Great Day in the Morning (1956)

Written by John Chard on August 26, 2017

Even big men cry sometimes.

Great Day in the Morning is directed by Jacques Tourneur and written by Lesser Samuels. It stars Robert Stack, Virginia Mayo, Raymond Burr, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Leo Gordon and Regis Toomey. Music is by Leith Stevens and cinematography by William E. Snyder.

A Technicolor/Superscope production, story is set in Colorado Territory 1861, a mining town just as The Civil War is to break out. North and South divisions, lustful passions and the hunger for power and gold, all reside here...

This would turn out to be the great Jacques Tourneur's last Western offering, thankfully for his fans it turned out pretty great. This is no all action piece, the action here is mainly focused on the human condition and all the shaky traits that come with such. This town is a powder-keg waiting to ignite, with Stack's (excellent) fence sitter (he's from the South but his affiliations are money based) Owen Pentecost firmly in the middle of things. Moral compasses are set at faulty, whilst loyalties and fancies of the heart bring much conflict of interest.

Tourneur and his charges serve up fine production value, starting with the location filming out of Silverton. The landscape that surrounds the town is gorgeous, itself a beautiful observer of the ugliness (Roman and Mayo's sexiness exempt of course) that unfolds. Ugliness that rears its most potent head via bouts of shocking violence, the majority of which takes one by surprise (one of the film's many strengths). The clever screenplay throws in memorable sequences, such as a heated debate backed by Roman tinkling the piano with tunes befitting the discourse, while odd visuals - like the main saloon being based on a circus tent (its actual name and it ties in with Burr's character) - strike good notes.

With a grumpy Stack on fine form it's dandy to find the support brings weighty worth as well. Roman and Mayo are given good female roles to play (no tokens here thanks), raising the emotional stakes as much as the temperature. To good effect Burr stomps around like a sulky bully, Nicol has a good presence, and then there's Gordon. Gordon makes his mark straight away, first section of pic you know he's the sort who wants a war before the war has started, and he nails it as a gruff hot-headed bastardo - putting one in mind of Robert Shaw later down the line. Touneur's eye for detail is backed by that of Snyder to round it off as a picture well worth tracking down. 7.5/10