DESPERADOES, THE (director: Charles Vidor; screenwriter: Robert Carson/from the story by Max Brand; cinematographers: Allen M. Davey/George B. Meehan; editor: Gene Havlick; music: Morris W. Stoloff; cast: Randolph Scott (Steve Upton), Glenn Ford (Cheyenne Rogers), Claire Trevor (Countess Maletta), Evelyn Keyes (Allison MacLeod), Edgar Buchanan (Willie MacLeod), Raymond Walburn (Judge Cameron), Guinn “Big Boy” Williams (Nitro Rankin), Porter Hall (Stanley Clanton), Joan Woodbury (Sundown), Bernard Nedell (Jack Lester), Edward Pawley (Blackie); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Joe Brown; Columbia Pictures; 1943)
“The film is noteworthy because it was Columbia’s first in Technicolor.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A routine western about Glenn Ford as a wanted man trying to go straight after he falls in love with ideal country gal Evelyn Keyes. It’s enhanced by the great supporting cast, with the roguish Edgar Buchanan at his most impertinent best and a restrained Randolph Scott adding much machismo with his presence. The film is noteworthy because it was Columbia’s first in Technicolor. The exterior shots were fine, but the color seemed faded in the interior ones. Veteran Charles Vidor does a workmanlike job with the formulaic material. Writer Robert Carson adapts it from a Max Brand story.
It’s set in 1863 in the last frontier–the Utah Territory. Crooked banker Stanley Clanton (Porter Hall) stages the bank holdup of his own bank and plays hero to the crowd by giving them back half of their money. Smooth-talking Uncle Willie MacLeod (Edgar Buchanan) is the oily postmaster and brains behind the robbery scheme, as the popular local character is the first to say he has confidence in the bank and plans to reopen his account. Unfortunately the robbery was botched when Jack Lester (Bernard Nedell) robbed an empty safe as planned but in the process killed three innocent people–which wasn’t part of the plan. Uncle Willie later pays Lester $10,000 for the job. His gang was a last minute replacement for Cheyenne Rogers (Glenn Ford), who arrived too late. Lester was not approved of by Uncle Willie, who now has reservations about his partnership with Clanton and if it was worth doing for $80,000.
Steve (Randolph Scott) is the sheriff, Cheyenne is his outlaw friend who arrives in Red Valley after the robbery and is framed for the job by Lester. Cheyenne has a price on his head and uses the name of Bill Smith. In the town’s best hotel, Cheyenne meets the owner, Countess Maletta (Claire Trevor), whom he helped out of a jam in Wyoming and because of that incident was branded an outlaw. Waiting for him in the hotel is Nitro Rankin (Guinn “Big Boy” Williams), an explosives expert who helped Cheyenne bust out of jail. Things change when Cheyenne eyeballs the innocent pretty daughter of Uncle Willie, Allison (Evelyn Keyes), and the fastest gun in the territory takes a job as a cowboy and aims to go straight to win Allison’s hand in marriage.
It concludes with Steve getting into trouble when he helps the framed Cheyenne escape jail, and in turn Cheyenne sticks in town to return the favor when Steve is placed in jail. Together they team up to straighten things out in an energetic finale shootout that despite its liveliness never was interesting.
REVIEWED ON 3/30/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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