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