Bonnie Scotland! Portrayed on screen a number of times but almost never in the correct context! There’s a handful of Scottish actors, musicians, TV personalities and royals I have come to really admire from Scotland- Mary, Queen of Scots, Sir Sean Connery, Robert Carlyle OBE, Angus and Malcolm Young, Chef Gordon Ramsay OBE just to name to a few! But the thing that blows my mind every time is just how many people throughout the screen’s history have acted the part of a Scot. And its certainly way more than you even thought!
In 1966, American born actor Brian Keith got his turn at playing a Scot in the western The Rare Breed. Despite mixed reactions to the film, the memorable part, according to co-star Maureen O’Hara was Brian’s ability to be a scene- stealer (although he doesn’t show up until around halfway through the film).
Directed by longtime John Ford/ John Wayne associate Andrew V McLaglen, and also starring James Stewart and Juliet Mills, The Rare Breed is one of those westerns that is cute, sweet, but not exactly top notch, “essential” material. You have to be a fan of the actors to recognize the there’s truly a good story to be told. I’ve actually heard this movie be called a cross between John Ford (well his stock company, anyways) and Disney- a fair assessment, that in my opinion works.
Irish beauty Maureen O’Hara plays Englishwoman Martha, and her daughter Hilary (played by Juliet) who are on their way to sell their cattle at the fair. But their most prized cattle just isn’t any old cattle, his is name Vindicator, who is a rare breed (and is a very sweet bull, who is trained to follow Hilary when she whistles or sings God Save The Queen!).
When a wealthy rancher purchases Vindicator for his business partner, wild Scotsman Alexander Bowen (Brian Keith) Martha hires Sam ‘Bulldog’ Burnett (Stewart) to help her transport him. Romance, danger, and comedy soon ensures on their journey!
What I adore about this film is really the cast. Even though, Maureen O’Hara said in her autobiography she was distracted during the shoot and her heart wasn’t completely in it. Behind the scenes, she was dealing with personal matters of the heart with her then boyfriend Enrique Parra. To see Juliet work with Maureen is just awesome! Hayley Mills already worked with Maureen five years earlier in The Parent Trap– and it’s cool to observe that Maureen has a great rapport with both Mills sisters! Jimmy Stewart as always gives a solid performance, and if you enjoy JS westerns, I really do believe this film should be one worth watching.
Brian Keith, the first time I saw him, I didn’t recognize him! While his accent is not absolutely perfect, it’s a pretty dang great attempt. Its precisely the manner in which he immerses himself in the role and you can tell he’s having a blast. I’d say in this case its spirit over technicality of the accent. I admit, I wasn’t totally hooked on the character the first time I watched it, but over the course of re-watching, Bowen is just a goofy, fun character you don’t have to take seriously. If he was played by another actor, then you would totally hate the character! ! Brain Keith brings warmth and silly humor to the role, it grows on you, and its glorious! ! I mean he even plays bagpipes in this movie- Yeah!!!!
A few fun things to look out for in this film is brief appearances by Harry Carey Jr, Jimmy O’Hara (also sometimes known as James Lilburn; Maureen’s brother) and Ben Johnson. And I have to give a mention to Vindicator the bull! Vindicator was such a cute sweet bull, that was just adorable to look at. Whenever Hilary would pet him or whisper the words of God Save The Queen to him, it was just sweet. It’s pretty cool Vindicator has a plot all his own within the film, his breed is sought after and we even see his kin towards the end of the film, it was so cute!!
In the end, The Rare Breed may be digging into the western genre, and not super well known, but I’d beg to say its certainly one worth watching. It’s not a gritty western, but rather a cute one, maybe even a western for people who don’t like westerns! And when all said and done- Its even got a Scottish character performance! Aye!!
The Rare Breed (1966) is available to own on DVD (from Universal) and Blu-ray (from Kino Lorber) !