by Nicholas Ray
Country: USA
Year: 1955
Duration: 93'

Matt (Cagney) and young Davey
(Derek) are mistaken for bandits.
The young man is wounded and
remains lame. Matt is named sheriff
and hires Davey as his vice-sheriff but
their problems aren’t over. The film was
made just after the end of McCarthyism
and is a painful moral parabola
disguised as a western that talks about
the sins of the fathers, the rebellion of
the sons and the conformity of society.


film director

Nicholas Ray

(Galesville, Wisconsin, USA, 1911-New York, USA, 1979)

His real name was Raymond Nicholas Kienzle
and after dropping out of the University of Chicago
he studied at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin
Fellowship thanks to the support of his professor,
Thornton Wilder. In 1930 he married Jean Evans
and ten years later he divorced her. In 1934 he
moved to New York, where he began to collaborate
with the theatrical company Theatre of Action
and came into contact with Elia Kazan, with
whom he collaborated in 1945 on the film A Tree
Grows in Brooklyn,
in which he also appears.
After moving to Hollywood he directed his first film
for RKO right as it was changing over into Howard
Hughes’ hands, an event that postponed the release
of They Live by Night (1948) by two years. He met
his second wife, Gloria Grahame, on the set of
A Woman’s Secret (1949). He was able to avoid
being put on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s black list
thanks to the protection of Howard Hughes and
in the following years he made numerous films for
RKO, including Flying Leathernecks, starring John
Wayne, On Dangerous Ground and The Lusty
, starring Robert Mitchum. During that same
period he also directed Knock on Any Door and
In a Lonely Place for Humphrey Bogart’s
independent production company, Santana Pictures
Corporation. After leaving RKO, in 1954 he shot
Johnny Guitar, starring Joan Crawford and Sterling
Hayden. This film was much appreciated by the
critics of “Cahiers du cinéma,” who right from the
start put Nicholas Ray on their list of directors of
note (there is a famous quote by Godard regarding
Bitter Victory, “Nicholas Ray is cinema”). The next
year he obtained his greatest commercial success
with Rebel Without a Cause, which marked the
definitive rise to stardom of James Dean, who died
in a car accident one month before the film was
released. During the second half of the Fifties he
directed films such as Bigger Than Life (1956),
produced by and starring James Mason, The True
Story of Jesse James
(1957) and Party Girl (1958),
starring Cyd Charisse. In 1958 he married Betty
Utey and three years later made the blockbuster
King of Kings; after surviving a heart attack during
the filming of 55 Days at Peking (1963), he was
marginalized by the Hollywood film industry.
Burdened by health problems, alcoholism and drug
addiction, during the early Seventies he taught at
the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences in New
York, where he and his students shot a film entitled
We Can’t Go Home Again; a working copy of the
film was projected at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.
In the same period he met Susan Schwartz who
then became his fourth wife. In 1974 he shot
an episode of the erotic film Wet Dreams.
Three years later Ray played a little role in The
American Friend
by Wim Wenders and in 1979
in Hair by Milos Forman. With Wenders he also
collaborated on the film Lightning over Water,
a chronicle of his last days; Nicholas Ray died
before the film was completed.


They Live By Night (La donna del bandito, 1948),
Knock on Any Door (I bassifondi di San Francisco, -
1949), A Woman’s Secret (Hai sempre mentito,
1949), In a Lonely Place (Il diritto di uccidere,
1950), Born to Be Bad (La seduttrice, 1950), Flying
(I diavoli alati, 1951), On Dangerous
(Neve rossa, 1952), The Lusty Men (Il
, 1952), Johnny Guitar (id., 1954),
General Electric Theater (ep. The High Green Wall,
TV, 1954), Run for Cover (All’ombra del patibolo,
1954), Rebel Without a Cause (Gioventù bruciata,
1955), Hot Blood (La donna venduta, 1956), Bigger
Than Life
(Dietro lo specchio, 1956), The True Story
of Jesse James
(La vera storia di Jesse il bandito,
1957), Bitter Victory (Vittoria amara, 1957), Wind
Across the Everglades
(Il paradiso dei barbari,
1958), Party Girl (Il dominatore di Chicago, 1958),
The Savage Innocents (Ombre bianche, 1960),
King of Kings (Il re dei re, 1961), 55 Days at Peking
(55 giorni a Pechino, 1963), March on Washington.
November 15, 1969
(doc., cm, 1970), Wet Dreams
(ep. The Janitor; Wet Dreams-Sogni bagnati, ep.
L’uomo delle pulizie, 1974), We Can’t Go Home
(1973-76), Marco (cm, 1978), Nick’s Film
- Lightning Over Water
Wim Wenders, Nick’s Movie - Lampi sull’acqua,
doc., 1980).


& Credits

Nicholas Ray
Harriet Frank Jr.,
Irving Ravetch
Winston Miller
Daniel L. Fapp
montaggio/film editing
Howard A. Smith
production design
Henry Bumstead,
Hal Pereira
costumi/costume design
Edith Head
Howard Jackson
John Cope, Gene Merritt
interpreti e personaggi/
cast and characters
James Cagney (Matt Dow),
John Derek
(Davey Bishop),
Ernest Borgnine (Morgan)
William H. Pine,
William C. Thomas
Pine-Thomas Productions