Cast & Crew
In the Arizona Territory in 1880, a gang of bandits steals a bag of gold and then races to their cave hideout, followed by a posse. When the posse finds the cave, they kill all of the gang members except teenager Pete Carver, who is arrested and sent to Kansas State Prison. Fifteen years later, a toughened Pete is released with only fifteen dollars. He returns to Copper Bend, the town closest to the caves, and finds it built up, thanks to the recent discovery of nearby copper mines. Since the gold from the robbery has never been recovered, Wells Fargo agent Dobbs tracks Pete to town, suspecting he knows where the gold is hidden. The rest of the townspeople assume the same about Pete, and offer him unlimited credit. As Pete signs into the hotel, he is stopped by Elizabeth Trent, who also wants a stake in Pete's supposed fortune. Impressed by her beauty, he agrees to invest in her failed newspaper, the Clarion . Liz is married, but her husband Ed disappeared one year earlier while trying to track down the stolen gold. Within days, Liz rehires her printer, Cooley, and the two struggle to resuscitate the paper. One night, Pete searches the cave but finds no gold. Dobbs awaits him at the mouth of the cave, and Pete reveals to the agent that he believes his father, a gang member who was shot by the posse, buried the gold somewhere before he died. The next day, Pete learns that Liz has been dating the richest man in town, copper tycoon Ben Cross, and accuses her of seeing him only to get money for the Clarion . Liz, who is falling in love with Pete, slaps him. Outside, two men who think Pete may be carrying gold beat him up, but Pete is rescued by Cross's right-hand man, Garth. Garth brings Pete to Cross, who offers to get Dobbs out of his way, asking in return that Pete stop wooing Liz. Cross convinces Pete by stating that Ed is dead and he and Liz are engaged. Pete goes straight to the saloon to drink away his disappointment, and when Liz finds him there, he bitterly congratulates her on her engagement. She persuades him that Cross lied, and he promises to give up looking for the gold. Over the next days, the two work happily at the printing business until Cross visits and secretly warns Liz that Pete is obsessed by the gold, just as Ed was. After Cross leaves, a suspicious Pete informs Dobbs about the deal he has struck with Cross. The next afternoon, Pete and Dobbs go to the cave together. Garth follows them there, and after Pete shoots him, the henchman reveals that Cross, who was in love with Liz, sent Ed to the cave and then killed him as soon as Ed found the gold. Garth tells them that Ed's body immediately disappeared, as if he had fallen down a cliff. Pete leads Dobbs to a hidden cliff, and there Dobbs falls down a slippery pass. He breaks his leg but finds Ed's body and the gold. Unable to move, Dobbs expects Pete to leave him, but instead Pete carries Dobbs outside, where Garth shoots at them. Dobbs kills Garth and promises Pete that he will testify as to Garth's confession. They go to Liz's, but when they tell her about Ed, she accuses Pete of having stayed in town only for the gold, and stalks out. She later agrees, however, to name Cross as Ed's murderer in the Clarion , and Cross soon arrives at the office to duel with Pete. Cross shoots Pete in the arm but, as Pete is about to fire his shot, begs for a trial instead. When the bullet is then removed from Pete's arm, and is revealed to be pure copper, Pete gets an idea. He returns to the cave, followed separately by Dobbs and Liz. Dobbs finds him first and assumes he has come for the gold, but Pete shows him the copper bullet he has recovered from Ed's body, which proves that Cross murdered him, and gives Dobbs the gold. Hearing Liz's voice, Pete rushes into the cave to find her, but Cross arrives first and grabs her. When Cross's goons trap him and insist he lead them to the gold, Pete takes them over the slippery cliff, knowing they will fall, and kills them both. Pete races back to Liz and is about to be shot by Cross when Dobbs appears at the mouth of cave and shoots Cross. As Liz embraces Pete, Dobbs comments on the irony of Pete earning the reward for returning the gold to Wells Fargo.
James Van Horn
Glenn E. Anderson
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Joan St. Oegger
The working title of this film was The Cave. A written foreword reads, "All the Cave scenes in this production were actually photographed in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the National Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior whose splendid cooperation made these scenes possible."
Universal-International bought Elizabeth Wilson's original story in September 1950 and hired her to write the screenplay. Howard Duff was originally cast as "Pete Carver," but, according to a March 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, could not begin filming on time because of a broken leg. A modern source adds Clem Fuller to the cast.