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CAHILL U.S. MARSHAL (director: Andrew V. McLaglen; screenwriters: story by Barney Slater/Harry Julian Fink; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: Robert Simpson; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: John Wayne (U.S. Marshal J.D. Cahill), George Kennedy (Abe Fraser), Gary Grimes (Danny Cahill), Clay O’Brien (Billy Joe ‘Budger’ Cahill), Neville Brand (Lightfoot), Denver Pyle (Denver), Marie Windsor (Mrs. Hetty Green), Morgan Paull (Struther), Jackie Coogan (Charlie Smith), Harry Carey Jr. (Hank), Walter Barnes (Sheriff Grady), Hunter Von Leer (Deputy Jim Kane), James Nusser (Doctor); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Michael Wayne; Warner Brothers; 1973)
“A minor John Wayne film that becomes a bore due to its preachy message.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A minor John Wayne film that becomes a bore due to its preachy message and not enough Wayne, even though he’s fat and old it’s still better watching him than the young ones the film features. Despite a talented supporting cast of old-time regular Western character actors, the acting was stiff. One of my favorites Marie Windsor has a small undemanding part as caretaker for Cahill’s youngest one. Andrew V. McLaglen’s flat direction and Harry Julian Fink’s uninteresting script based on the story by Barney Slater can’t get this oater untracked.

Hard-nosed U.S. Marshal J.D. Cahill (John Wayne) is a widow raising two sons, the 17-year-old Danny (Gary Grimes) and the 11-year-old Billy Joe ‘Budger’ (Clay O’Brien), but spends too much time away from the boys and due to his negligence they are not raised properly. While Danny is in jail on a drunk and disorderly charge, he’s in a cell with the ruthless Abe Fraser (George Kennedy) and his gang. Billy Joe gets past the sleeping sentry and frees the jailbirds, and while the town is burning the 5-man gang gets an obnoxious Danny, who is resentful of his father, to go along with robbing the bank and Billy Joe in hiding the money as they return undetected to jail. In the process the gang killed Cahill’s friend Sheriff Grady and knifed to death his deputy Jim Kane. When Cahill returns, he hires a half-breed Indian named Lightfoot (Neville Brand) to track the bank robbers. Cahill captures four outlaws in a remote mountain hideaway, but they are innocent of the crime Cahill is pursuing. Nevertheless they are sentenced to be hanged (Hey, it’s Texas). Cahill soon figures out his sons were involved as bank robbers and hopes they will lead him to the money so he can free the innocent and bring justice to the villains.

It all comes down to see if bad parent but good marshal Wayne can begin to connect with his children and realize that his neglect was the reason his sons were enticed into a life of crime. Wayne’s change of heart leads to a predictable happy ending.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”