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An experienced bounty hunter helps a young sheriff learn the meaning of his badge.
Morgan Hickman, a bounty hunter, is treated coldly when he brings the body of a dangerous outlaw into a small western town to claim his reward. Ben Owens, the town's timid temporary sheriff, must verify the outlaw's identity before giving Morg the money, so the bounty hunter heads to the livery barn, where he befriends little Kip Mayfield. Morg accompanies Kip to his home outside of town, and the boy's widowed mother Nona agrees to put him up. That night, Morg sadly reveals to Nona that he lost his own wife and son. Nona then remarks that her deceased husband was an Indian. When Morg looks surprised, Nona angrily tells him that he may leave in the morning. The next day, Ben's sweetheart, Millie Parker, whose father was the sheriff for twenty years, reminds Ben that he promised to turn in his badge as soon as a permanent sheriff is located, but he admits that he hopes to remain in the job. Old Dr. Joe McCord assures her that Ben will be fine, but she is certain that he will be killed, as was her father. Morg returns to town, and soon afterward, Bart Bogardus, the dead outlaw's cousin, repeatedly shoots a "half-breed" in the street, then claims that the killing was in self-defense. Ben nervously demands Bogardus' weapons, but he threatens the sheriff with his gun. Morg shoots the gun out of Bogardus' hand, and later, Ben asks Morg, who has revealed that he was once a sheriff, how to handle troublemakers. Morg replies that a sheriff must always shoot to kill. That night, Morg admits to Nona that, while he wants to continue his stay in her home, he, like most white people, was reared to hate Indians. Her husband, she replies, was killed for having the courage to stand up for himself as an equal, and since then, she adds bitterly, the townspeople have turned their hatred on her and her son. Ben worriedly tells Morg the next day that the judge has released Bogardus, and Morg agrees to coach him on handling guns and outlaws. When the stagecoach driver is later shot by two gunmen outside of town, Ben organizes a posse, but Morg refuses to participate, claiming that he will never again wear a badge. Having received his reward money, Morg buys Kip a pony and prepares to leave town. That night, Doc McCord delivers a baby, but on his way home, is stopped by Ed McGaffey, whose brother Zeke has been shot in a "hunting accident." At daybreak, the doctor heads for home, but Ed is certain he knows that the two brothers are the killers sought by the posse. Zeke begs Ed to let the doctor go, but Ed grabs his gun and pursues him. The whole town has turned out for "McCord Day," the doctor's seventy-fifth birthday, but the singing and clapping stop as everyone realizes that the beloved doctor has been killed. As was his custom, Doc McCord had described Zeke's injury in his notebook, and when the mayor reads this, he places a dead-or-alive reward on the brothers' heads. An angry mob then charges off to the McGaffey homestead to seek revenge. As the men pass his house, Kip decides to chase them on his pony, and shortly afterward, as Morg prepares to pursue the McGaffey brothers on his own, he and Nona realize that the boy is gone. The McGaffey brothers are absent by the time the posse arrives, but Bogardus, who has assumed control of the mob, orders them to set fire to the house. Soon after they leave, Kip arrives, and when his dog runs into the canyon behind the house, the child follows. Morg and Ben follow the hoof prints, arriving near the McGaffeys' cavern hideout just as Ed begins shooting at the boy. Kip is led to safety, whereupon Ben swears he will take the outlaws in alive. Just as Morg predicts, however, Ed shoots at Ben when he attempts to approach the cave. Morg lights a fire by the cave's entrance, and soon the two brothers are forced to surrender. Bogardus, who wants Ben's job, is furious that Ben and Morg have captured the outlaws, and he orders the mob to lynch the McGaffeys. Ben tries to enlist the help of the town officials, but none of them supports his decision to give the McGaffeys a fair trial, and Ben finds himself facing Bogardus and his lynch mob alone. This time, Ben stands up to Bogardus and is surprised when Morg appears at his side with a star on his chest. When Ben approaches Bogardus and slaps him, Bogardus draws his gun and fires. Ben shoots back, killing Bogardus. Their leader slain, the mob loses its fury. Ben asks Morg to remain in town as a lawman, but Morg assures the sheriff that he can handle the job alone, and Millie decides that she will marry Ben. Morg, Nona and Kip then leave town to begin a new life together.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 23 Oct 1957|
|Release Date:||1957||Production Date:||
[VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity]
The Perlberg-Seaton Production
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono (Westrex Recording System)||Production Co:||Perlsea Co., Paramount Pictures Corp.|
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User Ratings & Review
A Good Western...Period!
Maurice H 2016-07-13
When I first saw this in the local movie house I thought it was okay, but the more I watch it the more I like it. Anthony Mann brings a kind of subdued but...
Not gold, but silver
Solid, but unsurprising western from veteran genre director Mann with always engaging Henry Fonda and good enough Anthony Perkins in the leads. It lacks...
Daniel Kern 2009-10-20
Good western, Henry Fonda Teaches Anthony Perkins about being a sheriff. As much about bigotry as anything else. Perkins very good as young interim sheriff...