For Reel

Jubal (1956)
June 16, 2015, 6:54 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Delmer Daves
3.5 Stars
JubalRod Steiger plays Iago to Ernest Borgnine’s Othello in Jubal, a slow-burner of a western from director Delmer Daves. When a drifter played by Glenn Ford finds himself employed by a cheerful rancher (Borgnine), the senior ranch hand (Steiger) starts feeling his position severely threatened. Worse yet, he’s just as unsuccessful in seducing his boss’ wife (Valerie French) as the newcomer is in getting her attention. Although Jubal takes its narrative roots from Othello, what it does most of all is adopt a very 1950s style of classical melodrama. The jealousy and resentments simmer for the first two thirds of the picture until a very dramatic boiling over occurs in the final third, spear-headed by Steiger’s embittered manipulations. It plays a bit like Written on the Wind, Douglas Sirk’s masterpiece from the same year, with the growing feelings of impotence and resentment bearing down on an unstable wild card (not to mention the similarities in the seductive femme fatales played by Dorothy Malone in the Sirk film and French). Steiger’s method performance feels like it’s too much, which is especially problematic considering Borgnine’s success in a similarly big role. Whereas Steiger plays a single crass note, however, Borgnine’s performance evolves depending on who he is sharing the screen with, and the relationship he develops with Ford is at times genuinely touching. There’s a nice moment in which he shows a believable naïveté regarding his failures as a husband–only Borgnine could sell the surprise that smacking his wife on the behind isn’t the most effective means of displaying affection.

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