(director: Edward L. Marin; screenwriters: Harold Shumate/from the novel “Trail Town” by Ernest Haycox; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Richard Heermance; music: Al Glasser; cast: Randolph Scott (Dan Mitchell), Ann Dvorak (Rita), Edgar Buchanan (Bravo Trimble), Rhonda Fleming (Sherry Balder), Lloyd Bridges (Henry Dreiser), Howard Freeman (Ed Balder), Richard Hale (Charlie Fair), Jack Lambert (Jet Younger), Dick Curtis (Ryker), Helen Boice (Big Annie), Eddie Waller (Hannaberry), Earl Schenck(George, saloon card dealer), Buddy Roosevelt (Slim); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jules Levy; UA/Miracle Pictures; 1946)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Familiar western chestnut of conflict between cattlemen and newly arrived homesteaders. It’s set in 1870, during the early days of the wild west town of Abilene, located where the Chisholm Trail ends and where the cattle drive takes a 1,000 miles and a ninety day ride from Texas before the cattle are boarded on trains in Abilene for the eastern cities. Director Edward L. Marin (“Nocturne”/”Johnny Angel”/”Tall in the Saddle”) keeps it action-packed, but gets bogged down in an unconvincing romantic triangle and an overwrought running comedy gag involving the cowardly and bumbling county sheriff Bravo (Edgar Buchanan). But star Randolph Scott will not only save the town, but his charismatic presence will also save the pic. The entertaining western is based onthe novel “Trail Town” by Ernest Haycox, and is tautly written by Harold Shumate.
Four months ago the merchant Town Supervisor, Ed Balder (Howard Freeman), appointed failed rancher Dan Mitchell (Randolph Scott) to be the town marshal. The honest marshal has his hands full trying to keep the thirsty trail hands in line after the long drive, but his no-nonsense approach keeps law and order. Dan also is kept on his toes by bawdy saloon hall singer/dancer Rita (Ann Dvorak) and Ed’s goody-goody 20-year-old daughter Sherry (Rhonda Fleming), who professes her love for the aloof bachelor marshal.
In one incident, Dan stops further bloodshed when one of the trail hands of the rowdy cattle baron Ryker (Dick Curtis) is killed over a card game, and the marshal prevents Ryker from plugging the card dealer (Earl Schenck).
Saloonkeeper Charlie Fair (Richard Hale), owner of the joint where Rita works, depends on the trail hands for business and frets the merchants will kill his business when they discover they can get more business from the newly arriving hordes of homesteaders. Charlie then hires thug Jed Younger (Jack Lambert) to destroy the homesteaders’ camp and run them out of town. It results in a fire in the camp and a few homesteader deaths. After Jed is fingered, he’s arrested by the marshal, who purposely lets the town think it was the inept sheriff who captured the bad guy–making it look like he’s an easy catch. When Jed tries to escape, he’s killed by the marshal.
Things become even more volatile when the young hot-headed homesteader leader, Henry (Lloyd Bridges), professes his deep feelings for Sherry and persuades her to sell him barbed wire when her general store owner father won’t. Henry places the wire on his property where the trail runs through. When Ryker’s men can’t get through, they stampede the cattle which kills several homesteaders. The marshal sides with the homesteaders and lets the out-of-control cowpokes destroy the saloons. When Ryker disobeys the marshal’s orders not to destroy the other side of the street where the merchants operate, the ruffian cattle man is gunned down and the rioters are dispersed.
After taming the town, Henry and Sherry become a couple as do Rita and Dan–with the twist being the hero chooses the naughty girl over the nice girl. It should appeal mostly to western fans, who like quickly paced films with light messages and appealing stars.
REVIEWED ON 4/22/2011 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/