Forty Guns: woman as a force of nature

Tonight, to celebrate International Women’s Day, Ed and I watched the 1947 American western noir, Forty Guns (Samuel Fuller). In her last great romantic role, Barbara Stanwyck (at the age of 50) plays the tough, sexy Arizona cattle queen, Jessica Drummond, who lords it over the territory with an iron fist. The film’s opening sequence depicts Drummond as a force of nature, ripping across the plains with her 40  gunmen, dominating the landscape around her.

More complex than many women in westerns, Drummond is respected and feared by all the male characters in the movie, and at least one has a pathetic crush on her. But Forty Guns sadly follows the pattern of so many Hollywood films that ultimately punish strong women characters. Drummond is the boss, the power figure in the story, but she has to be tamed. She is dragged by a horse through a tornado scene, and shown grovelling for her lover’s attention in the finale. What a pity!

About rosemarymccracken

Rosemary McCracken is a Toronto-based fiction writer.
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