Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Silver Screen Influences: Yellow Sky

The three top-billed stars in Yellow Sky directly influenced three of my favorite characters from my TEMPERANCE TRILOGY. With an extended sequence shot in Death Valley’s salt flats and a story that takes place in a ghost town, Yellow Sky not only has a unique setting for Westerns of its time, it has a unique story as well. While a lot of Westerns in the ‘40s were slightly cartoonish and seemed to be geared for a light-hearted crowd, Yellow Sky stands out as an escape to the dark side where rooting for the bad-guys doesn’t seem all that bad.

Gregory Peck is outstanding as a bank robber called Stretch who leads his band of miscreants across a barren landscape trying to outrun the law. Dazed and near death, Peck and his crew come a cross a nearly-abandoned ghost town with a population of two — an old man and his pistol-packing, tomboy granddaughter played by Ann Baxter. Baxter’s character, who calls herself Mike (I love that) is one of the strongest female leads in any Western to date and was the basis for my character, Abigail Gibson. She’s tough, she’s great with a gun and — in the words of the movie trailers of that era — she’s all woman. Richard Widmark’s clean-cut, all-black-wearing gunfighter called Dude (it seriously has the best character names of any Western) is only concerned with the almighty dollar and will do anything to get it — not unlike my own gunfighter Cincinnati.

Yellow Sky is fun, it’s different and it’s well worth a screening if you love Westerns. I might just go watch it again to see what other ideas I can “borrow” from it.

Yellow Sky (1948)
Director: William A. Wellman
Writers: Lamar Trotti, W.R. Burnett
Stars: Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, Richard Widmark

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