Ah, a Stewart Granger Western. Finally. This one co-stars Rhonda Fleming, Chill Wills, and James Gregory. I enjoyed it a lot, particularly the last twenty minutes. The rest of it is pretty standard Western fare, but the ending action and confrontations upped this movie a bit for me. It was just the right level of rousing and exciting and went exactly the way I wanted it to go to end satisfactorily.
Granger plays Tom Early, a man who turned to gambling and gunfighting and abandoned his wife and son and who is now seeking to return home and make amends. He has, of course, That Reputation, the one that young men fast with a gun want to challenge, the one the makes Early unfit company in a law-abiding town. The bitter, local shopkeeper (Jacques Aubuchon) wants Early out of town, especially when Jo (Rhonda Fleming), who lives at the general store, treats Early nicely. Chill Wills plays the local preacher who tries to keep the peace among everyone.
But Early has returned home too late, and he finds his wife has died and his son is now a young man full of bitter resentment at being abandoned. Early sets about trying to reconcile with Tom Junior. The son is played by Steve Rowland, and I personally felt he was the weakest link in the film. Not the character of the son, but the actor portraying him. He just didn't seem to fit the role he was playing.
The cool part of the movie is the main antagonist: James Gregory, playing one of those wealthy, I-can-do-what-I-want types that he's so good at. He intends to drive his herd of 20,000 cattle right through the valley where the new town is located on his way to the railroad -- right over the farmers that have have deeds and legal rights to that land, including Early. This was kind of different, and I really enjoyed the conscienceless James Gregory's attitude: "There weren't any people here the last time I drove cattle through, too bad they're here now, but they're in my way..." Having his cattle feed on their rich farmlands to fatten up is a nice bonus for him. His character of Grimsell is really quite despicable. Of course, he hadn't counted on Early (who he knows) living and owning land in this particular town, and he knows where the townspeople couldn't stop him on their best day, Early poses a distinct problem to his plan.
And so the fun begins.
I really loved everything having to do with the Cattleman vs. Town main plot. I loved how Chill Wills' preacher tries everything in his power to settle things honestly and legally and protect his people. I loved every time Gregory and Granger had a confrontation. I particularly love everything about Granger's single-handed plan to thwart James Gregory and how it plays out. It's pretty darned awesome. These are the strong points in the movie. Intermixed with those are the inevitable love story between Rhonda Fleming and Granger, and the father/son resentment/reconciliation. The script does nicely weave everything together so the subplots play into the main plot to reach the final outcome, so I really shouldn't complain. I just loved the action so much I wanted more of it. Granger fit very well in Western territory, I'm pleased to say, and I'm looking forward to more.