The Iron Sheriff
Cast & Crew
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Benjie Galt, the son of Sheriff Sam Galt, is in the Ellsworth, South Dakota, jail accused of a stage holdup and the murder of the stage's driver. On his death bed, Eugene Walden, father of Benjie's girl friend Kathi, recants testimony about the holdup he previously gave to Sam and now tells him that he saw Benjie kill the driver. Phil Quincy, the local newspaper publisher and Sam's rival for the affections of his lady friend Claire, demands to know what Walden told Sam, but Sam withholds the information. As Benjie's trial is scheduled to begin the next day, Sam has sent for a prominent lawyer, Roger Pollock, and also attempts to hire a private range detective named Sutherland to help prove Benjie's innocence, but discovers that he cannot afford Sutherland's fee. After Sam receives a telegram advising him that the stolen money consisted of newly minted, silver coins, he visits the recently arrived Pollock at his hotel to tell him what Walden said, but the lawyer prefers not to know and advises Sam to refrain from testifying as he feels he can free Benjie. Shortly after Charley, a Chinese laundryman, reports that his store was robbed during the night, a marshal, Ellison, sent by the governor at Quincy's request, arrives in town to help keep order. To Sam's surprise, Sutherland suddenly agrees to help him and goes to scout the scene of the holdup. When Benjie's trial begins, Walden's earlier statement that he could not identify the gunman is read into the record. During the trial, Sorenson, the local bank manager brings Sam one of the silver coins from the robbery and discloses that it was part of a deposit from the casino. An employee at the casino then tells Sam that he received the coin from Sutherland. In the courtroom, Pollock states that, as Walden hated Benjie, his future son-in-law, he would have had no reason to defend him. Pollock then puts Kathi on the witness stand and begins to ask about her relationship with Benjie. Meanwhile, Sam finds Sutherland, who tells him the coin was among many given to him by a young friend of Benjie, Jackson Gallaher, who hired him to help Benjie. In the courtroom, Benjie testifies that he hopes to marry Kathi and that their relationship has been chaste, although her father believed Benjie had seduced her. After Sam learns from Gallaher that he acquired the money to pay Sutherland by robbing the laundryman, Charley remembers that he received the coin from Benjie. Although Claire, the daughter of a deputy sheriff killed in the line of duty, begs Sam not to testify against his son, Sam tells the court that Walden told him privately that he saw Benjie shoot the driver. The district prosecutor rests his case and, later, when Sam attempts to explain to an inebriated Pollock why he testified against Benji, Pollock tells him that he is a fool. The jury returns a guilty verdict and Benjie is sentenced to be hanged the next day. Pollock suddenly realizes that Benjie, who has not explained how he got the coin, may be trying to protect Kathi and surmises that her sick father may have given him the coin to run an errand. Sam and the others then go to Kathi's house, open her hope chest, and find all the coins from the robbery. Sutherland believes that after Walden robbed the stage, it was ambushed by a gunman, around a bend a few hundreds yards further on, who then killed the driver. Claire asks Quincy for help and he suggests that the killer was someone who knew the stage's schedule, possibly Leveret, the town's telegraph operator. After receiving confirmation of Leveret's knowledge about the schedule from the stage company's manager, Sam and Ellison try to find Leveret, but his sister tells them that he has gone to see their brother in another town. When Sam decides to ambush Leveret, Ellison, fearing that Sam intends to kill him, tries to stop him, but Sam knocks him out, ties him to his horse and sends him back to town. Sam eventually finds Leveret and chases him on foot into a rocky area where Leveret pleads for his life. Sam takes Leveret prisoner and upon returning to town, Leveret confesses to killing the stage driver. Benjie is then freed and reunites with Kathi, Sam and Claire.
I. Stanford Jolley
Ralph E. Black
Jerome C. Robinson
The Iron Sheriff
Tag line for The Iron Sheriff
Sterling Hayden was particularly adept at playing characters on the edge of collapse, whether the desperate criminals in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and The Killing (1956) or the demented military officer in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). In this 1957 Western, he's a sheriff forced to arrest his own son (Darryl Hickman) after the boy is implicated in a stagecoach robbery. The more he fights to prove the boy's innocence, the more evidence piles up against him.
Hayden had a very busy year in 1957, with six films in release and four television appearances. It wasn't that he loved acting so much. For the most part, he hated it. But he needed the money to support his true love, sailing, and pay for a series of expensive divorces from second, third and fourth wife Betty Ann de Noon. As a result, after starting out as one of Paramount's most promising stars of the '40s, he was now making low budget films for independent producers like Jerome C. Robinson. In his own words, "I started at the top and worked my way down."
Not that The Iron Sheriff was some throwaway production. Director Sidney Salkow was an expert at directing action, having worked in B movies steadily since he turned to directing in 1936. He had directed and written several entries in Columbia's Lone Wolf series, starring Warren William, and had already moved into television, where he would specialize in directing Western series like The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and Maverick. Although interiors for the film were shot at the KTTV Studios in Los Angeles, he also took the company to the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley and the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth for location shooting. While Salkow kept the action moving, writer Seeleg Lester injected a surprising amount of serious thought into the script, focusing as much on Hayden's moral crisis as on riding and shooting. Primarily a television writer, Lester wrote The Inheritors, a two-part episode that stands as one of the highlights of The Outer Limits' brief run.
Although Hayden was the only "name" actor in the film's cast, it was packed with talent. The standout supporting roles went to John Dehner, as the slick lawyer Hayden hires to defend his son, and Hickman, as the son. Dehner is best known for playing Doris Day's boss on the last two seasons of The Doris Day Show. He started his career as an animator for Walt Disney before becoming a Peabody Award-winning radio journalist. His rich baritone voice earned him a good deal of radio work, most notably as Paladin in the radio version of Have Gun - Will Travel. As a character actor, he made numerous film and TV appearances, most often in villainous roles in Westerns. In 1957 alone, he appeared in three Westerns and played a Utah sheriff in the film noir The Girl in Black Stockings (1957). Hickman had been a child performer since the late '30s, most memorably as the disabled child murdered by sister-in-law Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945). He moved into television in the '50s, doing three guest appearances on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, playing the older brother of the title character, played by his own brother, Dwayne Hickman.
The two main female roles in The Iron Sheriff were played by Kathleen Nolan (billed as Kathy), later the star of the hit comedy series The Real McCoy and the first female president of the Screen Actors Guild, and Constance Ford, a New York stage actress who worked extensively on live television in New York. She moved to Hollywood in the mid-'50s, eventually returning to New York in the '60s, where she became a major star on soap operas. Among her best soap roles were murderess Eve Morris on The Edge of Night and Ada Lucas Davis Downs McGowan Hobson on Another World, a role she played for 18 years.
Director: Sidney Salkow
Producer: Jerome C. Robinson
Screenplay: Seeleg Lester
Cinematography: Kenneth Peach
Score: Emil Newman, Ernest Gold
Cast: Sterling Hayden (Sheriff Samuel 'Sam' Galt), Constance Ford (Claire), John Dehner (Roger Pollack), Kent Taylor (Phil Quincy), Darryl Hickman (Benjamin 'Benjie' Galt), Walter Sande (Marshal Ellison), Frank Ferguson (District Attorney Holloway), King Donovan (Leveret), Kathleen Nolan (Kathi Walden), I. Stanford Jolley (Eugene 'Gene' Walden), Marjorie Bennett (Nettie Holcomb), Byron Foulger (Jed - Court Clerk)
By Frank Miller
The Iron Sheriff
The working title of this film was The Trial of Benjie Galt. The print viewed was missing approximately five minutes. According to the film's pressbook, the town of Ellsworth, SD was a set built in California's Simi Valley. In the film, the character portrayed by John Dehner is identified as "Pollack" in a newspaper headline, but in the onscreen cast list is "Pollock."
Released in United States Spring April 1957
Released in United States Spring April 1957