Randolph Scott and Patrice Wymore in The Man Behind the Gun (1953)


(director: Felix Feist; screenwriter: from the story by Robert Buckner/John Twist; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: Owen Marks; music: David Buttolph; cast: Randolph Scott (Major Ransome Callicut), Patrice Wymore (Lora Roberts), Dick Wesson (Sgt. ‘Monk’ Walker), Philip Carey (Capt. Roy Giles), Lina Romay (Chona Degnon), Roy Roberts (Sen. Mark Sheldon), Morris Ankrum (Bram Creegan), Alan Hale Jr. (Cpl. Olaf Swenson), Katherine Warren (Phoebe Sheldon), Tony Caruso (Vic Sutro), Robert Cabal (Joaquin), Douglas Fowley (Buckley, Saloon Manager); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sisk; Warner Bros. Pictures; 1953)
“Routine Western elevated by the presence of Randolph Scott.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Routine Western elevated by the presence of Randolph Scott. It’s taken from a story by Robert Buckner and written in a muddled manner by John Twist. Felix E. Feist (“The Big Trees”/”Battles of Chief Pontiac”/”Donovan’s Brain”) handles the directing chores with workman proficiency, but that proves to be not good enough.

Randolph Scott is the army undercover agent, Major Ransome Callicut, assigned to San Pedro, California, just before the civil war and aims to quell a separatist movement in Southern California. He’s disguised as a school teacher, replacing schoolteacher Lora Roberts (Patrice Wymore, she can’t act but she was a former wife of Errol Flynn), but his disguise is quickly uncovered and he says something to the effect it doesn’t really matter (In fact, nothing really mattered in this pic). Lora’s set to marry the outpost commander, Captain Roy Giles (Philip Carey), who is a southerner and his loyalty is questioned by the major. Now there develops a gentleman’s rivalry between the two for her love. Bram Creegan (Morris Ankrum) is the wealthy southerner, who wants California to join the union as a slave state. Sen. Mark Sheldon (Roy Roberts) is the smarmy patriot who is all for the union, but secretly is the leader behind the revolt that will give him an empire. Chona Degnon (Lina Romay) is the saloon singer allied with the revolt through Buckley, the Saloon Manager (Douglas Fowley). The major works with his old buddies, Sgt. ‘Monk’ Walker (Dick Wesson) and Cpl. Olaf Swenson (Alan Hale Jr.), and recruits the Mexican gunrunner Joaquin (Robert Cabal) to join their side, as they scheme to go after the heavily armed outlaw militia.

None of it makes much sense, but everyone is so earnest in their acting and there’s plenty of action making it easy to forget how dull it really it is.