Cast & Crew
In 1875, a man named Carmack approaches an isolated desert home in the Arizona Territory, and is greeted at gunpoint by an unfriendly squatter, Corey Everett. Later, at an encampment in the desert, Carmack reports to rancher John Rutherford that Corey's home, which is on Rutherford's property, is secured like a fortress and appears to be occupied by many men. Rutherford, who has assembled a band of mercenaries to drive Corey from his land, orders his men to prepare for an attack. As they embark on the raid, the mercenaries grumble about Rutherford's mild-mannered bookkeeper Mr. Avery, who was unable to fight in the Civil War because of his poor health but still wears his late brother's Confederate uniform. Meanwhile, a wagon bearing Louis and Hannah Ferber and their young son Albie approaches Corey's cabin, and while Corey is questioning them, Rutherford's mercenaries attack. Louis helps Corey fight, and Corey sets off dynamite to keep the men at bay. Rutherford and his son Roy are badly injured in the shootout, and despite their greater number, the mercenaries retreat. Corey explains to the Ferbers that he homesteaded the land, which makes it his by right of possession. Aware that Hannah regards him as an outlaw, and afraid of Rutherford's men finding out that he is actually alone, Corey insists at gunpoint that the family stay with him. When the defeated mercenaries return to their camp, Rutherford wants to call off the campaign before more blood is shed, but Avery coldly places himself in charge and declares that the fighting will continue. Rutherford dies, and Avery, addressing the mercenaries as if they were troops, announces they will attack again at dawn. When the mercenaries' leader, Hook, scoffs at his orders, Avery shoots one of the men to death. The men realize that Avery is mad and prepare to mutiny, but Avery forces them to stay by destroying their water supply, which means the only water within two hundred miles is at Corey's ranch. Clutching revolvers in both hands, Avery, who insists on being called "General," appoints Hook as his deputy and offers to reward his loyalty generously. That night, at Corey's ranch, Louis takes a horse and runs away. The mercenaries capture Louis and bring him before Avery for interrogation. The deranged Avery refuses to believe Corey is defending his home alone, and Hook tortures Louis into "confessing" that Corey has fifteen other men with him. Meanwhile, Hannah attempts to take Albie and leave, and shoots Corey in the shoulder when he tries to stop her. Albie refuses to abandon Corey, so Hannah sets off alone to get help. Later, Roy dies just as the captured Hannah is brought into the mercenaries' camp. Hannah asks Avery for safe conduct for Albie and herself, but Avery shows her Louis' broken body and demands that the "other men" fighting with Corey surrender at dawn. Hannah returns to the ranch, and, telling Corey he was right about everything, removes the bullet from his shoulder. While Corey rests, Hannah breaks the news to Albie about his father's death and assures the boy that Louis died honorably. When Corey does not surrender at dawn, Avery devises a new strategy: the mercenaries will launch a burning wagon from the canyon above Corey's ranch, then ambush the occupants when they run out. Avery orders the thirsty men to dismantle the wagon, then carry the pieces up the hill and reassemble them. The men protest, and Hook and his associate Ramos hatch a plan to assassinate Avery. Hook tells artist Perc Kettering, who had been visiting Roy, that he must flatter Avery into sitting for a portrait that evening, so that Avery's shadow on the wall of the tent will provide a target. Perc is reluctant to be a party to murder, but realizes he has no choice. However, Avery sees through the scheme and insists on drawing Perc's picture instead, and Perc is shot to death when the men fire at the wrong shadow. Meanwhile, Corey prepares for the next assault, and he and Hannah find a new respect for each other. The following day, the mercenaries begin the arduous task of carrying the dismantled wagon up the hill. Guessing what they are up to, Corey urges Hannah to take Albie and escape through the pass, but she refuses to leave. Corey rigs up a device for launching explosives, and succeeds in blowing up the flaming wagon before it reaches the cabin. Unaware that the attack has been foiled, Hook and Ramos prepare to desert, but Avery opens fire on them. Avery's chronic cough overtakes him, however, and Hook and Ramos ride away laughing, unaware that their canteen has been punctured. Now gravely ill and completely delusional, Avery surrenders to Corey and, upon seeing that Corey's "troops" consist of a woman and a child, dies. Corey, Hannah and Albie turn and walk back into their home.
E. Darryl Hellenback
Arthur M. Loew Jr.
Wesley C. Miller
Edwin B. Willis
An October 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Howard Keel would be cast in the leading role. September 1954 items in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that the film would be rewritten as a starring vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck, and that Brad Dexter was being considered for a role. Dexter's appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, however. Portions of the film were shot on location in Indio, CA.
Released in United States Spring May 1955
Released in United States Spring May 1955