The Other Huston

Most of the reviewers mentioned John Huston when describing Daniel Day-Lewis’ oilman megalomaniac in There Will Be Blood. But maybe the movie would have been better if Day-Lewis had modeled himself on the other family actor, Walter Huston, John’s father.

Witness Huston the elder in The Furies (1950), his last movie. In this semi-noir Western, directed by Anthony Mann (and just out on a new DVD from Criterion), Huston plays a cattle baron named T.C. Jeffords, whose gusto is matched only by his greed. Huston’s broad energetic performance perfectly captures source novelist Niven Busch’s description:

“T.C. cleared his throat with a drummy rumble; his eyes under the thick brows swept somberly over his offspring. Suddenly he grinned—a grin that was piratical yet inexpressibly endearing, a conspiratorial grin, inviting, nay, compelling them to be on his side, to partake on their own accord in the decisions or schemes now to be announced.’

 The clip below shows Huston’s character as his most conniving as well as magnetic as he buys off his daughter’s (Barbara Stanwyck) gambler suitor (Wendell Cory). As an empire builder, he could have drunk Daniel Plainview’s milkshake any day.


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