Three Faces West (1940)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama  |   Release Date - Jul 3, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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An interesting combination of anti-Nazi propaganda and celebration of the pioneer spirit, Three Faces West is an easily digestible time-filler that is better than it should have been. John Wayne stars as the young farmer who brings the Brauns to town, Spencer Charters is his sidekick and housemate -- which makes for a fun team -- and Charles Coburn is especially good as the refugee doctor who makes the best of his situation. Sigrid Gurie, however, ranks among Wayne's most curious leading ladies. She does what she can with a poorly written part, but she and Wayne have little chemistry. Three Faces West is basically broken into two parts. The first half deals both with the Brauns' adjustment to their new life in Asheville Forks -- Leni, of course, hates the town and hates Wayne, but falls in love with both -- and a depiction of the town's desperate plight. The relentless dust storms and drought take a physical and psychological toll on the town, and director Bernard Vorhaus does a solid job of showing the man-against-nature battle and how, in this case, nature wins. The second half concerns the journey to Oregon in the hope of a better life. This is a little more predictable, as the inevitable breakdown in morale occurs and some members of the caravan try to challenge Wayne's authority. There are some worthwhile scenes in this portion, but the clich├ęs are also more apparent. The screenplay, at least, avoids wasting time, and there is a nice scene at the end where Leni confronts her old boyfriend, who turns out to be a Nazi convert. Vorhaus knows enough to keep things moving and if the film doesn't have much of a personal style to it, it also has enough flair to keep it interesting.