THE LAST CHALLENGE stars Glenn Ford, Angie Dickinson, and Chad Everett in the principle roles. Minor roles were filled by Len Lesser(Uncle Leo on Seinfeld), Frank McGrath(the cook on Wagon Train), Royal Dano(a drunken Indian), Gary Merrill(a crooked poker player), and Jack Elam(old squint eye himself).
The writer was Albert Maltz from his novel Pistolero’s Progress9as by John B. Sherry). Maltz was one of the Hollywood 10, a list of screenwriters who found themselves blacklisted in the 1950s by HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee. The plot is an old one: the young gunslinger wanting to challenge the experienced older veteran.
Glenn Ford plays Marshal Dan Blaine, the law in a small town, a former gun man who’d gotten the job after the last Marshal had been shot down and he’d stepped in. He never wears his badge, but carries it in a shirt pocket. We get his measure early in the film when he’s peacefully having a drink in the saloon and a bullying gun man comes in shoving his weight around, knocking over a young man who objects. When the gun man challenges him to a gun fight, Blaine breaks a bottle over the young man’s head and tells folks to get him out of there. The bully doesn’t like it and declares to Blaine, “Do you know who I am?” Ford calls him by now and adds, “A third rate gun hand!” Which doesn’t make the fellow happy and the showdown is on. Blaine warns him, “I said you were third rate. I’m not. If you want to live, walk out of here.”
Angie Dickinson plays Miss Lisa(Denton), Blaine’s love interest who runs the local sporting house as it’s euphemistically called.
Chad Everett is Lot McGuire, a young Tennessean who wears a gun on his right hip reverse handled.
The two men meet one day when Blaine is fishing and Lot rides up. They share the rod and later a meal of fried fish, all without introducing themselves, forging the beginnings of a bond that carries throughout the picture. The pair go through several little incidents that further cement that bond. it’s obvious they like each other, but Lot is determined to go through with it(a man must make his measure) and Blaine promises the boy he will kill him if he draws on the older man. <iss Lisa likes them both, but loves Blaine. She hires jack Elam to murder Lot, not because she thinks the boy might kill Blaine. She just doesn't want the boy's death on her love's conscience. Lot knows she did it, but won't tell Blaine.
Of course the inevitable happens.
THE LAST CHALLENGE wasn’t a great movie, but I enjoyed it. And the research on the Hollywood 10 gave me a little more knowledge on those dark times. I might like to find the novel as well.
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