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Robert Ryan: On Dangerous Ground

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Regarding Robert Ryan's performance as the alienated city cop, I applaud all of the comments about him in this forum. Having written his biography, Robert Ryan: A Biography And Critical Filmography, I realize that others share my opinion of him as an actor. In an interview, he once said "I play them as I see them." Perhaps his insights into the soul of man led him to a career in which he could enact what he had perceived in mankind.

His Jim Wilson has been called the "original Bad Lieutenant" by one noted film critic, and he was portrayed and dubbed the "Night Watchman Of The Human Heart" by an artist with whom I made the acquaintance as a result of writing his biography.

His performance in On Dangerous Ground ranks among his finest performances, although there were many others that could also quality. There are so many scenes in the film that can be watched again and again: 1) The end of the scene with Myrna needs to be seen to be appreciated; 2) In Mary's house at the end of the movie, Ryan has a spontaneous outburst of emotion when talking to her: "You're going to see the doctor now, now that you're free?" then, "What does he (the doctor) say about your seeing again, is there a chance?" Such subtle meaning in the dialogue the way Ryan reads it.

A brilliant movie in all areas with among the best of all American actors.From his children, I learned a lot about Ryan the man while writing his biography. He was the opposite of his vexed film characters, founded his own school in California which is still thriving today.

The phenomenal Nicholas Ray specifically lobbied for Ryan when casting Flying Leathernecks because he was the only actor around who could in reality "kick John Wayne's ****."

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I've watched On Dangerous Ground twice more since I started my other thread about the movie. I find more and more things to love about Robert Ryan's performance each time I seen him. On the part where Mary trips and falls, Jim (Ryan) gets down to help her up and I noticed his lip quivers as if he is about to cry for her. I also noticed, the last time I watched it, that his voice and facial expressions are just so intensely real for the situation that his character was facing. He really does render a deep gem of a performance.

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A great deal has been written about and said about "The Wild Bunch". It is one of my favorite westerns and one of my favorite Peckinpah films.


But, of all the scenes that have stayed with me over the years, the one that always comes first to mind when I think of the movie, is the aftermath, with the wind and sand blowing and the storm approaching and Robert Ryan sitting there against the wall wondering where the hell it all went wrong.


He was a helluva a good actor who should have had a bigger career.


Hands down, my favorite Robert Ryan scene and there are many throughout his career.

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In my opinion, Robert Ryan was the best film actor of the first half of the 20th Century - hands down. Yes, he SHOULD have been a bigger star/had a bigger career, but his legacy and influence remains more vital and alive than those of many who were much bigger stars.

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