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In the maelstrom of Pre-Civil War Kansas, a government agent infiltrates the vigilante group called the Jayhawks.
Just prior to the Civil War, Cam Bleeker breaks out of a Kansas Territorial prison because he cannot believe the news he has received telling him that his beloved wife is dead. After being injured during his escape, Cam arrives at his homestead in a state of delirium and is shocked to see that it is now inhabited by a French widow, Jeanne DuBois, and her two children, Paul and Marthe. The beautiful Jeanne tends his wounds and reluctantly shows him the grave of his wife. Her own husband, she explains, believed so strongly in freedom that he brought his family from France to the United States in order to help build the free, young nation. Shortly after they bought the Bleeker property, which had been seized by the government following Cam's imprisonment and Mrs. Bleeker's death, the Missouri Redlegs, a pro-slavery gang, raided the house and killed her husband. Now she hopes Cam will stay on to help her run the ranch, and after agreeing, Cam soon finds that he has become attached both to the children and to Jeanne. Before long, a posse arrives looking for Cam, and for the children's safety, he surrenders. He is brought before Governor William Clayton, who promises to return his freedom if he will find and capture Luke Darcy, the elusive leader of a powerful group of raiders called the Jayhawkers. Cam protests that he had led raiders of his own, an act that landed him in prison, merely to protect his home, and that he is unwilling to offer assistance either to the pro-slavery governor or his anti-slavery enemies. Clayton finally enlists Cam's cooperation by revealing that Darcy, after capturing Cam's wife during a raid, made love to the woman then abandoned her, whereupon she became an alcoholic and a tramp. Poor and alone, she eventually died of pneumonia. Jeanne tells Cam that he has no right to seek revenge, but he leaves her and rides off in search of Darcy. Through one of his own former raiders, Cam soon locates the "backwoods Napoleon," who, although willing to kill any Jayhawker who violates his rules, is very charismatic and even impresses Cam. Cam, in turn, impresses Darcy, and soon the escaped prisoner becomes the gang leader's right-hand man. One evening, Darcy admits that he had indeed loved Cam's wife but that their love had been a mistake. Cam is moved by Darcy's truthfulness, and when the Jayhawkers attack the next town, he saves Darcy's life. During a visit to Jeanne, Cam declares that he has joined the Jayhawkers, infuriating the Frenchwoman, who in her homeland had seen "big men" make empty promises similar to Darcy's. Meanwhile, Lordan, a Jayhawker who despises Cam, secretly sends a posse after him, but Cam gets away. Furious, Darcy almost kills Lordan for his act of betrayal. During a raid, Marthe runs after Cam and is nearly trampled to death by the Jayhawkers' horses. Cam delivers the injured child to Jeanne, who, by screaming that he is a murderer, finally persuades Cam to abandon the Jayhawkers. Cam discovers that wealthy cattle owners from several states soon will descend on Abilene for a huge cattle sale. By convincing Darcy that a raid on a scheduled train will yield enough money to secure Kansas for the Jayhawkers, Cam persuades him to ambush the train. Unknown to Darcy, instead of a gold shipment, the train will carry Clayton's troops, and Darcy will be apprehended. Jeanne assists Cam with the plan, but Darcy's charm and gratitude make both her and Cam feel uneasy. Unknown to them, Lordan has discovered the plot and returned to Abilene with the news. At the last moment, Cam decides to warn Darcy about Clayton's impending attack, but Darcy, instead of fleeing from the approaching soldiers, angrily challenges Cam to a fight to the death. During the fight, Darcy gets Cam's gun, but Cam retrieves it. As Clayton's soldiers approach the saloon door and prepare to hang Darcy, Cam challenges his friend to a duel. Darcy draws his gun, but Cam fires first and Darcy dies, saved from a hanging death he considered hideous and undignified. The governor agrees to pardon Cam, and as Darcy's body is borne away, Cam takes Jeanne's hand and looks on with sorrow and respect.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1959||Production Date:||
[VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity]
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
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