3:10 to Yuma: adapted by Halsted Welles from a short story by Elmore Leonard; directed by Delmer Daves; starring Glenn Ford (Ben Wade), Van Heflin (Dan Evans), Felicia Farr (Emmy) and Leora Dana (Alice Evans) (1957): Terse, tight, beautifully photographed Western in which an ordinary farmer (Van Heflin) gets drafted to get a ruthless but charming robber (Glenn Ford, cast against type to good effect) to the train on time. It’s essentially Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with horses and guns.
Van Heflin, with his lumpy potato bag of a face, always looked like the forerunner of Gene Hackman, an Everyman thrust onto Hollywood’s A-list through some improbable chain of events. He’s excellent here as the conflicted Wade, who ultimately sees the job through because he’s disgusted by the murders that occurred during the robberies — though he also wants to appear to be a hero to his wife and sons.
Ford plays robber Ben Wade as a sinister but occasionally sentimental presence. He has justifications for everything he does, but he also has a rudimentary code of honour when it comes to dealing with people, even the people he’s robbing or the people who are holding him prisoner. The battle of wits between him and Van Heflin is tense and enjoyable, and the ending both logical and somewhat surprising. Recommended.