Wednesday, April 11, 2012
YEAR 1952: ALTAR KEANE
1952 is not one of the fifties' best years for femme formidable works, but Fritz Lang's RANCHO NOTORIOUS proves one of the more noteworthy items.
This RKO film, adapted from a short story written by Silvia Richards, was Lang's last western. Like many Lang films it emphasizes the quest for revenge. After robbers rape and kill the wife of peaceful farmer Vern Haskell (Arthur Kennedy), Haskell goes looking for the outlaws. His only clue involves a mysterious outlaw hideout called "Chuck-a-luck." Only by posing as an outlaw does Haskell manage to inflitrate a ranch of that name, owned by the mysterious female Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich). Despite being in mourning for his murdered wife Haskell can't completely resist the charms of Altar, but eventually his quest for revenge wins out and Altar perishes in the inevitable shootout.
Dietrich, in her fifties at the time, projects a good world-weary attitude into Altar's motivations for opening her ranch as a haven for criminals. At the same time, she's not the strongest example of a femme formidable possible, since one of the outlaws decides to take over her operation and she doesn't do a helluva lot about it. But I include her as one of the more memorable female outlaws in western films of the period.