(director: Mark Robson; screenwriters: Geoffrey Homes/Hugo Butler/based on the story by Peter Viertel; cinematographer: Joseph F. Biroc; editor: Marston Fay; music: Roy Webb; cast: Robert Sterling (Clay Phillips), Gloria Grahame (Mary Wells), Claude Jarman Jr. (Steve Phillips), John Ireland (Lednov), Jeff Donnell (Elaine Wyatt), Myrna Dell (Helen Carter), Martha Hyer (Marcia), George Cooper (Jim Clayton), Jeff Corey (Jed Graham), Sara Haden (Ma Wyatt), James Bell (Pa ‘Ed’ Wyatt), Shawn McGlory (Fowler), Robert B. Williams (McCall), Steve Savage (Peters), Edward Cassidy (Sheriff Gardner); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard H. Berger; RKO; 1949)

“Winsome old-fashioned oater.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Mark Robson (“Earthquake”/”The Prize”/”Von Ryan’s Express”) puts more romance into this Western than usual and achieves better than expected results with this winsome old-fashioned oater. It’s based on a story by Peter Viertel and written by Geoffrey Homes and Hugo Butler.

In 1893, Clay Phillips (Robert Sterling) and teenage kid brother Steve (Claude Jarman Jr.) are fledgling ranchers bringing a herd of horses to California and learn from the sheriff in Sonora, where the brothers own a ranch, that dangerous felon Lednov (John Ireland) has escaped and is gunning for Clay as revenge for when arrested by the former lawman for murdering his best friend. Clay and Steve come across a broken wagon and meet on the trail four pretty stranded dance-hall girls –Mary Wells (Gloria Grahame), Helen Carter (Myrna Dell), Elaine (Jeff Donnell ) and Marcia (Martha Hyer)–who were kicked out of Aspen by social reformers and are now headed for saloon work in Sonora, California. The reluctant puritanical Clay becomes the escort for the girls, and it leads to a strained romance between him and Mary as he’s being stalked across the Sonora Pass by the three vicious gunmen.

Gloria Grahame, Jeff Donnell, John Ireland, and Robert Sterling in Roughshod (1949)