Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, and Susan Cabot in Ride Clear of Diablo (1954)


(director: Jesse Hibbs; screenwriters: story by Ellis Marcus/George Zuckerman/D.D. Beauchamp; cinematographer: Irving Glassberg; editor: Edward Curtiss; music: Herman Stein; cast: Audie Murphy (Clay O’Mara), Susan Cabot (Laurie Kenyon), Dan Duryea (Whitey Kincaid), Abbe Lane (Kate), Russell Johnson (Jed Ringer), Paul Birch (Sheriff Fred Kenyon), William Pullen (Tom Meredith), Jack Elam (Tim Lowerie), Denver Pyle (Rev. Moorehead); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John W. Rogers; Universal; 1954)

“A charming and lively revenge Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII fame, stars and gets great support from veteran actor Dan Duryea, in a charming and lively revenge Western pleasantly directed by Jesse Hibbs. It’s based on a story by Ellis Marcus and written by George Zuckerman.

Denver railroad surveyor Clay O’Mara (Audie Murphy) receives a letter from his father’s lawyer Tom Meredith (William Pullen) that his father and younger brother were killed by rustlers. He takes a leave of absence and returns to the ranch in Santiago, California, that he left long ago, and is determined to get the killers. He talks crooked sheriff Fred Kenyon (Paul Birch) into hiring him as deputy, as the oily Meredith suggests this a good way of stopping him from snooping around by sending him on a dangerous assignment to bring back wanted killer Whitey Kincaid (Dan Duryea) in the next town of Diablo. Kenyon’s pretty niece Laurie (Susan Cabot), staying at her uncle’s ranch, is engaged to Meredith, but falls for the angelic looking Clay and worries he won’t return alive. It turns out Clay is quicker on the draw than Whitey and is able to arrest him in a saloon gun duel. Whitey takes it with a good sense of humor, as the happy-go-lucky outlaw likes to have a good time (laughs at almost everything), and on the way to jail is impressed with how innocent and straightforward is the deputy. They actually become uneasy friends after a rival gang tries to kill both on the way over and Clay holds them off. At Whitey’s trial one of the sheriff’s rustling gang members Jed Ringer (Russell Johnson) is a false witness proclaiming the accused’s innocence and as a result he’s freed. Part of the bargain was that Whitey would kill Clay upon his release, but can’t go through with it. He jokingly warns Clay to watch his back from the sheriff, but the naive Clay thinks of it only as more joking from his outlaw friend.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

In the end, Clay needs the help of Whitey to settle the score with Jed who rustled his father’s cattle, Meredith who killed his kin, and Kenyon who planned it. He also marries Laurie and returns to his railroad job in Denver.

The photography by cinematographer Irving Glassberg is beautiful. Abby Lane is sexy as the saloon singer who goes from boyfriend Whitey to Jed, always on the side of the bad guys. Though the plot line is well-conceived, there were several lapses of credibility in the storytelling (the cheesy trial for one) that could be excused because Murphy and Duryea were so good together that all else became secondary.