THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY. United Artists, 1959. Robert Mitchum, Julie London, Gary Merrill, Albert Dekker, Jack Oakie, Charles McGraw, Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, Jay Novello, Tom Lea. Based on the novel by Tom Lea. Director: Robert Parrish.

   An American gunman who has lived in Mexico since killing man as a youngster takes an inquisitive trip into Texas, breaks his leg in an accident involving a tumbleweed and his horse, and is almost persuaded to stay. The wife of the lieutenant in charge of a cavalry post is one of the main attractions.

   There is also a good deal of political activity going on, both n the US and Mexico, but the story that’s worth caring about is a personal one. Mitchum is always always effortless in the roles he does on the screen, but he does more acting here than in a dozen other movies he’s been in. He portrays Martin Brady as a slow, cautious, and possibly thick-witted man, but one greatly in demand for the speed of his gun hand, and that’s wher all his troubles lie. In other words, this is strictly a Robert Mitchum picture, but Julie London still somehow manages to make the most of her rather limited role.

PostScript:   Tom Lea, who is said to have a small part, I wouldn’t recognize if I saw him, and I guess I did. Satchel Paige is, of course, the baseball pitching legend, and I never knew he was also in demand by anyone in Hollywood. Charles McGraw, a long-time favorite of mind, had a part too short to suit me, but I was glad to finally out a face on the voice of Jay Novello — better known in this house, at least, as Rocky Jordan’s old fried and enemy, Captain Sam Sabaaya of the Cairo police.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #24, August 1990 (very slightly revised).