(director: Andre De Toth; screenwriters: Jack Moffitt/Graham Baker/Cecile Kramer/from a Luke Short story; cinematographer: Russell Harlan; editor: Sherman A. Rose; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: Joel McCrea (Dave Nash), Veronica Lake (Connie Dickason), Preston Foster (Frank Ivey), Don Defore (Bill Schell), Donald Crisp (Sheriff Jim Crew), Arleen Whelan (Rose Leland), Charles Ruggles (Ben Dickason ), Nestor Paiva (Curley), Robert Wood (Link); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Sherman; Republic; 1947)
“An intriguing psychological Western about evil and out of control cowpokes.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An intriguing psychological Western about evil and out of control cowpokes. Joel McCrea in the title role that smacks of sexual symbolism, is excellent as the honest cowpoke who comes out of his funk to find his own way. But his costar, Veronica Lake as Connie Dickason, steals the film as a strong-willed butch-type, who goes against the wishes of her rancher father Ben Dickason (Charles Ruggles) and refuses to marry his choice–the ruthless Frank Ivey (Preston Foster). Hungarian émigré Andre De Toth does a superb directing job on his first Western. He bases the film on a story by prolific cowboy writer Luke Short. Screenwriters Jack Moffitt, Graham Baker and Cecile Kramer provide an intense and complex script, which is rare for a Western.
Dave Nash (Joel McCrea) is a recovering drunk who lost his wife and son and now gets caught in the middle of a cattle war as the ramrod (foreman) for his boss Walt Shipley (Ian MacDonald) and the evil big cattleman, Frank Ivey, who is linked with Ben Dickason. The feud began in reality when Connie refused to marry Ivey and chose instead sheepman Shipley, someone she could dominate. But Shipley is dissed by his friend Ivey and skips town rather than fight the combo of the on-the-rise cattle baron Ivey and the powerfully established Ben, leaving his ranch to his steaming mad ex-fiancée, Connie. She vows to fight against her father’s gang and Ivey in the same violent and dirty way they fight, as she recruits a gang. She also talks Nash into staying on to be the Circle 66 ramrod with all sorts of promises she fails to keep, and he recruits the mischievous cowboy Bill Schell (Don DeFore) for help. Nash vows to fight clean, which gains him the support of old-timer Sheriff Jim Crew (Donald Crisp).
The two gangs go after one another with a relentless vengeance despite Nash’s attempts to settle everything according to the law in a peaceful matter. After many deaths on both sides, Nash is forced into a gun fight with Ivey, and kills him. He then rejects the unwholesome Connie who says she’s sorry for breaking her promises, but they won and she can share the sheep ranch with him. But Nash chooses the wholesome Rose Leland (Whelan), the town dressmaker, whom he told the story of his life: that after his wife died at childbirth six years ago he went on a drunk binge, as he couldn’t deal with reality. Nash is the only character who gains control of his life and walks away from this place with his dignity restored. While Connie is left alone and rejected, something she dreads more than anything else.
REVIEWED ON 12/30/2003 GRADE: B