Other Cowboy Stars — Bob Steele in “Charley Varrick”
November 28, 2011
Six minutes into this 1973 film, the camera follows a bank guard across the lobby of the small town bank that Walter Matthau and his gang are about the rob. He’s an older gray-haired man. There’s nothing much about him to catch your eye. Unless you happen to notice the pearl handled six-shooter in his belt.
Matthau pulls a gun on the bank manager, a masked accomplice bonks the guard on the head and he goes down. Moments later, the guard takes advantage of a commotion outside to grab his gun and shoot a robber, before he’s cut down in a hail of bullets.
And thus ends the second-to-last role of Bob Steele’s long career. The former B-Western star would play another uncredited role in the cheapo horror “Nightmare Honeymoon” before hanging up his six-guns for good.
“Charley Varrick” is directed by Don Siegel, who directed Audie Murphy in “Duel At Silver Creek” early in his career. Was his casting of Steele here, and the anti-poetry of his death, an homage to the dying breed of cowboy stars? Or was he giving an old guy a day’s work?
For me, Bob Steele’s final role will always be his touching performance in a 1970 episode of TV’s “Family Affair.” We miss you, Chaps Callahan.