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Guns of the West
Remind Me
,The Gun That Won the West

The Gun that Won the West

The "gun" of The Gun That Won the West (1955) is the fast-action Springfield rifle. Dennis Morgan and Richard Denning play scouts recalled from civilian life to help the Army with their construction of a chain of forts along the Bozeman trail in Wyoming. The forts are necessary to protect crews who will build a new railroad, and Morgan and Denning are desired because they have had a friendly relationship in the past with the Sioux chief Red Cloud, through whose territory the railroad will pass. Meanwhile, the new Springfield rifle has just been invented, and a key plot point hinges on whether the new guns will arrive for use in time before war breaks out.

This film, a programmer that caused no great shakes, received a humdrum reaction from critics, with Variety deeming the "Indian scenes...more interesting than the characters," and several critics noting the lack of seamlessness in the integration of stock footage in Indian attack scenes. ("The tints and grain don't match," said Variety.) Clearly the picture was made on a tight budget.

The Gun That Won the West was a late-career credit for actor Dennis Morgan, who at the end of the 1950s essentially retired from the screen, save for a handful of cameos over the next twenty years, mostly in television. As Jeanine Basinger has written (in her book The Star Machine), Morgan is hardly remembered today but was a reliable, successful and quite popular star at Warner Brothers from the late 1930s into the 1950s. He never reached the top tiers of stardom like Humphrey Bogart or James Cagney, but Warners molded him into a typical, all-purpose studio product, capable of playing in almost any genre from musicals to westerns. Morgan appeared ably in films like Kitty Foyle (1940), Captains of the Clouds (1942), Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and One Sunday Afternoon (1948).

Leading lady Paula Raymond, who had previously appeared in such fine work as Devil's Doorway (1950), The Tall Target (1951) and City That Never Sleeps (1953), later said this was her favorite role at Columbia, and her favorite western among her work. Director William Castle had been directing since 1943 and would soon make his mark on the horror genre, starting with Macabre, House on Haunted Hill, and The Tingler, all released in 1959. Before those pictures, Castle would direct Dennis Morgan once again in Uranium Boom (1956).

The Springfield rifle had gotten its own full movie title just three years earlier, with the Gary Cooper western Springfield Rifle (1952).

By Jeremy Arnold



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