Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend
Shot over nineteen days under the working title The Marshal of Independence, Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend was released by Warner Brothers in April 1957, the same month that Columbia released Boetticher and Scott's masterful The Tall T (1957). Despite the close release dates and the fact that both are westerns, the two films have a world of difference. For one thing, That Tall T is in color while Shoot-Out is in austere black-and-white, very unusual for a Randolph Scott film of this time. For another, The Tall T uses its wry humor as effective and witty counterpoint to a suspenseful, dramatic overall tone, while Shoot-Out's humor is simply what lifts the film slightly above the ordinary. Boetticher later said that he offered to direct Scott's last Warner Brothers film, Westbound (1959), for free simply because he didn't trust the studio not to foul up the Randolph Scott "character" he and Scott had been crafting in their Columbia films. Possibly it was Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend that made Boetticher so concerned.
In Shoot-Out, Scott and his two Union Army buddies (James Garner and Gordon Jones) head to Nebraska after the Civil War. When their uniforms are stolen, they get new clothes from some friendly Quakers, and in fact then pose as Quakers as they try to clean up a corrupt town.
This was one of James Garner's first features. The young actor had been given his big break a couple of years earlier by Shoot-Out director Richard Bare, who discovered Garner in a bar. Bare quickly cast him in several episodes of the TV series Cheyenne (1956). More television and film parts followed, and a year after Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, Garner was starring on TV's Maverick and was a bona fide star. In later years, he'd star in another hit TV series, The Rockford Files.
In his memoir, Bare recounted that Garner's real name was Jim Bumgarner. When studio chief Jack Warner first saw the rushes from Cheyenne, Bare wrote, he asked who this young actor was. "A new kid by the name of Jim Bumgarner," replied Bare. "Well, take the Bum out and give him a seven-year contract."
While Garner was obviously appreciative of Bare, he later wrote in his own memoir that Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend "couldn't decide if it was a comedy or a drama... Even the title is off; there's gunplay, but not one decent shoot-out in the whole picture." Garner considered his next picture, Sayonara (1957), "my first role of any consequence, and my first serious film."
As for Randolph Scott, Bare claimed that the 59-year-old actor made himself look younger by means of a bizarre contraption: "Each morning his makeup man would shut the door to his dressing room and affix a gummed tab to his cheek just under the hairline that connected to a string that went over his head and down to a gummed tab on the other cheek. It was sort of an instant face-lift. Lots of stars since have used the device."
Bare also wrote that he was still looking for a leading lady when an interview was arranged between himself and Angie Dickinson. "As I entered the room," Bare remembered, "the brown-eyed beauty was seated on the couch, wearing an extremely low-cut dress and looking very fetching indeed. Bill said to Angie, 'Thought you'd like to meet the director.' 'Meet him?' Angie said, giving me the once-over. 'I'd rather rape him.'
"As I've said, I had a touch of Cary Grant in me in those days, and my leading ladies sometimes were surprised that I looked more like an actor than a director. But never had I heard a reaction like Angie's... Needless to say, I recommended that Angie play in Shoot-Out, but I never got my promised rape or anything close to it."
Bare had some serious comic chops in his repertoire, having created the numerous Joe McDoakes comedy shorts of the 1940s and '50s, an experience that no doubt helped him with the lighter moments of Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend.
According to the film's production notes, this was the fifteenth picture on which Randolph Scott rode his prized stallion, Stardust.
Producer: Richard Whorf
Director: Richard L. Bare
Screenplay: John Tucker Battle, D.D. Beauchamp (written by)
Cinematography: Carl Guthrie
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Music: Roy Webb
Film Editing: Clarence Kolster
Cast: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur 'Will' Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters).
by Jeremy Arnold
Richard L. Bare, Confessions of a Hollywood Director
James Garner and Jon Winokur, The Garner Files
Robert Nott, The Films of Randolph Scott