Classical Mythology on the Range
The Criterion Collection 435
Director Anthony Mann, a native of San Diego, long wanted to film Shakespeare’s King Lear as a Western. He had a plan for a final film, but died before it could get off the ground. Earlier Westerns, however, gave nods to the Bard of Avon, and the earliest example is The Furies (1950). Mann’s first A-list film, it was based on the popular novel of that title by Niven Busch, whose earlier novel Duel in the Sun had been filmed in 1946. Busch had already cowritten the scripts for The Westerner (1940), The Postman Always Rings Twice, and many other films. Like Mann, he strove to break away from the good-guys-in-white-hats Western to tell stories of greater psychological depth in which no character is wholly good or bad.