Draw! (1984, directed by Steven Hilliard Stern)


Harry Holland (Kirk Douglas) is an aging cowboy who used to be one of the old west’s more fearsome outlaws.  When the newly reformed Harry wins $200 in a poker game, local weasel Reggie Bell (Derek McGrath) tries to get out of paying him by accusing Harry of cheating.  A gunfight leads to Harry getting wounded, the sheriff accidentally getting killed, and Harry locking himself away in a hotel room with a Shakespearean actress, Bess (Alexandra Bastedo).

Unsure of how to get Harry to leave the hotel room and surrender himself, the townspeople send meek Deputy Wally Boldgett (Graham Jarvis) to track down the legendary lawman Sam Sterrett (James Coburn).  Like Harry, Sam is a veteran gunfighter and if anyone can face down Harry Holland, it’s him!  Unfortunately, as Wally soon discovers, Sam is now an alcoholic who no longer has much interest in enforcing the law on the frontier.

While Wally tries to sober up Sam and deliver him to the town, Harry and Bess remain in the hotel room and fall in love.

Draw! is a light-hearted western comedy.  Though it deals with the classic western theme of aging outlaws trying to find their place in a changing society, Draw! is more interested in laughs than pathos.  Reggie Bell, for instance, is such a weasel that he’s never a credible villain, despite all of the times that he tries to be.  Even once he’s trapped in the hotel room, Harry is never really worried.  Even when the gallows start to go up in the towns square, it’s mostly played for laughs.

The main appeal of this film is to watch two genre vets act opposite of each other and both Kirk Douglas and James Coburn deliver.  The film is split almost evenly between the two actors, with Coburn especially digging into his role.  When he’s first introduced, Sam is so drunk that he can barely see straight and it’s not until he actually reaches the town and pins on his old sheriff’s badge that he starts to straighten up and become the cool and confident James Coburn that we all know.  Coburn does a great job of showing Sam gradually starting to once again care about things like justice and doing the right thing (regardless of what the law says).  Coburn’s laid back style compliments Douglas’s natural intensity.  When Sam and Harry finally speak to each other, their shared history as friends and competitors comes across naturally.

Draw! is both a good western and a showcase for two iconic actors.

One response to “Draw! (1984, directed by Steven Hilliard Stern)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 11/16/20 — 11/22/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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