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Professional women--women in The Professionals (1966).

In the words of Lee Clark Mitchell, "The image remains unaltered in countless versions from the genre's beginning--a lone man packing a gun, astride a horse, hat pulled close to the eyes, emerging as if by magic out of a landscape from which he seems ineluctably a part" (3). Mitchell's words may cause the reader to visualize the Marlboro man but, more importantly, they also evoke a scene from any number of Western films that we all recognize, a scene romanticized both by virtue of the male figure himself and the context in which he exists. Western women, however, are a different story. Jenni Calder describes the women who went west as "wives, daughters, or nieces. They might go as adventuresses.... The only respectable job that could take a woman West was schoolteaching.... " (158). Sandra Schackel refers to the female Western stereotypes as "Nurturer/civilizer" and "femme fatale/vamp" (197), noting that as "men have written and directed Western films almost exclusively, women's roles tend to reflect a male perspective ... [which] dominates the genre in ways in which women's roles are played out in accordance with male expectations of female behavior" (196); Michael Coyne simply states that "the genre predominantly marginalized women from the outset" (4). It is not surprising then that women's roles are often small and unimportant; the women appear to exist chiefly as context or as object.

Women and Westerns

That women are often treated badly (or not treated at all) is a particular stereotype of the Western, and a glance at a number of Westerns illustrates why this stereotype has come to be. In Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), an innocent young women is gunned down along with her father and brothers. A more experienced woman is used sexually and threatened with death until she agrees to sell her land to one of the film's villains. She may come out the winner in the final few frames, but that hardly undoes the impression that, for a woman in the west, life might possibly turn out all right, but only if she can manage to survive long enough. The Magnificent Seven (1960) is a much more light-hearted film, but its women serve mostly as backdrop. As the men ride across the western landscape, hands on guns, their horses' hooves drumming out the rhythm of the catchy title song, where are the women? One of the seven acquires a girlfriend, but she is hardly a vital part of the plot; furthermore, she is awarded to the youngest, most naive member of the group. Even in the iconic The Searchers (1956), where a woman is the object of the quest that drives the entire movie, she is just that--an object. Other women serve as a domestic backdrop to the important action as we see in the case of Laurie, who can easily be set aside by Marty any time the quest is renewed or its clarion call is heard. Even though she is feisty and willing to fight for her man, Laurie quickly learns by experience that no matter how close she and Marty seem to be getting, the moment someone says, "I heard a white child was seen with the [fill in the blanks] tribe," Marty is in the saddle and off at a gallop without a "by-your-leave," let alone a farewell kiss (unless Laurie initiates it, of course). At the conclusion of the film, it appears that Ethan will be taking care of Debbie, and Marty and Laurie will finally be free to be together. After years of Marty repeatedly abandoning Laurie, however, it would not be surprising if the couple will forever be stalled at a stunted stage of their joint emotional development that is both inconclusive and incomplete.

Of course there are exceptions to the stereotype of the western woman and her place in western society. Consider High Noon (1952) where, when the intrepid lawman is deserted by both friends and other entities from whom he might expect aid for any number of reasons, that rather startling and certainly serious lack is filled by his bride. This plot direction is surprising as, until that moment, Will Kane's new wife has appeared to shrink from her new home in the West and all that the word "West" conveys. Furthermore, although the act of gunning down the villain may be considered unusual for a woman, the gender issue present is somewhat complicated by the character's distaste for her new surroundings. The question of whether her act is appropriate for a woman in what has been a man's arena of action is muddied by the issue of whether an easterner can appropriately adapt to the West, a fairly common theme in western literature and cinema. Another woman who is distinctly unusual is the character of the very business-like madam in McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). The presentation of her character, however, is chiefly concerned with the reversal of another stereotype: the hooker with the heart of gold. If we consider other women in the film, they are without power; some are freakish in appearance and they are treated in a denigrating manner by other characters. The sisterhood that emerges after Mrs. Miller takes charge is briefly considered and is seen by critics as a feminist portrayal. It may also be seen, however, as merely another aspect of her efficiency in business: i.e., a happy hooker works harder. (1)

The Professionals

Michael Coyne describes The Professionals as "both temporally and thematically the halfway house between the altruism of the Seven and the harsh nihilism of the Bunch" (132), while Jim Hitt suggests it "merges the Old West with the New" (245). One of the flurry of 1960s Westerns, The Professionals was directed and produced by Richard Brooks (who also wrote the screenplay based on A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O'Rourke) and released in 1966. Maurice Jarre wrote the musical score, which, although it is supportive rather than featured or intrusive, includes similar haunting chords and romantic strains to others of his scores, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago. Conrad Hall was the cinematographer; his work produced visual effects of dust and smoke generally thought only possible when working in the medium of black-and-white film. The Professionals was popular with the viewing public (2) and received mixed critical reviews; it earned Oscar nominations for director, screenplay and cinematography, but did not win any Oscars.

The Professionals does not pretend to interrogate the position of women in the West. Like The Magnificent Seven, The Professionals appears to be a man's film. The four who are described as professionals in the title (roles played by Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode) as well as the villains (both defined and actual) are men. Mitchell describes The Professionals as one of a group of 1960s films (others are The Magnificent Seven, Hang 'Em High, and True Grit) which features "various misfits, loners, bullies, mavericks, and sociopaths" (225). This is a rather surprising description of a film which spends a considerable amount of time focusing on issues such as friendship, loyalty, honor, and what remains for an individual when the life he understands and has been living is no longer possible. (3) Interactions between the four regarding these issues and their individual responses are considered in the contexts of how the men are alike, how they are different, what in their past caused them to take the directions they have, and what values they hold. Perhaps even more important is the question of why some of these values are soft (and thus can vary according to circumstances) while others are unalterable no matter what the situation. These exchanges are well-written and sometimes quite witty. Some contemporary critics ignored the script, seeing The Professionals as nothing more than an action flick; (4) others noticed, but did not approve of this rather unusual combination of talk and action. Brian Garfield, for example, descries the "occasional pretentious intervals where the characters start talking philosophically about the meaning and nature of life and revolutions and such. There's too much of that and it's sophomoric, but it's worth putting up with for the rest" (261), a statement which seems to indicate that, while the action is already nearly nonstop, he would welcome even more. Robertson mentions that "Lancaster, dashing about and flinging sticks of dynamite, was at his athletic best in The Professionals. Not since The Crimson Pirate (1952) had he had so much fun" (174). James Parrish and Michael Pitts refer to the pace and general tone of derring-do, while also slyly referencing the age of the actors: "Only once does the action slow down, during a gun battle between Palance and Burt Lancaster, who seem to be firing off philosophical asides about the life of violence mainly because they need a rest" (277). All the on-screen discussion that occurs, however, means that on at least one level, a surprising amount of character development exists in a vigorous action film, one that is also quite brutal and bloody. On another level, however, development is limited as the men have extremely specific roles (dictated by the professional plot as defined by Will Wright). (5)

Noel Carroll points out that the film demonstrates its debt to The Magnificent Seven as it begins with scenes which show how the professionals were recruited (54). Lee Marvin plays Henry (Rico) Fardan, the tough leader of the team, a soldier of fortune whose hard exterior hides the fact that he has never recovered from the death of his wife in the Mexican revolution. Burt Lancaster is Bill Dolworth. No man is better with explosives and no man has more fun romancing the ladies. The characters of Robert Ryan and Woody Strode are less developed. Ryan (Hans Ehrengard) is the best man in that part of the world with horses, and good horses will be vital for the job. Strode (Jake Sharp) is the warrior who can track anything, climb up the side of a mountain, and silently sneak up on the most alert foe (or at least close enough to pick him off with bow and arrows). (6) Collectively, they are "The Professionals"; each is an expert in his field, and together they are an almost unstoppable force.

From Sexual Object to Political Activist

The plot sounds simple: four soldiers of fortune are hired by a wealthy rancher to cross the border into Mexico and retrieve his kidnapped wife. Complications, however, quickly arise. Two members of the rescue team are less than enthusiastic about the job because they had earlier fought alongside the kidnapper, Jesus Raza (Jack Palance), and he is a man they respect:

Bill: [Who's got] the woman?

Rico: Raza.

Bill: (speaking in a tone of disbelief) Our Raza? A kidnapper?

Rico: Grant's got the ransom note to prove it.

Bill: Well, I'll be damned.

Rico: Most of us are.

In spite of their reservations, however, they accept the job. Scenes which appear during the opening credits establish that all four men are both unhappy with and unsuccessful in their lives, working at dead-end jobs for which they are overqualified, jobs which require neither imagination nor creativity. (7) The $10,000 per man remuneration, which Mr. Grant offers, while it hardly ensures a lifetime of financial security, at least guarantees that they will be relatively comfortable for the immediate future. Furthermore, the $100,000 ransom that the men will carry to Mexico demonstrates a belief in their integrity which helps to restore their belief in themselves; the ransom is so large, in fact, that it leads to the first time Bill speculates on the kidnapped woman's value (although it is a theme to which he recurs from time to time):

Bill: A hundred thousand dollars for a wife. She must be a lot of woman.

Rico: Certain women have a way of changing some boys into men ... and some men back into boys.

Bill: That's a woman worth saving.

The men cross the border into Mexico and handle their dangerous encounters with nature (heat, thirst, etc.) and man (Mexican bandits) with the skill and flair that we expect from the professionals as they progress across the desert (a progress which, although it lacks the requisite number of Dantean levels, Jim Hitt refers to as "a descent into hell" (238)). Their quick reactions, years of experience, and facility with weapons (including guns, arrows, knives, and dynamite) ensure that they reach Raza's fortified hacienda, deep in Mexico. Bill's expressed pleasure when he sights Chiquita, a former lover (played by Marie Gomez), dancing at a campfire in the courtyard is a prediction of possible complications in the rescue plan, caused by a renewal of relations between the man who loves ladies and the woman who, in his words, "never says no." The woman who causes the group real problems, however, is Maria Grant, the sole reason for their dangerous mission. As played by a sultry Claudia Cardinale, she is not a quivering, terrified kidnap victim, living on the hope that her husband will rescue her; instead, she is the putative kidnapper's lover who helped him plan the "kidnapping" and assisted him in writing the ransom note, all in an effort to support his mutiny against the corrupt government of Mexico and obtain more funds to support the revolution. Soon after the professionals recover her, Maria becomes a spokesman both for Mexico and for true love. Rhetoric becomes an even more important part of the plot at this point, as the men's beliefs and assumptions are interrogated by Maria, who loses no chance to present her case to (depending on the point of view) her rescuers or her captors. Of course Rico and Bill had realized that the rules were changed the moment that they witnessed Maria's loving welcome of Raza, instead of the fear, tears or anger they had expected to witness. Maria, however, spells out the situation for them much more completely (although her audience appears to be impervious to her rhetoric):

Maria: I was not kidnapped.

Rico: The old badger game.

Bill: Shakedown partners ... bed partners.

Maria: Raza and I grew up together.... We are lovers long before Mr. Joe Grant buys the place. When my father lies dying, he says Mr. Joe Grant wants you for his wife. You will become Dona Grant, that is my wish. Here, a wish is a command. But I'm very young and very foolish. I tell Mr. Joe Grant I cannot marry to him, I love another man. Very romantic, no?

As it appears that her verbal rhetoric has not been successful (Rico's response includes his valuation of her as a "whoring wife"), Maria attempts to escape; later she attempts to seduce Bill, correctly gauging that he is the individual in the group who is most susceptible to feminine wiles. First, she offers him money for her freedom, then herself. When he says, "I might say yes now, and later no," she responds, "I trust you," even as she is groping for his gun. (8)

Maria and Chiquita: Women and Their Choices

Women's roles are small in The Professionals, but they demonstrate a small range of choices for women of Hispanic ethnicity in the West at the same time that they reveal a stratification of class that is present and fully as active as it is in other, more "civilized" venues. There is a huge gulf between Maria, pampered wife of Mr. Grant, and Chiquita, leftover freedom fighter for Pancho Villa and current supporter of a lesser jefe. Yet a subtext of the movie is that of choice for these women. Do they have the power of choice over their lives? If so, how and why do they make the choices they do, and what is the outcome, particularly on those around them? Maria, through her various forms of rhetoric (and in spite of the fact that The Professionals has sometimes been accused of racism towards Hispanics), demonstrates that she has choices. Although she presents herself as having had no choice about marrying Mr. Grant (as her father instructed her to do so and she felt compelled to comply with his wishes), she can choose whether to continue her life as the rich and pampered Mrs. Grant, or whether to return to the true love of her youth. She chooses the latter, but must then select the level of her commitment. She chooses a high level of commitment, which, in turn, engenders a variety of strategies including attempted escape, verbal persuasion, and the proposed exchange of her body for freedom. Not surprisingly the degree of choice is, in large part, determined by class (although Maria's earlier lack of choice can be ascribed to her youth).

Chiquita's choices are markedly more narrow than Maria's; it is not clear whether she has had choices or not. She may have chosen to become a soldier, or perhaps she was brought along by a male soldier to provide him with domestic comforts. She may have discovered that she enjoyed the fighting and the camaraderie, or she may have had no place to return to. In any event, her current life is what she knows and it is all she wants--to fight for the man she admires and respects, and to fight by the side of her fellow paisanos. Relief from the pressures of fighting and death that surround her is obtained through casual sex. But even in this context, there are no choices; or rather Chiquita has removed choice from the sexual equation by accepting the sexual attentions of any who approach her. A brief dialogue with Bill confirms this fact:

Bill: Hey, Chiquita, how's your love life?

Chiquita: Why, you want some?"

Bill: Don't you ever say no?

Chiquita: Never!

Bill: Anyone?

Chiquita: Everyone!

Chiquita is presented as the most basic and uncomplicated individual in The Professionals. She eats, drinks, sleeps, makes love ... and dies, slain in what is essentially a duel with her former lover. She does not take time to think or consider or choose. She only acts, and probably would not even recognize the tensions felt by the other characters. Maria, for example, may loathe her captors for returning her to her hated husband and she is quick to predict their death in the desert or at the hands of Raza but, at the same time, she feels pity for the injured Hans, expertly bandaging his injured shoulder. (9) Chiquita, given her background, personality, and position, would not understand being torn between the options that choice brings; the tensions that Maria feels do not exist for her soldier sister. Because of Chiquita's lifestyle, it is not surprising that she meets an early death; indeed, if she were to choose the manner of her death, she would undoubtedly choose this way to die--at the business end of a gun with a man's lips on hers, for it is a moment that brings together sex and violence, the two chief motifs present in her life.

A True Heroine

A third woman (almost certainly Hispanic), despite the fact that she is nameless, classless (by virtue of our lack of knowledge), and never seen, has a tremendous impact on the storyline. Rico's former wife appears to be a paragon that neither a "whoring wife" or a soldier "who never says no" can possibly aspire to. She is a heroine, a true believer in the revolution who never compromised her principles--as Maria has done by marrying the rich and controlling Mr. Grant and thus abandoning her twin loves, Raza and Mexico. Not only is the true heroine, Rico's wife, nameless, she is also dead, killed by the very revolution in which she was such a strong believer. The small part of her story we learn is narrated by Bill after the professionals witness a particularly violent scene, where Raza's rebels ambush and capture a supply train guarded by government troops, hanging the officers and shooting the rest of their prisoners in the back of the head. Rico is clearly upset by this sight but not, as Bill explains to a questioning Hans, at the summary justice they have just seen executed. He is disturbed because the executed prisoners are Colorados, and seeing representatives of this group has forced him to confront painful personal memories:
 The men on that train are Colorados. Expert marksmen.
 Also expert at torture. A couple of years ago
 they burned and looted a town of three thousand
 people. When they finished, forty were left. Fardan's
 wife was one of the lucky forty. "Why are you a revolutionary?"
 they asked. "To rid the world of scum
 like you," she said. They stripped her naked, ran her
 through the cactus 'til her flesh was ... The other
 thirty-nine rebels watched her die and did nothing,
 just watched.


It is clear that her death and its manner (and the circumstances surrounding it), combined with the evolution of the Mexican revolution from a battle against a regime they view as actively evil to more ambiguous and sordid political intrigues, have led to Rico and Bill's disillusionment with the idealism and romanticism that drove them in their youth. This expression of combined nostalgia and disillusionment have led critics to compare The Professionals to The Wild Bunch, a valid comparison, but one which breaks down in the conclusions of the two films. While The Wild Bunch evolves into a firefight that is usually described as orgasmic, The Professionals moves in a very different direction. The moment when the men demonstrate they are truly worthy of their name is the moment when hope re-enters their lives. Unlike The Wild Bunch, where most of the characters meet their end in a hail of bullets, the professionals are able to turn back the clock on their disillusionment and, although their bodies are still battered, weary, and aging, they are able to recapture some of the idealism and romanticism they possessed in years gone by. This turnaround is accomplished by one simple act: they turn their backs on the money and all it represents, a decision based on their perception of values and integrity, rather than one which is limited by function. This final twist in the film has been criticized for its lack of realism, but it demonstrates that change is possible, that talk is not necessarily cheap, and that idealism can not only sustain, it can also be recovered when it seems irretrievably lost.

Women and Influence

The professionals' turnaround occurs for a number of reasons, but two of these reasons can be attributed to women. First, there is the dead but hardly forgotten Mrs. Fardan, heroine and saint of the revolution they support, whose memory is cherished and held close by her husband and his friend. Although she represents one reason for their disillusionment, she is also the epitome and symbol of a faith that never dies. She never surrendered her beliefs; in fact, she clung to them and they sustained her, even under torture, until her death. And then there is Maria Grant who, although she shows herself to be duplicitous, scheming, and untrustworthy, also demonstrates an unswerving belief in her country, as well as in the man she loves. (10) This devotion leads her in some unusual directions (when evaluated by traditional criteria), but she is impervious to criticism of her methods. When Rico calls her a whore, she responds, "It we can keep the revolution alive with guns and bullets for even one more day, then I steal and cheat ... and whore."

The effect of Chiquita on the men is negligible (which is at least partially tied up with the issue of class). She is a diversion for Bill, while the others smile at her zest for life, but are not intrigued. None of them would change for her. She is just another soldier who just happens to be of a different gender from themselves. Maria's range of choices makes her far more interesting than Chiquita. But it is worth noting that she is only an object, a package to be delivered, until they discover (and are convinced) that she is on the right side--that she treasures the same ideals they used to hold so dear. Still, she has compromised those ideals at times, and is thus somewhat sullied. It is only the deceased Mrs. Fardan who never compromised, but held to her ideals until they killed her. She made similar choices to Maria's, but they were better choices. For example, both have married Anglo men; Rico's wife, however, married one whose ideals were in accord with her own. He also fights for the revolution, while Mr. Grant is only concerned with his own importance and gratification. (11)

Mrs. Fardan may be dead, but her influence continues, gently urging her husband and friend in the right direction, back to the ideals they abandoned at her death. She is not exactly an "angel of the house," but in her role as an example to those around her and who remember her, she serves as a version of this Victorian phenomenon that has been transplanted to the West, although perhaps an "angel of the desert" or an "angel of the range" would be a more fitting description of the woman who fought for the revolution, defied the Colorados and was dragged to her death through the cactus of the Sonoran Desert. Although the audience may be delighted that the professionals are able to recover their ideals, and applaud the decision that they make, it is also somewhat disconcerting to discover that their ideal woman is not only dead, but also functions as a more modern Hispanic version of the etherealized women of the nineteenth century who served as inspiration and spiritual impulse for the men in their lives. Therefore, although Mrs. Fardan lived and died a revolutionary, she is as much a civilizer as that most familiar stereotype of civilizing woman in the West: the schoolteacher.

Professional Women

Schackel, in her examination of the function of women in the Western, has concluded that "women's roles are imbued with traits traditionally considered feminine: passivity, dependence, gentleness, and sensitivity, among others. If women are given strong characters, they must ultimately depend on a man for their happiness and security" (196). This description of women in Westerns does not appear to apply to the women in The Professionals. All three of the women featured in this movie are, on one level, professional women. They are not specialists in the way that the corresponding male figures are, yet they act in much the same ways, whether they are planning, plotting, rebelling, or fighting beside their men. They are not, however, totally dependent on their men "for their happiness and security." This is because they are strong in their own right and hold beliefs of their own (as opposed to merely accepting the beliefs of the men they love). Chiquita lives a life of violence. Maria and Mrs. Fardan are women who support violence (and are willing to go to any lengths to support the revolution--"whoring" (12) for one and death for the other), yet they also function in the capacity of the teacher who leads her pupils to a higher level of moral understanding and behavior. Calder categorizes women of the Western as civilizers or spunky types who must be tamed (170), but Maria and Mrs. Fardan seem to combine these stereotypes to present a new Western woman--the Victorian angel who inspires, combined with the woman who actively participates in a life of action. The men in this film, although they have been presented as relatively secure within their identities, (13) demonstrate by their behavior that they are not immune to the influence of a woman who is able to guide them, demonstrating both by rhetoric and example where their loyalties should lie and the moral direction in which they should be proceeding. The professionals have learned that, even though times have changed and they may feel they have been left behind by those changing times, the same qualities that they earlier cherished are still applicable in the newly defined world. Qualities such as loyalty to a cause and support for what one feels is right are never out of season. The men make this discovery as a unit, but the issue would have gone unexamined had it not been for women who, whether dead or alive, demonstrate the ability to lead as well as follow. These women are professionals who can work beside and fight beside men; at the same time, they possess the ability, during life and after death, to shepherd these men, directing them in the ways of justice and fostering the ideals of freedom.

Works Cited

Calder, Jenni. There Must be a Lone Ranger. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1974.

Carroll, Noel. "The Professional Western: South of the Border." Back in the Saddle Again: New Essays on the Western. Ed. Edward Buscombe and Roberta E. Pearson. London: British Film Institute, 1998.

Coyne, Michael. The Crowded Prairie: American National Identity in the Hollywood Western. London: I. B. Tauris, 1997.

Garfield, Brian. Western Films: A Complete Guide. New York: Rawson, 1982.

Hitt, Jim. The American West from Fiction (1823-1976) into Film (1909-1986). Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.

McDonald, Archie P., ed. Shooting Stars: Heroes and Heroines of Western Film. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1987.

Mitchell, Lee Clark. Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996.

Motion Picture Herald Product Digest (9 Nov. 1966): 625.

Parrish, James Robert and Michael R. Pitts. The Great Western Pictures. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976.

Pirie, David, ed. Anatomy of the Movies. London: Windward, 1981.

Robertson, Richard C. "Just Dreamin' Out Loud: The Westerns of Burt Lancaster." Shooting Stars: Heroes and Heroines of Western Film. Ed. Archie P. McDonald. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1987.

Schackel, Sandra Kay. "Women in Western Films: The Civilizer, the Saloon Singer, and Their Modern Sister." Shooting Stars: Heroes and Heroines of Western Film. Ed. Archie P. McDonald. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1987.

Wright, Will. Six Guns and Society: A Structured Study of the Western. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

Notes

(1) The films discussed in the last two paragraphs were produced over a nineteen-year period (1952-71). Although this sample is extremely small, it would indicate that the limited treatment and development of women in the Western is not a trend that, for example, might be ascribed to a specific decade.

(2) Richard Robertson states that The Professionals "was the second highest grossing Western of that year, after Nevada Smith" (173); David Pirie cites it as among the most financially successful Westerns, grossing over $8 million (208).

(3) That this film is placed at a time of temporal shift (as stated by Coyne) is signaled not only by the emotional displacement of the characters, but also by details such as the fact that horse, train and automobile are all utilized modes of travel, while weapons include arrows, as well as machine guns, dynamite, etc.

(4) "What The Professionals does is to hark back to an honorable tradition in movie-making that has become rare: The straightaway, uncomplicated action film that one can relax and enjoy without strain" (Motion Picture Herald 625).

(5) Other plot types Wright identifies are classical plot, vengeance variation, and transition theme.

(6) Michael Coyne succinctly describes the concept of Strode's character as a "Black Chingachgook" (132).

(7) Rico is shown demonstrating a machine gun to the army (for which he earns $40 a week), Hans breaks horses, Jake works as a bounty hunter, and Bill (who has gambling debts) is seen in jail.

(8) Clearly this is a game that Bill feels at home playing. He responds, "I trust you too," at the same moment that the viewers see the muzzle of his pistol appear between her breasts. Bill has not acceded to Maria's physical persuasion any more than he did her verbal rhetoric.

(9) Rico ascribes her action to the fact that if Hans lives, he will slow them down and give Raza a chance to catch up. The expression on Maria's face, however, indicates her realization of the tension inherent between her desire for freedom and her decision to perform an act of mercy. (10) Raza, in turn, has the same faith in her. No matter whether they are together or apart, or what their circumstances are, they belong to each other. "That will change nothing," he expostulates, when Bill says she will soon be back with her husband.

(11) In spite of Maria's mistakes that somewhat diminish her value, she is also presented as being of great worth. When Bill said, "[I was] just wonderin' what makes you worth a hundred thousand dollars," he is clearly equating her value with sexual performance. In the end, however, the professionals decide she is indeed worth that much money, demonstrated by the group's willingness to lose that exact amount when they free Maria and Raza, protecting them so that they can return to Mexico and the revolution.

(12) In spite of Rico's accusation, which might imply that Maria has been promiscuous, there is no indication that Maria has betrayed the lover of her youth by sleeping by anyone except Mr. Grant, the man to whom she is legally married.

(13) The uncertainties they feel are more linked to where they fit into the new and revised world rather than who they are.

Winona Howe is Professor of English at La Sierra University in Riverside, California, where she teaches courses in nineteenth-century British literature and children's and young adult literature. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Riverside. She has published articles on modern revisions of folk tales and on Victorian authors Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

Winona Howe La Sierra University
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Title Annotation:Special In-Depth Section
Author:Howe, Winona
Publication:Film & History
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:5631
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