LAST CHANCE FOR “THE LAST SUNSET”
Below is a link to see the Robert Aldrich-directed western The Last Sunset (1961) starring Rock Hudson, Kirk Douglas, Dorothy Malone, Joseph Cotten, and Carol Lynley. I’ve always had a hatred for this very strange slow moving western soap opera (a sort of Peyton Place meets Cattle Drive) beautifully filmed in Mexico and Texas. It is a very offbeat western I should like for its strangeness and for co-starring Carol, but I don’t. Teenage Carol Lynley was never my cup of tea. I like the adult version.
Kirk Douglas produced the movie through his production company and it was released by Universal Pictures. Fresh-off-the-blacklist Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay. Douglas plays a cliched black-clad outlaw clad in way-too-tight pants on the run for killing a man in a barroom brawl trailed by likable lawman Rock Hudson (best in show). Douglas turns up at the Mexican ranch of drunken cattleman Joseph Cotten and his wife, wind-blown Dorothy Malone playing as if she was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof‘s Maggie on the Prairie. Their tomboyish daughter is Carol Lynley (Universal pushed for Sandra Dee in the role but Douglas nixed it) with a most unflattering short haircut and giving one of her worst performances right up there, or down there, with her wooden turn as Alison MacKenzie in Return to Peyton Place the same year.
Douglas agrees to lead Cotten’s cattle drive from Mexico to Texas, so the lush can sell his herd for more booze money no doubt. Hudson shows up and decides to join the drive when he catches the batting eyes of Malone. He calls an uneasy truce with Douglas until the cattle are delivered. During the course of the cattle drive (hampered by a dust storm; stampeding cattle; an Indian attack, etc.) secrets are revealed: Douglas and Hudson were former lovers, oops meant Malone; Cotten deserted his army brigade during the war explaining his heavy drinking to forget his cowardice; hot-to-trot Malone’s attraction to Hudson becomes evident to all while Douglas likes Lolita-ish Lynley much to Malone’s dismay, as she holds in her bosom a terrible truth about her daughter. The Douglas/Lynley romantic scenes are really icky but can you imagine how ickier they would have been with the even younger Sandra Dee in the role? Plecch! Once the cows are grazing safely in Texas, Douglas has his gunfight at the OK Coral with Hudson with only one gunfighter left standing. I wonder who? Sounds over-the-top and campy. Too bad it is played dead serious.
The Last Sunset grossed a respectable $3 million at the box office, but under performed considering the all-star cast. Critics gave the movie mixed reviews and the Harvard Lampoon bestowed on it the award for “Worst Performance by a Cast in Toto.” Click here for an entertaining more detailed behind-the-scenes look at the movie.