(director: Kurt Neumann; screenwriters: Lillie Hayward/Jack Natteford; cinematographer: Maury Gertsman; editor: Danny Landres; music: Joseph Gershenson; cast: Joel McCrea (Dan Mathews), Dean Stockwell (Chester Graham, Jr.), Leon Ames (Mr. Graham), Howard Petrie (Cap), Chill Wills (Dallas), Bob Steele (Charlie “Careless” Morgan), Henry Brandon (Jim Currie), Griff Barnett (Conductor O’Hara), Tim Hawkins (Tommy), Lewis Martin (Winston), Kennet Patterson (Mason), Harry Carey Jr. (Train passenger); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal; 1951)
“A coming-of-age parental message juvenile B-Western, that’s predictable but still a well-crafted film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A coming-of-age parental message juvenile B-Western, that’s predictable but still a well-crafted film. It’s agreeably directed by Kurt Neumann (“Mohawk”/”The Fly”) and written by Lillie Hayward and Jack Natteford so it has an easygoing way of telling its story. Its lush Technical shots in Death Valley are spectacular. The film’s star Joel McCrea loved the film, one of his favorites.
Chester Graham, Jr. (Dean Stockwell) is a spoiled rich brat teenager, bounced from many boarding schools because of his unruly behavior. His mom is deceased and his dad (Leon Ames), the owner of a railroad line, is too busy to give the kid any attention. The kid creates a few disturbances on the train heading for Colorado. When it stops for water, the kid wanders away from the train and it leaves without him. Dan Mathews (Joel McCrea), a grizzly cowboy on a cattle drive to Santa Fe, is trying to rope a wild black mustang and he’s within sight of it when the kid takes a tumble and the noise scares the mustang off.
After failing to order the cowboy to meet the train at its next stop, the kid reluctantly joins Dan at his camp and is assigned to work for his chow by assisting the old codger cook, Dallas (Chill Wills). The kid goes on the tough cattle drive to Santa Fe, handling the treacherous desert part in Paradise Lost like a real cowboy, as Dan becomes a fatherly figure giving him tough love. The drive gets the kid some much needed life lessons on how to behave without acting like a snot. When, at last, turned over to his dad, the kid has changed for the better and talks dad into letting him go with Dan to capture the mustang Dan wants for breeding purposes on his new ranch (Where he hopes to settle down with his new bride, as he shows him her photo–which happens to be of his real-life wife Frances Dee).
The reformed kid will head to a new boarding school later on, and hopefully the change will be a permanent one.
REVIEWED ON 7/22/2020 GRADE: B-