Vincent Price in a Western!

220px-Poster_of_the_movie_The_Baron_of_Arizona

In honor of Vincent Price’s birthday (more on him here), we pay tribute to one of his first starring roles — oddly enough, in a western.

In Sam Fuller’s western The Baron of Arizona (1950), Price is aptly (if campily) cast as a real life scoundrel who forges a number of documents (going so far as to spend several years in a Spanish monastery) which paves the way for a claim on the entire territory of Arizona by means of a young Mexican girl he marries and claims is the heir. He causes a major uproar of course, especially when he begins demanding “tribute” from all the property holders in the territory. The government challenges him but not before near anarchy breaks out. The mob wants his blood. This aspect of the film pushes powerful buttons. The mob hates him for trying to take their property of course, but even more they hate him for being an un-American aristocrat (he literally uses the title “Baron”). In the movie’s most amusing scene, Price talks his way out of a noose with the craven, cowardly excuse that they cant prove their (legitimate) claims against him unless his shameless carcass is alive. The flaw in the film is too obvious. Price’s character couldn’t be less sympathetic – he’s practically Richard III. But the film attempts to make him sympathetic at the last minute, by having him fall in love with his wife and confess. In the “happy ending” she is waiting for him when he emerges from prison and they go off to start their life together. I can imagine there were universal groans in the theatre even in 1950.

Look at this photo and tell me you don’t want to see this movie:

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