The Last Sunset (1961)

I was flipping through channels a few days ago and happened upon this dramatic Western.  It just caught my attention from the first scene.  A striking man dressed all in black, Brendan O’Malley (Kirk Douglas), rides up to a simple ranch house in the Mexican desert and humbly asks for food and shelter.  From the way they look at each other, we know that there is something going on between him and the lady of the house, Belle Breckenridge (Dorothy Malone), a strong/beautiful woman.  She has a bright/lovely teen daughter, Missy (Carol Lynley), who’s very intrigued by the stranger.

When Mr. Breckenridge (Joseph Cotton, playing against type) comes home, he’s drunk.  The rancher offers O’Malley a job; he needs men (aside from his two Mexican ranch hands) to take his cattle to Texas.  O’Malley says that he can be “the gun” (protect the herd/ladies), but he knows someone who can be a great “trail man.”  He fails to mention that this man is also a marshall, Dana Stribling (Rock Hudson), who has been tracking him for SOME time.

After the drive, O’Malley says he’ll take 1/3 of the herd.  “Oh, and I also plan to take your wife,” he adds nonchalantly.

This film contains unlikely twists and turns.  The characters develop and change over time.  The more traditional handsome man, Hudson, is in the secondary role (the white hat).  I think he does a FINE job w/ his role of the straight-shooter.  Pay attention to the touching scene with Hudson, Lynley, and a baby calf.  But the star is Douglas, who captivates and smolders onscreen (and not just because of his muscles).  He portrays a troubled man full anger, regret, and finally… selflessness.

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