Along the Great Divide (1951)



(director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: Walter Doniger/Lewis Meltzer; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Thomas Reilly; music: David Buttolph; cast: Kirk Douglas (Len Merrick), Virginia Mayo (Ann Keith), John Agar (Billy Shear), Walter Brennan (Pop Keith), Ray Teal (Lou Gray), Hugh Sanders (Frank Newcombe), Morris Ankrum (Ed Roden), James Anderson (Dan Roden), Charles Meredith (The Judge); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Veiller; Warner Bros.; 1951)

Kirk Douglas stars in his first western.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Kirk Douglas stars in his first western. Raoul Walsh (“The Thief of Bagdad”/”Manpower”/”High Sierra”) directs this exciting psychological western shot in b/w, that features stunning shots of the barren desert landscape and first-class acting from the star and supporting players. Its major fault is that it lacks an edge and the mystery of the real killer is given away in the first reel, making its surprise ending not surprising. It’s tautly written by Walter Doniger and Lewis Meltzer.

The newly appointed to the territory stoic and hard-nosed U.S. marshal Len Merrick (Kirk Douglas) rescues Pop Keith (Walter Brennan) from a lynch mob headed by the angry cattle baron Ed Rhoden (Morris Ankrum), who accuses him of rustling and killing his beloved younger son Ed–the son he loves more than anything else in life. The marshal, along with deputies Lou (Ray Teal) and Billy (John Agar), intends to take the suspect to get a fair trial in nearby Santa Loma despite Rhoden’s threat to lynch the suspect.

Along the way Pop’s feisty tomboy daughter Ann (Virginia Mayo) tags along. The trek across the desert is a trip across the past, as the guilt-ridden marshal has Pop remind him of his father–a U.S. marshal who was lynched by those he arrested because his deputy son didn’t follow the law and accompany his dad to take the accused to trial.

To avoid the mountainous terrain, where Rhoden’s men could be waiting sight unseen, the marshal crosses the desert and has to ward off an attack by Rhoden and his men. Rhoden’s oldest son Dan (James Anderson) kills Bill the deputy in the shoot-out to get Pop and is captured. The thirsty marshal and the four others reach a waterhole that Pop leads them to, but it has been poisoned by Rhoden. Ann takes the gun away from the marshal after kissing him. When the insubordinate deputy Lou tries to kill his boss because of the money deal he made with the sleazy Dan, he’s killed by Pop. Then Pop, rather than escape over the nearby border, hands over his gun to the marshal and they walk to town since the horses ran off during the shooting. The midnight trial by the traveling circuit judge (Charles Meredith) results in a guilty-verdict, and Pop is set to hang at dawn. At the last minute the marshal exposes the real killer, and the happy ending has the lawman planning to marry Ann.

The routine tragic story is helped by Walsh’s crisp direction. It reminds one of the similar-themed thinking man’s western Pursued (1947) that was also directed by Walsh.