7/10
No Place To Call Home
24 November 2006
The Wonderful Country finds Robert Mitchum as a gunslinger, a pistolero working for the local Mexican governor Pedro Armendariz. He had to flee Texas years ago after a shooting and Armendariz gave him shelter and work.

Despite that Mitchum is sent across the border on a gun buying trip. Unfortunately he takes a bad fall from a horse and winds up with a broken leg. While on the mend in that bordertown and after, Mitchum finds himself in a series of situations that call him to question what he's been doing and just where he can call home.

One of those situations is Julie London, wife of army major Gary Merrill who's got a bit of a past herself. She throws quite a few complications in Mitchum's past.

The Wonderful Country is a nicely put together western shot on location in Durango. It was one of the first westerns to use that town in Mexico, a whole lot more in the sixties would follow.

Besides those already mentioned the performances to watch for in this film are those of Charles McGraw as the frontier doctor and that of Satchel Paige as the cavalry sergeant. A year later John Ford would come out with Sergeant Rutledge about a black cavalry sergeant and the men around him, but I do believe that baseball immortal Satchel Paige was the first in Hollywood to portray a black cavalry man in a major motion picture.

McGraw is something else. He's the doctor who tends to Mitchum's broken leg and befriends him, but then gets one big pang of jealousy about Julie London that leads to tragedy. In real life McGraw was as much the hellraiser as he is in the film.

The Wonderful Country had the good fortune to be partially scripted by Tom Lea so his vision of the characters in his own novel remained pretty much intact. This was the only one of two novels by that writer/artist to be filmed.

That's as good a reason as any to see a very fine western.
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