Zandy’s Bride is a good period frontier romantic melodrama starring Gene Hackman as a gruff cattle rancher and Liv Ullmann as the mail-order bride who softens him up. Star performances sustain Jan Troell’s delicate but placid direction.
Marc Norman’s spare screenplay was adapted from a 1942 novel, The Stranger, by Lillian Bos Ross. Set in 1870 in upstate California’s rugged Big Sur mountain and sea interface, story takes Hackman from a crude, thoughtless hermit to a loving husband and father. The going is rough, however, Ullmann’s unexpectedly strong spirit overcomes his stiffness, learned at the back of the hand of father Frank Cady, a cruel patriarch who has reduced wife Eileen Heckart to serf status. The plot line is thin but sufficient.