skip navigation
Wanted Dead or Alive

Wanted Dead or Alive(1951)

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (0)


powered by AFI

Outlaw Utah Granite, part of the Taggert gang based in Copper City, has been breaking fellow outlaws out of jail, then killing them and collecting on the "dead or alive" rewards offered. Although U.S. Marshal Whip Wilson and his cohorts, Texas and Jim Bannon, suspect the Taggert gang of the crime, they need evidence for a conviction. Using an old $10,000 dead or alive reward poster for Alan Mason, a Golden Ace bartender who was unjustly convicted, Whip devises a plan. He will pose as Mason and then post the reward for his own capture to lure the gang into a trap. Because Mason was captured three years earlier, and the Taggert gang have only been in Copper City for a year, Whip assumes they will not know that he is an imposter. After the local newspaper reports that Mason has escaped from the penitentiary and a reward is offered for his capture, Bannon goes to talk to Golden Ace Saloon owner Spangles Calhoun, who is also Mason's girlfriend. Knowing that Taggert will eavesdrop on them, Bannon loudly offers to find Mason for her if Spangles will pay him $12,000, which is $2,000 more than the reward offered. While Spangles is considering the offer with Bannon, Taggert enters the office and offers to give Spangles, who only has $5,000, the additional money she needs in trade for part-ownership in the Golden Ace. When Spangles agrees to the deal, Taggert orders Utah and his henchman Mike to help Bannon find Mason. Meanwhile, Whip, who has arranged to be arrested by local lawmen, is being held in a nearby jail cell. After they free Whip from the jail, Bannon, Utah and Mike bring him to Spangles in her office. When Spangles fails to recognize him, Whip claims to have met Mason at the penitentiary. Spangles is indignant that she has sold half her business to free a stranger from jail, but she does not reveal Whip's identity to Taggert, for fear that Whip will be killed. Meanwhile, Utah and Taggert plan to ambush Mason for the $10,000 reward. Later, while Bannon signs a receipt book for the $7,000 paid by Taggert, he notices that it contains a list of the payoffs that could be used as evidence against the gang. In a secret meeting with Whip and Texas, Bannon tells them about the book, which is locked in Taggert's safe. Spangles, who was eavesdropping during the secret meeting, later confronts Whip. She finally agrees to help him, after he shows her his credentials and offers parole for Mason in exchange for her cooperation. Meanwhile, Bannon, at Taggert's invitation, is now riding with the gang and ambushes a coach carrying a prisoner. The gang then takes him to their hideout, where they plan to wait until a reward is posted. Soon after, as part of Whip's plan, the sheriff gathers a posse and waits on the outskirts of town for Whip's flare to alert them to return to town. Later, at the bar, when Mike suggests to Bannon that they kill Mason and split the reward, Bannon agrees to the plan, but suggests that they steal the notebook to blackmail Taggert into keeping quiet about their crime. Following Bannon's orders, Texas rides to the hideout and sets off a series of explosions that lead the gang to believe they are under attack. One of the outlaws races back to town to alert Taggert, who assumes the lawmen have found the hideout and rides out to investigate. Meanwhile, as Bannon tries to open the safe to retrieve the notebook, Mike knocks him out. Mike, who is still under the assumption that Whip is Mason, then finds Whip, knocks him out, ties him to a horse and leads him out of town. When Texas returns to town and discovers Whip missing, he joins Bannon to search for him. Meanwhile on the trail, Whip comes to and pretends to fall off the horse after secretly untying himself. When Mike approaches Whip, Whip begins a fistfight and triumphs just as Texas and Bannon arrive to help. Meanwhile, when Utah discovers the explosions were a ruse, the entire gang races back to Copper City, where Spangles sets off the flare alerting the sheriff. The posse surrounds Taggert's men, who surrender. Whip then chases Taggert and, using his whip, pulls Taggert from his horse and knocks him out. After the money is recovered and the case is closed, Whip suggests to Spangles that the governor will soon be pardoning Mason for his crimes. Spangles, overcome with emotion, cries tears of joy.