It’s not rare that I come across a Class B Western that I have never heard of, but to find an Class A Western that I had never heard of was indeed rare. “The Wonderful Country” was produced in 1959 and starred Robert Mitchum and Julie London. I had fallen in lust with Julie two years earlier at the age of eleven when she appeared in Life Magazine and had seen Mitchum in “Thunder Road” at the Lakewood Colonial Theatre the following year.
“The Wonderful Country” was also a rarity in that it also contained mention of the all “Black” Buffalo Soldiers (with white officers) that patrolled the old west after the Civil War AND showed them doing their job. It was really nice to see that the film featured Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige as a sergeant in the Buffalo Soldiers. Paige had been one of the top players in the Negro Leagues of early baseball. After visiting the Tacoma Buffalo Museum on South Wilkeson, I am happy to see official connections with their history. – thesubtimes.com/2021/07/30/buffalo-soldiers-day-celebration-a-visit-to-the-museum/
“Having fled to Mexico from the U.S. many years ago for killing his father’s murderer, Martin Brady travels to Texas to broker an arms deal for his Mexican boss, strongman Governor Cipriano Castro. Brady breaks a leg and while recuperating in Texas the gun shipment is stolen. Complicating matters further the wife of local army major Colton has designs on him, and the local Texas Ranger captain makes him a generous offer to come back to the states and join his outfit. After killing a man in self defense, Brady slips back over the border and confronts Castro who is not only unhappy that Brady has lost his gun shipment but is about to join forces with Colton to battle the local raiding Apache Indians.” — Doug Sederberg email@example.com
Robert Mitchum (August 6, 1917 – July 1, 1997) was an actor, director, author, poet, composer, and singer. Singer is a bit of a stretch. Although he had a hit record in “Thunder Road” that was pretty much the extent of his singing career. He started out in classic film noir. His best-known films include “River of No Return” (1954) with Marilyn Monroe, “The Night of the Hunter” (1955), “Thunder Road” (1958), “Cape Fear” (1962), “El Dorado” (1966), “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970) and “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973). He played U.S. Navy Captain Victor “Pug” Henry in the epic miniseries “The Winds of War” (1983) and sequel “War and Remembrance” (1988). He was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for “The Story of G.I. Joe” (1945).
“The Wonderful Country” has Mitchum living in Mexico crossing back to Texas with a shipment of guns. He has things to do, places to go, and people to see . . . all hampered with a broken leg. He cleans up his act while waiting.
In today’s world Mitchum is probably best known for his portrayal of a drunken sheriff who is helped by an old friend (John Wayne) in the western “El Dorado,” which was so successful it was redone as westerns “Rio Bravo” and “Rio Lobo,” both with John Wayne and no Robert Mitchum.
In the film “The Wonderful Country,” Julie London plays the wife of the major in charge of the Buffalo soldiers in Texas along the Rio Grande. She has a shady past, but her husband, played by Gary Merrill loves her. Not only was Julie London eye candy, but she had a nice voice. Watch and listen as she sings “Cry Me a River” – youtu.be/GufN7AuTJ2A
Julie London was born to parents who traveled the vaudeville circuit. She was what was once called a torch singer . . . love gone wrong . . . songs usually slow and sultry. She recorded over thirty albums of pop and jazz from 1955 to 1969. Her recording of “Cry Me a River”, introduced on her debut album, was iconic and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1974 for her portrayal of nurse Dixie McCall in the television series Emergency!.
The actors in “The Wonderful Country” cover many aspects of the entertainment industry from character actors to people like Jack Oakie who was a great song and dance man of the 1930s and on to John Banner who played Sgt. Schultz on TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes” in the 1960.
Nursed back to health from a broken leg by the residents of a small US town, an American-born illegal arms dealer becomes torn between whether to return to Mexico, where he has lived most of his life, or stay on in America in this Technicolor western starring Robert Mitchum. As it turns out, Mitchum has quite some history, residing in Mexico to avoid being arrested for avenging his father’s murder, yet with so many welcoming him with open arms, offering him jobs and declaring that he should stay “this side of the river… where you belong”, Mitchum soon finds himself in quite a dilemma. The title is intentionally ambiguous; it is never clear whether the USA or Mexico is meant to be the wonderful place. The plot is not really helped though by the inclusion of Julie London as a love interest in the town. She is married and it is hard to root for Mitchum when he convinces her that she must not really love her husband on account of a few glances. London is pretty dull too, and then as a self-defense incident forces Mitchum to make up his mind between the US and Mexico, it feels a case of too much being thrown on the plate here. The film’s best moments are the quieter ones in which Mitchum sits and genuinely ponders over which side to join. There are enough of these moments to keep the film chugging along, but it is a little hard to enthusiastically recommend it.
I enjoyed the film, which I found on Prime. It was nicely shot, the acting on all fronts was well done. Mitchum’s character was always at the whimsy of others more powerful than him, but power has a way for shifting. I will watch this film, again. Praise, doesn’t get much greater than that.