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THE HIRED HAND

USA, 1971 (MIFF 1999, Mavericks)

Director: Peter Fonda

Harry Collings (Peter Fonda) walks out on his wife (Verna Bloom) to become a drifter. After several aimless years of wandering the sagebrush with his saddle-pal Arch Harris (Warren Oates), he returns home to a deserted spouse who will only accept him on her own terms—as the hired help.

Alan Sharp's understated laid-back western screenplay deliberately downplays its potentially dra­matic turns of events and is languidly filmed by Fonda with Vilmos Zsigmond's shimmering cinematography and Bruce Langhome's gentle, rural-themed music. Curiously, Fonda showed his cameraman John Ford's My Darling Clementine starring his father Henry Fonda, for visual inspiration.

The critically acclaimed but commercially disas­trous western was produced by Fonda's company Pando for Universal (the organisation that had worked such marketing wonders with Two-Lane Blacktop and Minnie and Moskowitz) at a time when the studio briefly tin­kered with the notion of chasing the youth market that had been tapped with the release of Easy Rider (1969).

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