The Brute in Everyman Was Also in Him - And the Love and the Violence
Will Penny, an aging cowpoke, takes a job on a ranch which requires him to ride the line of the property looking for trespassers or, worse, squatters. He finds that his cabin in the high mountains has been appropriated by a woman whose guide to Oregon has deserted her and her son. Too ashamed to kick mother and child out just as the bitter winter of the mountains sets in, he agrees to share the cabin until the spring thaw. But it isn't just the snow that slowly thaws; the lonely man and woman soon forget their mutual hostility and start developing a deep love for one another.
Following the lavish widescreen western spectacles of the early 1960s there emerged towards the end of that decade a counter-trend featuring a greater emphasis on the real, unglamorous day to day existence of the ordinary cowboy. Tom Gries’ film of Will Penny is perhaps the first and foremost of these films and its emphasis on weathered grit anticipates the so-called “mud-and-rags” school of revisionist westerns of the 1970s. But where these later revisionist films used a realistic squalor to subvert the glory of the western hero, Will Penny and its ilk sought to find a quiet inevitability and resigned dignity in the hard life of the cowboy. Gries had been involved in television before he wrote the script and submitted…