the 2017 reel infatuation blogathon: glenn ford as ben wade in ‘3:10 to yuma’ (1957)

(A list of the other posts in this blogathon can be found here.)

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‘3:10 to Yuma’ (original, not re-make) was the first Glenn Ford movie I ever watched (besides ‘Is Paris Burning?’, which I watched before I knew who he was).  I can’t be sure, it being so long ago and all, but I believe my attention was more on Van Heflin, who I’d seen and liked in a couple other films (‘Shane’, for one).  It wasn’t until I read Hamlette’s in–depth analysis of ‘3:10 to Yuma’ that I found myself drawn to Glenn Ford’s Ben Wade.  But I didn’t re-watch the film until after I’d seen Blackboard Jungle and fallen head-over-heels for Richard Dadier.  (My crush on him probably had something – though not everything – to do with my liking for Ben Wade, come to think of it.)

Anyway, I watched ‘3:10 to Yuma’ again and thus began my one and only crush on a bad guy, a villain, an outlaw. (Unless you’re counting Robin Hood or Bucky, which I don’t.)  I mean, I’ve had an interest in several villains before (mostly Disney ones, ’cause they can be pretty epic in that twisted for evil way) but I always found it weird and vaguely disturbing when girls would swoon over Loki or Richard Armitage’s Sir Guy.  They’re murderers!  They do evil, nasty things!  (And to be honest, it’s a very fine line, crushing on Ben Wade, because he is a murderer and he did do evil things.  So I try not to be too obsessed.)

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The biggest obstacle to my wholeheartedly crushing on Ben is something that happens in the first few minutes of the film.  Ben and his gang hold up a stagecoach and proceed to steal the money from it.  In the middle of all this, the driver of the stage grabs one of Ben’s men and holds him hostage.  And Ben proceeds to coolly shoot both the driver and his own man, just like that.  I believe the screenwriter(s) did this to establish Ben’s reputation early on in a relatively short movie so that we, the audience, understand why the mere mention of Ben Wade elicits such a strong, fearful response in the ranchers and townspeople.  And we definitely do understand.

Personally, I think that Prince is a way more cruel, cold, and calculating than Ben, but the whole scenario with the driver/Ben’s man getting shot is still quite violent and disturbing.  In some ways, though, I think it’s incongruous to Ben’s charming demeanor throughout so much of the rest of the film.

And Ben is charming.  He really is.  First with Emmy, the saloon girl, and then with Mrs. Evans.  It’s pretty hard not to at least grin during the scene where he eats dinner with the Evans family. (Especially when Dan’s sons go off about how Dan could shoot Ben if he wanted to.  Or the whole thing with saying grace.)  And when he talks with Mrs. Evans, I think that on some level he might be trying to make her feel more at ease around him, trying to let her know that he poses no threat to her family.

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Then, of course, there’s what he says to her after supper…

“I’m obliged for your hospitality.  I appreciate it, and your husband too.  I hope I can send him back to you all right.”

I know it may be silly to think this, but… <33333

That isn’t an idle hope/wish/promise of Ben’s, in my opinion.  Ben means what he says (always, I think).  Even though my brother, Ezra, thinks he’s psychotic, the way he keeps picking away at Dan in the hotel room, talking and talking and talking and trying to bribe him and bringing up Dan’s family, I tend to take an entirely different view of things (surprise, surprise).

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I don’t know when it happened (feel free to share your thoughts about the following in the comments), but I have a theory that eventually, at some point, Ben went from hounding Dan simply because he wanted to escape, to hounding Dan so that Dan could walk out of that hotel room alive (by taking Ben’s bribe).  Like I said, I don’t know when Ben switched his thinking on all that (and I’m guessing it wouldn’t be clear in his mind either), but I believe there was a switch.  And that’s what really counts.

This post wouldn’t be complete without at least some mention of the ending of this film, so… (SPOILERS GALORE)

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Dan and Ben make their way to the train station against all odds, with Ben’s gang shadowing their every move.  It’s a tense, fast-paced scene with plenty of nail-biting moments.  But they get to the station, which is the important thing.  And as the train pulls up, swathing Dan and Ben and the gang in clouds of steam/smoke, Prince yells at Ben to duck so he can get a good shot at Dan.  Only Ben doesn’t.  And at the last minute he and Dan jump on the train and, just like that, they’re gone. (Well, not just like that…the gang runs after them and Dan shoots Prince.  But anyway.)

The last couple minutes of the film are powerful stuff.  The theme song, the glorious rain, the smile on everyone’s faces, and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Ben can finally turn his life around for good. (Or at least for better.  Because even though redemption is definitely not a theme in ‘3:10 to Yuma’, I could easily see a fanfiction sequel written with just that in mind.)

And, after all, Ben Wade has escaped from Yuma before.

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Eva

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27 thoughts on “the 2017 reel infatuation blogathon: glenn ford as ben wade in ‘3:10 to yuma’ (1957)

  1. This is my favourite Glenn Ford film. He is everything you said: calculating, ruthless and oh-so charming. His charisma fills the screen – only a talented actor like Van Heflin can hold his own against Ford in their scenes.

    I feel conflicted when I watch this film. I admire Ford’s performance so much, and I love his scenes with Mrs. Evans, yet I never want to let my guard down.

    It’s been at least a year since I last saw this film, and you’ve got me wanting to see it again ASAP. Thanks for your thoughtful and descriptive review, and thank you for joining the blogathon! 🙂

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    • That’s how I feel about him in 3:10, to some extent. I’m still not wholly comfortable with crushing on a, you know, bad guy…but Glenn Ford is too brilliantly charming for me to hate. It’s a little frustrating. 😉

      Glad you enjoyed this post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve only ever seen Glenn Ford in “Heaven with a Gun” and I really cannot remember a thing. With your wonderful post I’ve realised I absolutely have to watch this 3:10 to Yuma (I’ve only seen the remake – hope you’re not cringing). I’m going to order it right now…can’t wait!

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  3. Pingback: Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017 – Day 1 – Silver Screenings

  4. I understand totally the appeal of Ben Wade. I think you make a very logical deduction about Ben’s “hope” expressed to Mrs. Evans and his subsequent actions during the finale. Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be just as easy to develop a crush on Jason in The Sheepman or Tom in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father? H’m?

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  5. Oh, the ferocious charm of Ben Wade! I concur heartily. My heart concurs with you. Ben Wade is ruthlessly charming. He’s an amazing manipulator — always thinking, always trying to find something to his advantage. I usually hate characters like that — an not just in a “ew, he’s mean” way, but with a gut instinct sort of “stay away from that person!” dislike. And if you had cast someone else in the role, even a talented person like Marlon Brando or Richard Widmark, Ben Wade probably would have been scary and manipulative and interesting… but it’s Glenn Ford’s ability to charm his way through anything that really takes the character to another level. I simply can’t help liking Ben Wade!

    And I think it’s Wade’s ability to mix sincerity into his manipulation that makes him so irresistible. He DOES mean it when he tells Mrs. Evans he hopes he can send Dan back to her alive — but he says it very deliberately as part of his overall plan to manipulate Dan into letting him go. Scare the wife, worry the husband that she’s scared, force the husband to see what he’s putting in jeopardy — it’s amazing. Sociopathic? Maybe. I wouldn’t marry Ben Wade. I could never be friends with him. But I will never stop being fascinated by (and, yes, attracted to) him.

    I’ve seen the remake too, and even though I’m a pretty devoted fan of Russell Crowe, his Ben Wade was nothing compared to Glenn Ford’s. (Also, the writing screwed up his character arc, so that didn’t help — Crowe does well with what he’s given.) And I’ve seen Crowe take a severely unsympathetic character and make me love him with a sad, fierce ache — but it’s not the same.

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    • YES. A lovely, long comment.

      You’re so right about how any other actor wouldn’t have done the role with such charm and all…I read once that Glenn Ford didn’t like the dialogue of 3:10 as much as the parts where he could deliver a whole bunch of subtext without saying a thing – and he does such a good job of it!

      I *cough* still kinda want to watch the re-make. Because I like Christian Bale. But I think that if I did, I’d try to view it more as a completely separate movie than a re-make of 3:10.

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      • Well, you know, um… the remake isn’t without merit. There were some good bits.
        Except they ruined Dan’s motivation and made it all pedestrian and boring. And then there’s the nonsensical, horrible ending. Blech. But you’d get a taste of the power of Russell Crowe if you watched it, and I’d be all for that.

        Yeah, Glenn Ford wields some mighty subtext in this. Smiles just the right time, does the right stuff with his eyes, shoulders, hands. That one part where he’s just been captured and he’s sitting at a table, manacled, just watching everyone else — he’s basically doing nothing in that scene, and I can’t pay attention to other people, I have to watch him watch them.

        BTW, if you ever see The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, please let me know what you think of it, because I watched it once about 9 years ago and couldn’t stand it, but I can’t quite remember why anymore.

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      • Would there be anything objectionable in terms of content that would get in the way of my watching it?

        That ending, though…one of the stupidest movie endings I’ve ever heard of. 😛

        I’ll let you know!

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      • Yeah, you’d need VidAngel or your parents around to watch the new one. I only saw it once, but I remember the stuff between Ben Wade and the barmaid being more objectionable, a LOT of graphic violence, and quite a bit of hard bad language.

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  6. Well to be honest, I don’t like Ben Wade much, and in general I’m not a huge fan of Glenn Ford in general. 😛

    But you made a lot of great points on why he was likable and almost dissuaded me from my view. I don’t know why but something about him kinda bothers me.

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  7. Oh my goodness. I love that you drew a comparison with Robin Hood and Bucky to Ben Wade. There is something about bad guys who are vulnerable enough to let their tortured souls shine through that allow us to empathize with an otherwise questionable character.

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  8. excellent post – Glenn Ford is one of my favourite actors and this is one of those roles which spotlight his versatility … There’s an element of Wade’s character that is almost suave in his cool criminality. Interesting how the fade-out when he’s sidling up with the future Mrs. Jack Lemmon leaves a lot to the imagination. Having talked with Ford’s son on a few occasions, he talked how westerns were always his favourite — much like Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea, but Ford was easily wrangled to act in non-westerns and enjoyed the life of the leading man too much to just focus on one genre. Thankfully, because his film noir work in the 1950s and romantic comedies were great works of their own.

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    • I think Glenn Ford turned out a great body of work, although I’ve only seen a few of his films (with the majority of those being westerns). I’d really like to watch Gilda sometime.

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  9. I think that many of the best villains are quite charming. It gives them the kind of complexity and unpredictability that keeps us watching. Glenn Ford was such a fine actor, too. Most of his roles would make for great character crushes, including this one.

    Thanks so much for joining the blogathon!

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