Turner Classic Movies is revisiting the world of American Western films this month, highlighted by A Man Can Do That, an original documentary examining the life and work of director Bud Boetticher.
Lost in the shadows of such notables as John Ford and Howard Hawkes, Boetticher made a series of B films, often with Randolph Scott in a lead role, during the 1950s, though his career as technical advisor and assistant director began in the previous decades. Narrated by Ed Harris, the documentary is a detailed account of the man behind films that laid some of the groundwork for the genre and offered opportunities to actors who carried it onward to television and film fame.
His early struggles as an adopted child and aspiring boxer and football player are succinct, but significant. Interviews hint that early struggles were the cornerstone of his personality and, possibly, his mission in life.
Time spent in Mexico as a youngster learning the skills of a matador led to his first break in Hollywood, where he served as the technical director for Blood and Sand in the mid-1930s.
His later work included The Bullfighter and the Lady, a semi-autobiographical account, and his most famous project, Seven Men from Now, produced by John Wayne's production company.
The documentary's executive producer, Clint Eastwood, provides commentary on Boetticher's style; his unique perspective on the people, place and time of Western dramas; and the impact his work had on others in the industry.
Director Quentin Tarantino offers detailed impressions of Boetticher's scenes, story lines and camera use, and how they translate into layman's terms. By pointing out nuances of Boetticher's techniques that would otherwise go unrecognized, the modern-day director exposes finer points that inspired the work of others who gravitated to the genre.
Other perspectives come from conversations with Taylor Hackford, Peter Bogdanovich and Robert Towne.
Visually simple and slowly paced, the film may linger longer than a tumbleweed for those accustomed to fast-cut documentaries with slick musical scores. The pacing and pointers of A Man Can Do That are tailor-made, though, for TCM fans who favor Western fare.
A Man Can Do That premieres on TCM Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT).