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From 1951-1954, Randolph Scott teamed up with director Andre De Toth on six westerns, some for Columbia Pictures and some for Warner Brothers: Man in the Saddle (1951), Carson City (1952), The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953), Thunder Over the Plains (1953), Riding Shotgun (1954) and The Bounty Hunter (1954). While not as critically acclaimed or influential as the subsequent westerns Scott would make with director Budd Boetticher, they are nonetheless entertaining and interesting.
In The Bounty Hunter, Scott's portrayal of a single-minded, cold yet heroic killer hunting down three outlaws particularly looks ahead to the Boetticher pictures, especially Ride Lonesome (1959). As one character tells him here, "You'd turn your grandmother in on her birthday if there was a reward for her." And Scott agrees.
Shot in about six weeks during the summer of 1953, The Bounty Hunter was not released until September 1954. The delay might have been due to the decision to release the film in 2D, despite having been filmed in 3D. Several pieces of action were clearly designed for the third dimension, with things being tossed at the camera. Andre De Toth, of course, despite having only one eye, had already directed the most famous 3D film of all time, House of Wax (1953). He also shot the Scott western The Stranger Wore a Gun in 3D.
In an interview book with historian Anthony Slide (De Toth on De Toth: Putting the Drama in Front of the Camera), the director reflected on working with Randolph Scott. "I believe Randolph Scott could have gone further as a performer," he said. "He was a handsome man; took showers twice a day, I believe. He was a man whose shoes shined. But he had a tremendous inferiority complex about his acting ability and that made him so stiff... Good actor, he wasn't. He was Randy Scott. Which had advantages, but no surprises."
When asked why he ended the collaboration after The Bounty Hunter, De Toth said: "I had the feeling that I was at a dead end. There was less and less left in me to give... [Scott] was a nice, brittle old gentleman and I couldn't get blood out of an abacus anymore." Luckily for filmgoers ever since, Budd Boetticher was able to get the "blood" flowing again two years later, when production began on Seven Men From Now, the western that revitalized Scott's career.
In the end, The Bounty Hunter came and went as a better than average Randolph Scott western, with Variety casually proclaiming, "Scott takes easily to his saddle and gun chores, playing with the authority of long experience." The Hollywood Reporter said, "Scott gives a driving, hard-boiled performance that makes you hope this film will do for him what High Noon did for Gary Cooper." Historians generally rank this movie somewhere in the middle of the De Toth/Scott series, with Carson City as perhaps the best and The Stranger Wore a Gun as the weakest.
Producer: Samuel Bischoff
Director: Andre de Toth
Screenplay: Winston Miller (screenplay and story); Finlay McDermid (story)
Cinematography: Edwin DuPar
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Music: David Buttolph
Film Editing: Clarence Kolster
Cast: Randolph Scott (Jim Kipp/James Collins), Dolores Dorn (Julie Spencer), Marie Windsor (Alice Williams), Howard Petrie (Sheriff Brand), Harry Antrim (Dr. R.L. Spencer), Robert Keys (George Williams), Ernest Borgnine (Bill Rachin), Dubb Taylor (Eli Danvers, Postmaster), Tyler MacDuff (Vance Edwards), Archie Twitchell (Harrison).
by Jeremy Arnold