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GUNSMOKE(director: Nathan Juran; screenwriters: from the novel Roughshod by Norman A. Fox/D.D. Beauchamp; cinematographer: Charles P. Boyle; editor: Ted J. Kent; music: Herman Stein; cast: Audie Murphy (Reb Kittridge), Susan Cabot (Rita Saxon), Paul Kelly (Dan Saxon), Charles Drake (Johnny Lake), Mary Castle (Cora Dufrayne), Jack Kelly (Curly Mather), Jesse White (Professor), Donald Randolph (Matt Telford), Chubby Johnson (Doc Farrell); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal-International Pictures; 1953)
“An efficiently made and exciting Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Austrian-born Nathan Juran (“Tumbleweed”/”Law and Order”/”Jack the Giant Killer”) helms his second feature and it’s an efficiently made and exciting Western. It’s based on the novel Roughshod by Norman A. Fox and written by D.D. Beauchamp. Former war hero Audie Murphy is terrific as the reformed gunslinger. It covers familiar ground, but does it well.

After chased by the cavalry and escaping, gunslingers Johnny Lake (Charles Drake) and Reb Kittridge (Audie Murphy) part company. Reb comes to Montana to work for the villainous cattle baron Telford (Donald Randolph), but turns down the assignment, to stop a cattle drive anyway he can when small rancher Dan Saxon (Paul Kelly) offers him a better deal. The reform minded Reb always wanted to settle down and own his own ranch, and now gets that chance. Dan wagered that high card wins. If Dan got high card, Reb would have to help him, at regular cowboy wages, in his important cattle drive to save the ranch from foreclosing to Telford who holds the mortgage. If Reb won, he owned the ranch. Reb wins and now must get the cattle to the railroad yard in Yellowstone in a week so he can get enough money to pay off Telford. The baddie owns all the other ranches in the basin, obtained by crooked means, and needs this spread to complete his empire. Saloon girl Cora Dufrayne (Mary Castle), who recommended Reb for the job, now recommends Johnny. Reb is motivated to succeed for another reason, he’s smitten with Dan’s feisty daughter Rita (Susan Cabot). But she can’t stand the gunslinger and is engaged to the foreman Curly Mather (Jack Kelly). Things change when Rita learns how spineless and untrustworthy Curly is and that her wise father knew all along what he was doing when he cut the deck with Reb. The cattle drive has to avert a wildfire set by the gang, and it leads to the action-packed attack by Johnny’s gang as Reb leads the cattle over a difficult mountain pass. After Reb gets through to market, a final showdown in the saloon with Johnny and Telford ends in a pleasing conclusion.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”