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Real-life writer Frank Harris signs on as a ranch hand and learns the ropes from an experienced cowboy.
When the manager of a luxurious Chicago hotel learns of the imminent arrival of trail boss Tom Reece, he tells hotel clerk Frank Harris to clear out a wing of the hotel to make room for Reece. Harris then goes to the suite of Mexican cattle baron Vidal to ask him to move to a different part of the hotel. Harris is sternly greeted by Vidal, who has just learned that the clerk has been romancing his daughter Maria and, consequently, orders Harris never to see her again. Soon after, Reece arrives, fresh from a cattle drive, and makes a deal with Vidal to buy his herd in Guadalupe, Mexico. Later, as a trail-weary Reece soaks in a hot bath, Harris delivers a tray of whiskey and eagerly asks to join the trail drive to Mexico. As Reece idly shoots cockroaches off the bathroom wall, he derides Harris as an idealistic tenderfoot whose head is filled with romantic delusions about the West. After attending the opera that night, Reece settles in for a game of poker in which he loses the majority of his profits. When Harris offers to give Reece his life savings of $3,800 if Reece will make him his partner, Reece accepts and uses the money to win back his losses. The next morning, Reece and his men go to the freight yard to catch a west-bound train. When Harris meets them there, Reece tries to renege, but Harris insists that he honor their agreement. At Wichita, Reece and his foreman, Paco Mendoza, are met by his trail gang: Charlie, Paul Curtis, Joe Capper and Peggy, the cook. New to the crew is Doc Bender, a former marshal of Wichita. After Harris struggles to tame a bucking bronco, the cowboys head for Mexico. When they stop to make camp, Reece asks Doc why he quit his job as marshal. Doc, who has gained notoriety for being fast with a gun, replies that too many men came to test his prowess, and he was sick of all the killing. For amusement, Paul teases the men with a live rattlesnake. Harris watches in horror as the snake digs its fangs into one of the cowhands. As the men hold vigil over their wounded compatriot, Joe recalls the time that he was so hungry he ate an Indian. After the cowhand dies, Reece utters a few gruff words over his grave and then comments that death awaits them all. Seven weeks later, they reach Guadalupe just in time for the town's big fiesta. While the trail hands wait in town, Reece, Harris and Paco ride to the Vidal ranch to arrange to pick up the herd. There, Harris learns that Maria has married Manuel Arriega. When Maria tries to explain to Harris that she had no choice, Arriega sees them together and warns Harris never to try to see Maria alone. The final event of the fiesta calls for a ring to be slipped over the horn of a killer bull. When Arriega, the first contestant, challenges the Americans, Harris immediately volunteers. Arriega then enters the bullring and, although he successfully puts the ring over the bull's horn, his horse is gored in the process. Reece then initiates a round of betting and insists on answering Arriega's challenge himself. To spare his horse, Reece approaches the bull on foot and after a grueling contest, slips the ring around its horn. As the crowd watches the festivities, a young boy hands Harris a note from Maria asking him to meet her at the mission that night. There she explains that her father arranged her marriage to Arriega. When Harris asks if she is in love with her husband, Maria kisses him and leaves. Disconsolate, Harris rides to the cantina where Charlie is flirting with another man's woman as a group of Mexicans glower at him. When he tries to help Charlie, the Mexicans escort Harris to his horse. Upon returning to camp, Harris tries to rally the men to help Charlie. When Reece orders him to go to bed, Harris denounces him as caring more about his cattle than his men. The next morning, Charlie rides into camp, his arm in a sling from being wounded by one of the Mexican's knives. As they begin the cattle drive back to Wichita, Reece tries to console Harris over his loss of Maria. After they bed down for the night, Harris rides out to an arroyo to round up some strays. Reece, concerned about a group of Indians that have been trailing them, tells his men to prepare for an attack. When the Indians bypass the camp, however, Reece realizes that they have decided to steal the strays from Harris. To save Harris' life, Reece orders the cattle stampeded into the arroyo, prompting Paco to warn that they will never be able to retrieve all the scattered cattle. Stating that Harris is more valuable than cattle, Reece gives the go-ahead for the stampede. The stampede routs the Indians, but after Reece is wounded by an Indian bullet, Harris assumes command and drives the men day and night until they have recovered all but 200 cows. Harris then declares that the missing cows belong to Reece and will be deducted from his profits. When the drive reaches Wichita, Doc decides to settle down there. As the cattle are being loaded onto the train, word comes that Doc hanged himself after an old friend challenged him to a gunfight, thus forcing Doc to kill him. When Harris appears unmoved by the news, Reece accuses him of "not giving a damn." On the train trip to Chicago, several steers are in danger of being trampled to death after losing their footing and falling to the floor of the cattle car. After Harris risks his life by climbing into the car to right the steers, Reece goes to help him and finds Harris trapped on the floor, surrounded by a herd of restless cows. Reece jumps into the car and helps Harris to his feet, after which Harris agrees to split the loss of the 200 cattle with him. Upon reaching Chicago, Reece and Harris check into the hotel and take side-by-side baths while Harris shoots the cockroaches off the wall.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Oklahoma City premiere: 7 Jan 1958; New York opening: 19 Feb 1958|
|Release Date:||1958||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Phoenix Pictures|
|Duration(mins):||89 or 92||Country:||United States|
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User Ratings & Review
This is a fine movie with great performances all around. It's one of the rare westerns that still holds up well today. As are the other Delmer Daves...
James Higgins 2010-03-05
One of the most underrated and under appreciated westerns. It's an exceptional film, and one of my favorite westerns. The leads are terrific,...
I watched this movie and was very surprised and pleased. While I like both the lead actor's work Jack Lemmon's was out of character and very...