Like McCrea, Scott did not become exclusively a Westerner until the mid-forties, but once established he became a Western star of distinction, achieving his best and most interesting roles as his career matured
Scott was a great gentleman It was simple for him to do the part because it was indeed the prime quality he brought to his many roles as lawman or lone rider Scott's best work was the group of seven movies he made with director Budd Boetticher in the fifties In these he obtained a new stature as the lone figure on a mission of vengeance or similar private quest, becoming a tougher, more forceful character, the archetype of the much-parodied image As we all know, a man's actions are what make the man, and over and over again, Scott believed in courage He believed in conspicuous displays of courage And finally he rounded off this splendid climax to a long career by starring with Joel McCrea in "Ride the High Country."
Boetticher's style was marvelously simple and economical, sticking closely to the same plots, locations and character types in each of his Westerns and stressing movement and action rather than ideas
Budd Boetticher's "Seven Men From Now" is 78 minutes And as concise as this great Western is, it has four really well-developed characters traveling through Apache country; beautiful storytelling; takes full advantage of the location; and there are a lot of narrative incidents
Ben Stride (Scott) represents a man whose wife has been killed and he's going to go out and seek revenge But his style is ramrod straight and not very interesting The killers that Stride is after are all opportunists They are men who had broken the law Boetticher introduces a sympathetic bad man, Bill Masters (Lee Marvin) who had been put in jail twice by the ex-Sheriff But you get the sense that Masters wouldn't kill a woman That's not what he has in mind... But, surely, he wants the $20,000 in gold from the strongbox Ultimately, he had to test himself up against Ben Stride in the final confrontation: the stronger villain against the stronger hero
Lee Marvin stole the show He had all the little tricks, and twitches, and schemes He is magnetic, especially in one key scene on that stormy night, when he gets inside the covered wagon, asking for a cup of hot black coffee Tension mounts when he tells John Greer (Walter Reed) that his wife is beautiful He wanted to get on Stride's nerves And some tension grew between the three characters
Annie Greer (Gail Russell) was the object of desire She was wonderful foil, essential, torn between two men Obviously her character quite quickly falls for Scott's character Her husbandwho seems weakturns out to be stronger than we thought... Stride let his own life down because he was too proud We hear him says: "A man ought to be able to take care of his woman." This is the line that's submitted to a test by the whole action and script and direction of the movie
One last note: Without sacrificing any of the traditional action elements, there was somehow an extra dimension to the Boetticher Westerns; they had a biting, underplayed quality, the kind of films one would have expected had John Huston (in his prime) suddenly decided to become a director of Westerns