(director: Roy Rowland; screenwriter: Irving Ravetch; cinematographer: Charles E. Schoenbaum; editor: Robert J. Kern; music: Andre Previn; cast: Joel McCrea (Will Owen), Barry Sullivan (Jesse Wallace), Arlene Dahl (Jen Gort), Claude Jarman, Jr. (Roy Gort), James Whitmore (Clint Priest), Ramon Novarro (Don Antonio Chaves), Jeff Corey (Keeley); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard Goldstone; MGM; 1950)
“The film is held together by the fine acting of Joel McCrea.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A well-acted conventional Western directed in a workmanlike way by Roy Rowland, while writer Irving Ravetch acquits himself quite well in polishing off his first Western (he later wrote Hud and Hombre). The film’s production values are grand, but the plot is too routine to cause any stir. A pleasant surprise comes from the performance of Ramon Novarro, the former matinee idol of the silents, who sparkles in an extended speaking role. Though the film is held together by the fine acting of Joel McCrea, who earnestly shows the agony of a man torn between his loyalties for the cause and a woman.
Will Owen (Joel McCrea), Jesse Wallace (Barry Sullivan) and Clint Priest (James Whitmore) are Confederate soldiers who escape from a Union prison compound in Camp Benton, Misouri. They join their leader Keeley (Jeff Corey), now riding with Quantrill’s Raiders. He maps out a plan for the escapees to hitch a ride with a Sante Fe wagon train heading east and carrying a shipment of gold, that is led by the aristocratic Don Antonio Chaves (Ramon Novarro). The three Rebels are to lead the wagon train into an ambush at Cattle Creek, where Keeley’s raiders will jump them at night and steal the gold for the Confederate cause.
The men convince the reluctant Chaves to take them along when they thwart an Apache attack, and they become outriders. Also along is the beautiful redhead, the recent widow of a Union major, Jen Gort (Arlene Dahl ), who is taking her testy teenage husband’s brother Roy (Claude Jarman, Jr.) back home to Ohio. Soon Will and Jesse clash over Jen, who is square dancing with the drunken wagon train men in a formal dress and when Will cuts in she dons a fancy pair of green shoes to continue dancing. Jesse wants to romance Jen and has no feelings if she gets killed during the bushwhack, while Will muses if it’s right to slaughter innocents and has doubts if he can let the woman he loves die.
The rivers and lakes all sparkle of rich blue shades (shot in Utah); the hardships of crossing a surging river are effectively shot, and it all leads to a thrilling climax where Will predictably chooses love over the dead cause and along with Clint takes on his former comrades led by the bandits posing as patriotic Rebels–Keeley and the ruthless Jesse.
REVIEWED ON 5/22/2005 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/