The Kentuckian

1955

Drama / Western

4
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 41%
IMDb Rating 6.3 10 2002

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Burt Lancaster as Elias Wakefield
Walter Matthau as Stan Bodine
John Carradine as Ziby Fletcher
John McIntire as Zack Wakefield
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
732.04 MB
1280*544
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 44 min
P/S 1 / 4
1.55 GB
1920*816
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 44 min
P/S 4 / 6

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Wuchak 7 / 10

Burt Lancaster's Eastern Frontier flick

Released in 1955, "The Kentuckian" is one of only a couple films directed by Burt Lancaster.

THE STORY takes place during the presidency of James Monroe circa 1820. Lancaster plays Eli Wakefield, a Kentuckian who desires more room to breath in Texas. Still in Kentucky, they blow their "Texas money" on freeing a beautiful indentured servant, Hannah (Dianne Foster). They don't get past the next frontier town where Eli takes up with his brother in the tobacco business and Hannah gets a job as a bar matron. Eli's dreams of Texas are sidetracked when he meets up with a schoolmarm (Diana Lynn) who encourages him to settle down and make a family with her. The problem is that Eli's son prefers Hannah and doesn't want to give up their Texas dream. Meanwhile feuders are hot on Eli's trail, not to mention malevolent local businessman with a whip (Walter Matthau).

Some highlights include:

  • Lush Eastern locations. The film was shot in Levi Jackson State Park, Kentucky (near London), as well as Owensboro, Kentucky, which is on the Ohio River, and Rockport, which is just across the river in Indiana. The river depicted in the film is supposed to be the Tennessee River (I think), but it was shot on the Ohio. In any event, although "The Kentuckian" is classified as a Western, it's actually an Eastern.


  • The film offers a good glimpse of what the Eastern USA was like back when it was still a frontier -- the cabin-styled houses, sleeping in the woods, etc. No internet, cable, video games, DVDs or microwaves. People actually sat down with other people and communed.


  • The story is realistic, albeit with some lame dialogue. Regardless,you don't have to worry about any goofiness or unbelievable bits that plague some 50's Westerns, except for the too-wooden-they're-funny feudalists.


  • Back then a huge riverboat coming to town was an exciting attraction. Americans today, by contrast, get all excited over the shenanigans of some celebrity.


  • Dianne Foster (Hannah) is a beautiful redhead. One wonders how a woman like this would stay single very long on the frontier.


  • The whip fight with Matthau is great. Lancaster is almost whipped to shreds (!).


  • Loyalty is a sub-theme here. Eli's son is loyal to Hannah and never warms up to the schoolmarm, although there's it's clear that there's nothing wrong with the latter. And Hannah is loyal to the man who delivered her from bondage (Eli), despite his infatuation with the marm.


  • I liked the bit on Eli being a laughing stock because of a worthless freshwater pearl, but he gets the last laugh with a letter from the President (or is it?) and additional help.


  • Lastly, Lancaster is a likable protagonist with his charismatic joy-of-living persona; he's humble and respectful, the antithesis of Eastwood's amoral and lifeless 'man with no name' a decade later.


The film runs an hour and 44 minutes.

BOTTOM LINE: "The Kentuckian" is breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it from beginning to end for all the above reasons; it's sort of like "The Last of the Mohicans" (1992) of its era, albeit no where as good. It's innocuous and easy-going, but sometimes surprisingly brutal (the dog fight and whip fight). If you can acclimate to the style of filmmaking of the mid-50s it's worth checking out.

GRADE: B

Reviewed by bkoganbing 7 / 10

When A Wakefield Meets A Fromes

In the first of two films Burt Lancaster directs as well as stars, he plays the title role of Eli Wakefield who is The Kentuckian. The part of the frontiersman in the James Monroe presidency fits Lancaster's robust personality perfectly. He's very much a combination of both the William Holden and Robert Mitchum characters in Rachel and the Stranger, taking the best aspects of both for his portrayal. Like Mitchum he's got 'woodsy' ways and like Holden he aims to see his son grows out of those ways.

Just where and how little David McDonald does grow up does concern Lancaster and he does during the course of The Kentuckian reexamine just what it is he wants for himself and his son. He's also got a real problem in the shape of a pair of inbred mountain people called Fromes whose family has feuded with the Wakefields for a couple of generations.

Burt's moving west with his boy to get away from the mountain feud so his kid has a chance to grow up and their destination is Texas which the Mexicans had opened up for Yankee settlers eventually to their regret. But he helps a lady in distress in the person of bond servant Dianne Foster and spends his 'Texas' money buying out her contract from Will Wright.

So a planned visit with brother John McIntire and sister-in-law Una Merkel is going to be longer than he thought especially with McIntire wanting to remake Lancaster into a merchant like himself. McIntire also has a wife picked out for him in the person of school teacher Diana Lynn.

The film was shot in Owensboro, Kentucky and presumably in 1955 there was still enough 'woodsy' territory that it still looked like 1820 frontier America. Director Lancaster got good performances out of his cast which included Walter Matthau making his motion picture debut. Matthau plays a tavern owner and town bully, a mean man with a bull-whip who goes after an unarmed Lancaster with one. That scene is really the climax of the film.

However the two to watch for here are the Fromes brothers, Paul Wexler and Douglas Spencer. They are a pair of evil looking dudes, no doubt ancestors of those guys from Deliverance.

In a recent biography of Burt Lancaster, because of some disparaging comments Lancaster made about directors, the Director's Guild first refused to let him direct his own film. Eventually the production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster got a waiver from the Guild. I think they wanted to Burt to sweat a little. For him though directing turned out not to be something he wanted to do, he got through the film with some difficulty and it was no accident that while he was on the production end, Lancaster only directed one other film in his career, Midnight Man.

The Kentuckian is a good film, perfectly suited to Burt Lancaster's athleticism and charisma, a must for his fans.

Reviewed by gavin6942 6 / 10

Cracking Western

A Kentucky widower (Burt Lancaster) bound for 1820s Texas with his young son (Donald MacDonald) is thwarted in his efforts by a corrupt constable (Rhys Williams), a long-standing family feud, and a beautiful indentured servant (Dianne Foster).

Big Eli has to deal with the villainous Stan Bodine (Walter Matthau), who cracks a bullwhip. This is crucial in retrospect because it marked the film debut of Matthau, who is probably more familiar to audiences today (2017) than Lancaster is. Obviously Lancaster is the bigger star in the grand scheme of things, but that is not how time and fame works.

Also of note, the movie also features an appearance by the famed sternwheel riverboat Gordon C. Greene, the same steamboat used in "Gone with the Wind" and "Steamboat Round the Bend".

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