The Naked Spur (1953, directed by Anthony Mann) is an unusual Western in that the cast is very compact – five stars… that’s it. James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, and Millard Mitchell.
That’s it… and yet it’s all you need or hope for.
The filming of the movie is also very unique. The camera doesn’t take you to a lot of different places and you don’t visit many different viewpoints or cross times and dates along the way. It’s shot in a very simplistic manner and it just really stands out as being very different.
This is the type of film that depends entirely on its cast and director. THEY will solely determine if it sinks or swims as there aren’t special effects, or larger than life epic scenes that make your jaw drop. It’s entirely up to the director and the cast.
- Does the cast draw you in to their story and their circumstances? Do they make you care how they feel? Do they compel you to take the journey with them and see them safely home?
- Does the director allow the characters and scenery to tell the story without getting in the way? Does he allow an actor or actress to use subtle expressions to convey meaning without trying to make them shout it?
The answers to the above are YES and YES.
Subtle is a word I often use when talking about The Naked Spur. Whether it’s the film’s overall approach, the romantic aspect of the movie, or the insight we get into each character – this western is more subtle than many westerns, and it’s entirely up to the viewer whether they love, like, or hate the subtlety. Personally, I think it can be a welcome contrast. I love a huge epic western as much as anyone (heck, better than most) but the simplicity of The Naked Spur is always, always, always welcome in my den.
Janet Leigh and James Stewart
If you’ve never seen this unique, entertaining, and wonderful movie, I hope you’ll find it soon. If you HAVE seen it, I hope you’ll revisit the characters again really soon. Each time I see this movie, I like it more and more.