FROM NOON TILL THREE is an odd little western/romantic comedy starring Charles Bronson and his wife, Jill Ireland. Based on his own novel, writer and director Frank D. Conroy gives us an oddball movie. At least for me. Never thought of Bronson as a comedic actor, but he pulls off the, at times, bewildered Graham Dorsey pretty well.
Bronson is part of the Buck Bowers gang, a small time outfit that have Jesse James dreams of glory. They are headed for a town to hit the bank when Dorsey’s horse steps in a prairie dog hole and breaks a leg. realizing they can’t go into town with one horse doubled up, they stop at the first ranch they happen upon to get a horse. Amanda Starbuck lives there, alone but for a Mexican couple. They have gone to town.
The decision is made for Dorsey to stay, an idea with which he’s delighted as he’d had a dream of doom on the job, at the ranch while the other four hit the bank. Bowers’ last words are we’ll be back in a few hours. They leave.
Not believing she’s alone, Bowers leads a search of the house until the pair come to a locked door she wishes he wouldn’t enter. Until he threatens to break the door down, she won’t give him the key. it’s a bedroom with an open bag of luggage on the bed, a suit and folded shirt laid out beside it.
Alarmed Dorsey looks around, reaching for his gun until she tells him she’s a widow, her husband killed in an accident two years before heading home, the room exactly as it was then, untouched ever since.
That should have been Dorsey’s first clue.
Interested in her, she remains cold, saying,”If you would have an unresisting body, go ahead.” Which he does. And she suddenly melts and responds just as hard as he does. For that next three hours, they make love in the bedroom, swim in the pond, make love beside it, finally opening the drawing room, dressing in tie and tails, he, a gown for her, and playing a song on that new fangled phonograph, dancing, him boasting about jobs he’s pulled, discussing plans for the future, professing their love to each other.
Until they hear a fast horse approaching. It’s the son of a neighbor, headed home with news, stopping to inform her about the hanging at five so in case she wanted to see it. It seems a gang hit the bank, one was killed along with a couple of innocents, the rest to be hanged.
Dorsey is delighted. Free from them, they can follow through with their discussed plans. Amanda will hear nne of it, already constructing a fantasy that he doesn’t want to leave her alone and will sacrifice his nobility to stay. “You must ride to your comrades’ rescue!”
Still wearing the tie and tails, he rides off on her horse, intending to find a place for a long nap, only o run into the posse coming after him because one of the gang had ratted him out. A chase begins in which he barely escapes, coming upon a traveling dentist, forcing a clothes switch, knocking him out, and riding off with his wagon, leaving the man propped sitting with his gun in hand. The posse blasts him from behind.
Amanda is ostracized for awhile until one day she stands up angrily and proclaims of the wonderful three hours of love they’d. A writer passing through here’s her impassioned plea and wants to write a book about it. With her co-operation of course. The title, of course, is FROM NOON TILL THREE.
It becomes a monster hit!
Going through multiple printings both in the States and around the world. Graham Dorsey becomes six-three, very handsome, a man who rode off from the love of his life to nobly try to rescue his comrades, only to run into a posse. A stage play is based on the book. A song is written about how a lifetime of love can be squeezed into three hours. Amanda becomes quite rich and the town rides her coattails with tours of her ranch and all their special places. People pay to see Dorsey’s grave complete with elaborate headstone. Carnival games are made to allow people to shoot the bank robbers. One enterprising photographer has one of those wooden boards with cutouts where you stick your head through and you have a photo of you as one of the menacing outlaws.
And what of the real Graham Dorsey?
The traveling dentist he’d switched clothes with was a bit of a conman. The first place he’d stopped arrested him for stealing gold fillings from his patients’ mouths and replacing them with inferior materials. He gets a year in prison.
Even in prison, the book is passed around. When he tells them who he really is,he’s jeered, one man claiming to have rode with Dorsey on some jobs. “You ain’t him!”
After his year is up, he returns, intending to resume his relationship with Amanda.
It doesn’t quite work out like he’d thought.
As earlier mentioned, I’d never seen Bronson as a comedy actor. The trailer below gives a small taste.