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Release Year: 1917
Running Time: 62
UPC: 7 38329 24868 0
Color Type: B&W
Country: U.S.
Language: English

Harry Carey
Molly Malone
Hoot Gibson


Directed by John Ford

Straight Shooting (1917) is a landmark in the history of the Western. It is the first feature directed by the legendary John Ford (here credited as Jack Ford), who revived the career of Harry Carey, one of his greatest stars, to a rough-and-tumble performance as a hired gun of cattle rustlers. “Cheyenne Harry” is a role Carey would play into the 1930s, an amiable antihero who pals around with outlaws but who really has a heart of gold. In Straight Shooting Harry is hired by rancher Thunder Flint (Duke Lee) to intimidate the kindly Sweetwater Sims (George Berrell) off of his farmland, but has a change of heart after getting to know Sims’ family. It becomes a war of ranchers against farmers as Flint organizes a siege of Sims’ property, with Harry and other local farmers banded together against them. It is a thrilling adventure that proves John Ford was born to film the American West.

Blu-ray Extras Include:
Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride, author of Searching for John Ford

Hitchin’ Posts (1920, directed by John Ford, fragment preserved by the Library of Congress)

Video essay by film critic Tag Gallagher

Booklet essay by film critic Tag Gallagher

This is a superb film, one of the best I have seen in a long time.

As the first feature film directed by John Ford (here Jack Ford) it has great landmark value of course but beyond that a film stands or falls on its own merits. STRAIGHT SHOOTING stands proud.

Harry Carey, whose career was on the wane, stars as a gunfighter who cares only if he gets paid. Who his targets are is of no concern to him. Then something happens that causes him to have a dramatic change of heart for the better.

Cecil B. DeMille said that to get an audience into the theater we must offer them the devil. Once they are in though we must give them God. “They won’t come in for God but if we don’t give them God they walk out feeling cheated,” he said.

The movies continue to offer the devil to get us in but it’s a long time since we got God.

What that means is that our expectations must be surpassed. We, the audience, must shout, “WOW!

I learned that when in my teens in Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN as “the old professor” I got a good review.

The director said, “Do you know what that means? You have to be four times as good tonight to live up to their expectations.” With his help I was.

John Ford many not have known this from DeMille. Doesn’t matter. He knew it in his gut.

John Ford was 23 in 1917. His father ran a speakeasy in Maine. Harry Carey was 16 years his senior at 39. His father was a New York city judge. Carey had been Universal’s most hotly promoted star. Now he wasn’t. He was on his way out.

That all changed with STRAIGHT SHOOTING. Carey got a new contract at $1250 a week. The film, like all of John Ford’s films from then on, “won acclaim for its action, infectious characters, compelling situations, and photography–like Ford’s movies for the rest of his life.”–Tag Gallagher.

STRAIGHT SHOOTING was supposed to be a two reel short film. Ford and Carey, to the consternation of Universal’s executives, delivered a 5 reel feature. The studio did not know what to do with it. This drew the film to the attention of the head of Universal, the astute Carl Laemmle who said, “If I order a suit from a tailor and he gives me an extra pair of pants do I throw them away.”

Ford went on to direct a great number of films with Harry Carey (23) most of which, unfortunately, are now lost.

That this film survives is itself a miracle which Tag Gallagher details for us in his video essay and which Joseph McBride (author of SEARCHING FOR JOHN FORD: A LIFE) details in his always interesting commentary.

John Ford (born John Martin Feeney) the son of the saloon and speakeasy keeper when he met the much older Harry Carey (son of a New York city judge). The two had an instant attraction. Ford lived on Carey’s 1,000 acre ranch. He slept in the alfalfa. Carey slept there with him. While they slept they conjured up a dream that resurrected Carey’s career and ignited that of John Ford.

There is so much that is wonderful about this film that I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Discover it for yourself.

I have the FOX big box dvd collection of John Ford films. This is a welcome, a more than welcome, addition.

I hope Kino is able to bring us more Harry Carey silents.

While they are at it William S. Hart deserves the restoration treatment. His HELLS HINGES is a must see. His nearly lost WILD BILL HICKOCK is one I’m looking forward to seeing: .

For now we have STRAIGHT SHOOTING.

It shoots straight.

Kino Blu-ray is doing superb work with all their releases.

This is a welcome addition. More than welcome.

Vital. It’s the film that opened the door on a landmark career.–Reg Hartt 2020–07–31.

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