CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA (director: Allan Dwan; screenwriters: story by Thomas Blackburn/Robert Blees/Howard Estabrook; cinematographer: John Alton; editors: James Leiccester/Carlo Lodato; music: Louis Forbes; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Sierra Nevada Jones), Morris Ankrum (Papa Jones), Ronald Reagan (Farrell), Anthony Caruso (Natchakoa), Lance Fuller (Colorados ), Jack Elam (Yost), Gene Evans (Tom McCord), Chubby Johnson (Nat Collins), Myron Healey (Hank), Yvette Duguay (Starfire), Paul Birch (Col. Carrington), Rod Redwing (Powhani); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benedict Bogeaus; RKO; 1954)
“A predictable and unimpressive PC Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran director from the silents, Allan Dwan (“Robin Hood”/”Sands of Iwo Jima”/”Escape to Burma”),helms a predictable and unimpressive PC Western, with both good and bad whites as well as peaceful and war-like Indians. It argues against being bias to the Indians, saying their needs are no different than those of the white men, and in stunning Technicolor is pretty to take in the beautiful location vistas. It was superbly shot by cinematographer John Alton in Montana’s Glacier National Park, which proved to be the film’s best asset. But the dramatics stagnate, as the potential war with the Indians loses tension the more the story by Thomas Blackburn circles the wagons and thereby loses most of its steam since everything seems so obvious and simplistic.The listless Western is saddled with an unimaginative director, a so-so script and a wooden performance by the film’s hero Ronald Reagan, the future President, whose dashing adventure role as an undercover government agent and romance with spitfire Barbara Stanwyck is about as awful to digest as Ronnie’s real-life disregard for the poor.
Hard-nosed Texas cattle ranchers Pop Jones (Morris Ankrum) and his feisty daughter Sierra Nevada, along with their loyal foreman Nat (Chubby Johnson), take ownership of a choice property in Montana’s Buffalo Valley that once belonged to Pop’s family. That night renegade Blackfeet Indians stampede the new rancher’s cattle and kill Pop. Nat is seriously hurt and Sierra has been knocked unconscious. We observe that evil land baron Tom McCord, a neighbor of Jones, is in cahoots with Natchakoa (Anthony Caruso), the hotheaded corrupted leader of the raiding Indians, and one-dimensional villain McCord takes the pre-emption papers stolen on the raid that are needed by the Jones family to reclaim its property. This violent incident upsets peaceful Blackfoot Indian Colorados (Lance Fuller), the son of Chief Red Lance, who just returned to his family’s village after graduating from college. Colorados takes the surviving whites to his village to heal and show them not all Indians are bad. The chief is all for this experiment by his son to prove that whites and Indians can live in peace, but Natchakoa opts to give McCord gold for cattle, army rifles and whiskey as he tries to bring about an Indian-white war by attacking settlers and stampeding their herds. This enables the greedy McCord to steal the settler’s cattle and rob their land.
Gunslinger Farrell (Ronald Reagan) gets hired to work for McCord, but is an undercover army agent on assignment to get proof that the venal land baron is selling rifles to the Indians so they can wage a war. When Farrell sees how vulnerable Sierra is, he secretly works to help her. By the time the credits roll around Ronnie has put an end to the land baron’s plans for a cattle empire, patched up peace between the good Blackfeet and the settlers and won the heart of Stanwyck.
REVIEWED ON 3/31/2012 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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