Insolent Enigma/Arrogant Auteur: Marlene Dietrich & Josef von Sternberg

Rancho Notorious

Fritz Lang

Revelling in its brazen artifice, Fritz Lang's Technicolor western tale of "hate, murder and revenge" stars Arthur Kennedy as cowhand Vern Haskell, who sets out to track down the man who attacked his girlfriend during a store robbery. (Contrast and compare with Glenn Ford's grim-faced avenger in Lang's contemporary cop film The Big Heat, also screening this season.) His quest leads him to a criminal hideout on the Mexican border called Chuck-a-Luck, where the murderer lurks among the outlaw denizens. Digging for information, Haskell coldly seduces Chuck-a-Luck's proprietor, former saloon entertainer Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich), to the displeasure of her main squeeze, gunslinger Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer). Dietrich bickered with Lang on set (invoking the memory of her mentor Josef von Sternberg to criticize his direction), but she ended up giving a daring, endearing performance as the saloon mistress, singing "Get Away, Young Man!" in that throaty, insinuating way of hers. "A bizarre, strangely poetic, and highly personal ballad" (James Monaco).


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