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Ride a Crooked Trail

Ride a Crooked Trail(1958)

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Judge Kyle of Webb City, a tough river town, deals out the law with a personal touch by checking the identity of every newcomer who enters his town. When he gets a tip that a criminal, Joe Maybe, who has unsuccessfully held up a bank in Wascovia, is heading toward Webb City, he identifies his man on sight. However, Maybe was earlier being chased by U.S. Marshal Jim Noonan and when Noonan fell to his death over a canyon, Maybe snatched the marshal's badge, a star with one missing point. As the judge's men check Maybe, he shoots, injuring the judge. At that moment, however, the judge, seeing the famous four-point star, identifies Maybe as Noonan and offers to buy the man a drink, as the badge has belonged to many a marshal renowned for his bravery. The judge eventually persuades Maybe to remain in Webb City as his marshal, even though Maybe, uncomfortable with his assumed identity, is anxious to get away. That day, the riverboat arrives carrying Tessa Milotte, a Creole woman from New Orleans, who knows Maybe and calls him by name. Maybe, quickly covering up, claims to the judge that she said "Baby" and that she is his wife. Maybe tries to convince the judge that his wife has met him so that they can be on their way, but the judge insists that she stay, too, and leads the couple to their new home. Once alone, Tessa says that she has been in business with Sam Teeler, one of Maybe's criminal rivals, and that she has arrived before Teeler to investigate the town's bank, which Teeler plans to rob. Later, at a ceremony commemorating the opening of the railroad into Webb City, the judge asks Maybe to speak, and at that moment, Teeler and his gang ride into town. Following his speech, Maybe goes to see the gang in the saloon, where Teeler reveals that he plans to rob the railway payroll the next day. Maybe suggests that they wait for the big money that will soon come with the cattle drive that is scheduled to pass through Webb City. When the judge appears, a shootout ensues, and Teeler and the gang leave. Teeler later expresses his willingness to go along with Maybe, but half of Teeler's gang decide to rob the bank the next day by themselves. Jimmy, an orphan boy who lived with the judge until the town's women encouraged him to move in with Maybe and Tessa, tells Maybe that the gang is back and that they are robbing the bank. Maybe rushes to the scene and, after a gunfight, chases off the outlaws. Later, a distraught Jimmy runs away from Maybe and Tessa's house, and Maybe finds him doing his homework at the judge's shanty boat. The two talk, and Maybe tells Jimmy about his own troubled childhood. Jimmy decides to return to his "family," and then accompanies Maybe to help bring in the trail herd. When they arrive at the cattle trail, they see Teeler and his men, who are posing as cowboys in preparation for the big robbery. During a stampede, Jimmy is injured but is saved from sure death by Maybe. While Maybe goes for a doctor, Jimmy warns Tessa that the judge is suspicious of Maybe. Teeler then shows up at Tessa's and, after trying to kiss her, tells her that he is going to rob the bank and frame Maybe. That night, Tessa entertains Maybe and the judge, insisting that they keep drinking and then takes them to the saloon for a dance, so that Maybe will have an alibi. Just then, they hear dynamite, and realize that Teeler is robbing the bank. Maybe blames Tessa, and the judge challenges Maybe to a quick draw, without revealing that he has another man covering him. From the window at Tessa and Maybe's neighboring house, Jimmy shoots out a chandelier so that Maybe can get away, and then informs Maybe that Teeler fled on the cattle trail. Maybe finds Teeler, and the two men fight it out. The next morning, Tessa prepares to leave on the river boat, and the judge rides back into town not having found Maybe. Just then Maybe arrives with Teeler tied up and returns the stolen money. The couple prepare to board the boat, but before they can depart, the judge pins the marshal badge for real on Maybe's shirt. The judge then demands that the couple arrive in his chambers the next morning at nine o'clock so that he can make their union legal.