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teaser Lawman (1971)

Lawman (1971), a solid Western with an excellent cast, features Burt Lancaster as the by-the-books title character doggedly hunting down Lee J. Cobb and his six ranchhands after the group accidentally killed an old man during a drunken spree. Robert Ryan, in an impeccable performance, plays a local sheriff - weak and corrupt - who like the rest of the town thinks Lancaster is too inflexible and arrogant in his single-minded pursuit.

English director Michael Winner shot the picture in Durango, Mexico, securing the location just ahead of Howard Hawks, who had wanted to film Rio Lobo (1970) there. "Smoke came out of his ears," said Winner of Hawks's reaction to being trumped in the battle for the location. (Hawks had to settle for Tucson, Arizona, instead.) Lawman was Winner's first Western, and the director loved the authentic western feel of the town, though he made sure he lived in comfort during filming by renting the same house that John Wayne normally used when he was there on a project - the only house in town with a swimming pool.

The young, brash director and seasoned veteran Lancaster got along just fine. Lancaster described him as "sharp, bold, without respect for convention." Winner addressed Lancaster as "sir," partly, he explained, "because I respect him, and partly because he's one of the few actors who's ever paid for dinner while I've been around."

The two men did have one legal dispute after the film, however. Lancaster threatened to prevent the release of the picture until the credits were changed. According to his contract, only four artists' names could appear above the title, and Lancaster's had to come first. The credits read: "A Michael Winner Film. Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Lee J. Cobb, and Robert Duvall in Lawman." After some legal wrangling, Winner called the star and said, "There are only four artists' names above the title, and yours does come first. I'm not an artist, and I've got the reviews to prove it." Lancaster laughed and relented.

For trivia collectors: Robert Duvall appeared in Lawman one year before The Godfather. Also look for Joseph Wiseman (he played James Bond's nemesis in Dr. No, 1962) in the supporting cast. Lawman is actually a remake of the 1955 Western, Man With the Gun which starred Robert Mitchum.

Producer: Michael Winner
Director: Michael Winner
Screenplay: Gerald Wilson
Cinematography: Robert Paynter
Film Editing: Frederick Wilson
Art Direction: Roberto Silva, Herbert Westbrook
Music: Jerry Fielding
Cast: Burt Lancaster (Marshal Jered Maddox), Robert Ryan (Marshal Cotton Ryan), Lee J. Cobb (Vincent Bronson), Robert Duvall (Vernon Adams), Sheree North (Laura Shelby), Joseph Wiseman (Lucas).
C-99m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeremy Arnold

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