing shop and police raids – before directing the viewer’s attention to two boys growing up with the resultant lure of corruption in 1920s urban America. We get a glimpse into the family life of one of the boys, Tom Powers, including a doting mother and an emotionally absent father who also happens to be a policeman. The consequence of the father’s distance is revealed in one scene where he attempts to discipline his increasingly delinquent son. This sparks a change in young Tom, which is indicated by his souring expression while being beaten by his father with a leather strap.

After Tom Powers (James Cagney) and the other boy, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), grow into young adults, the movie follows how little by little Powers and Doyle progress from small crimes-such as stealing watches from a Department store-to worse crimes-such as killing a policeman during a botched robbery attempt-they are hired by local bootlegger, Paddy Ryan (Robert Emmett O’Connor). Tom quickly rises from apprentice to leading gangster by being more vicious and ruthless than his rivals. Needless to say, the bootlegging business becomes an ever more lucrative operation, and Tom and Matt are not shy about flaunting the trappings of gangsterism. Tom does not forget about his more humble origins, and offers support to his pathetically doting, and now widowed, mother. Needless to say, this brings him into conflict with his older brother, Mike (Donald Cook), a shell-shocked war veteran who strongly disapproves of his wayward little brother. Underlying the fraternal conflict is that Tom’s immorality has brought generous material rewards, while the straight-and-narrow path chosen by his brother has only produced a bitter casualty of war. Tom considers Mike’s self-righteousness hypocritical. When Mike quips that Tom’s success is based on nothing more than “beer and blood” (the title of the original book), Tom rejoins that “your hands ain’t so clean. You killed and liked it. You didn’t get them medals for holding hands with them Germans.”[3]

Needless to say, Tom continues his rise in gangland, but eventually his greed catches up with him when he challenges another gang, precipitating a gang war. Arguably, the most famous scene is Tom “getting it” in the end, graphically setting the tone for the “crime doesn’t pay” theme that dominated crime movies for the rest of the decade and beyond.

Wings

  • Directors: William A Wellman
  • Producers: Lucien Hubbard
  • Writers: Story, John Monk Saunders, Screenplay, Hope Loring, Louis D Lighton, Titles, Julian Johnson
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, War, Action
  • Actors: Clara Bow, Charles Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper

Jack Powell (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) are rivals in the same small American town, both vying for the attentions of pretty Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston). Jack fails to realize that “the girl next door”, Mary Preston (Clara Bow), is secretly in love with him. The two young men both enlist to become combat pilots in the Air Service. When they leave for training camp, Jack mistakenly believes Sylvia prefers him; she is too kindhearted to disillusion him, but lets David know that she loves him.

Jack and David are billeted together. Their tentmate is Cadet White (Gary Cooper), but their acquaintance is all too brief; White is killed in an air crash the same day. Undaunted, the two men endure a rigorous training period, where they go from being enemies to best friends. Upon graduating, they are shipped off to France to fight the Germans.

Mary joins the war effort by becoming an ambulance driver. When she is in Paris, she learns that Jack is on leave there. She finds him, but he is too drunk to recognize her. She puts him to bed, but when two soldiers barge in while she is innocently changing out of a borrowed dress back into her uniform in the same room, she is forced to resign and return to America.

With the end of the war, Jack returns home to a hero’s welcome. When he returns David’s effects to his grieving parents, David’s mother blames the war, not Jack, for her son’s death. Then, Jack is reunited with Mary and realizes he loves her.