Cast & Crew
Johnny Mack Brown
In 1870, a wagon train is attacked by a band of Indians under the control of a white man with a scar on his face. During the attack, the wife of Marshal Ben Dawson is killed, leaving him to rear his infant daughter Laurie. As Laurie grows to adulthood, she becomes accomplished in riding and shooting and helps her father, who works undercover as the owner of a medicine show. One day, when her friend, rancher Russ Mason, comes by the wagon to ask why they have not been back to their ranch in Bitterwood in some time, Laurie relates a recent adventure: While in a town with the show, Ben is called aside by the local sheriff, Bill Flynn, an old friend of Ben who promises to keep his secret. As the men talk, a little boy sadly relates the story of how his grandfather was shot by bandits. The boy, who feels responsible for his grandfather's death, tells Bill and Ben that the head bandit was called "Trigger" and had a large scar on his face. Ben immediately concludes that the bandit must be Trigger Gans, the man who caused his wife's death. Later, as Laurie performs at the wagon show, Gans walks by. The little boy sees him and starts to aim his rifle, but Laurie grabs the gun and follows Gans into the saloon. Pretending that she is looking for a singing and dancing job, Laurie overhears Gans and his men planning a bank robbery for that night. When Ben chastises Laurie for going into the saloon, she tells him what she has overheard and offers to help, but her father refuses, saying that she is still just a "little girl" no matter how well she shoots. Disappointed, Laurie tells the little boy that she wishes she were a "big man." Late that night, as Gans and his gang ride into town, Bill and Ben are waiting for them inside the bank. A gunfight ensues, during which Ben is slightly wounded, but saved from being killed by Laurie, who has been watching and shoots the gun out of the bandit's hand. Although several gang members are captured, Gans gets away. When she finishes her story, Laurie tells Russ how hard her father took it when Gans escaped. When Ben arrives, Russ reveals that a gang of rustlers has been terrorizing Bitterwood ranchers, and they need his help. A short time later, Laurie and Ben arrive at their ranch, which they own with Ben's brother, Uncle Jed. Later, at a gathering in town, Russ listens to town banker Anderson tell a crowd that the bank will give loans to members of the Cattlemen's Association to protect them from damage done by the rustlers. Jed and Russ warn the others not to trust Anderson, as the bank has been taking over ranches to which they have loaned money when the ranchers are killed by the rustlers. Russ and Anderson are on the verge of a fight when Laurie intervenes and suggests that everyone meet again at a later time. Some days later, Ben and Russ are at the ranch discussing Ben's early career, when Jed rides home, mortally wounded. Just before he dies, he relates that he was shot in an ambush. The grieving Laurie then determines that something must be done immediately. Laurie soon dons a costume and mask and becomes known as "El Coyote" as she rides the countryside thwarting the bandits whenever they attack. No one knows the true identity of "El Coyote," who never captures, but always scares off the bandits. One day, when "El Coyote" foils the attempt of the rustlers to rob a stagecoach, Laurie barely makes it home before Russ arrives. He tells her that he has always loved her, and proposes. Although Laurie feels the same way, she refuses his proposal, saying that she must care for her father. That same afternoon, Anderson, who secretly heads the bandits, hears from one of his henchman that rancher Jones has withdrawn $25,000 from the bank, saying that he has asked Ben to take the money to another town for safekeeping. Now realizing that other large withdrawals are also going to Ben, Anderson decides that he should have a "talk" with Ben at his remote Bear Valley cabin. A few moments later, when the stage that "El Coyote" saved arrives in town, one of the passengers, comedian Smiling Billy Murray, relates what has happened and introduces the other passengers. One of them, a parson, is recognized by Ben as Gans. The town wants to lynch him, but Ben insists that they respect the law and place him under arrest. Later that day, as Ben leaves town, he is ambushed by Anderson's men. As they ride off, "El Coyote" appears and disarms his captors, but one of them slightly wounds Ben and takes him to the cabin, as "El Coyote" chases the others. Moments later, while Anderson threatens Ben with blindness unless he gives up the ranchers' money, "El Coyote" appears. After a scuffle, Ben is able to hold the henchmen at bay, while "El Coyote" chases after the escaping Anderson. When "El Coyote" corners Anderson in a box canyon, Anderson recognizes Laurie's eyes and voice and pleads that Jed's death was an accident, then lunges at her. In a scuffle, Laurie kills him in self-defense. Laurie immediately rushes back home to change out of her costume, which she hides behind a screen. When Russ arrives, he sees the costume and realizes the truth but says nothing. Moments later, when Ben comes home, he tells Russ and Laurie that "El Coyote" must be very young, but is still "a real man." When Laurie says that she is sure "El Coyote" is not half the man her father is, Russ smiles and says that he has a hunch she is right.
Johnny Mack Brown
Pamela Ann Murray
Bette Lou Walters
Sherman A. Harris
Robert M. Porter
The film opens with a close-up of a book entitled The Marshal's Daughter by Ken Murray. After actress Laurie Anders is shown holding the book, Murray enters the room saying "Hold it, Laurie, you've got it all wrong." Murray then addresses the audience, saying that they are rehearsing. Anders soon picks up the book again and starts to read aloud, "It all began in 1870..." The action then switches to a dramatized prologue in which a white man with a scar on his face signals a tribe of Indians to attack a groups of wagons. The dead body of a woman is shown near a blanket, from which a small baby pops up. A superimposed title card then appears, reading "Ken Murray presents The Marshal's Daughter." Additional credits unfold over a montage of the baby's growing from infancy to adulthood, accompanied by the voice of Tex Ritter, who sings a ballad that describes the baby's youth. The main part of the story opens when "Laurie Dawson" is having a conversation with "Chico," her ventriloquist's dummy. From that point on, the film is intermittently narrated by Anders, and Ritter's ballad "The Marshal's Daughter." In the film's end credits, Anders' character name reads: "Laurie Dawson and 'El Coyote.'"
Pamela Ann Murray, who portrayed "Baby Laurie Dawson" was Ken Murray's baby daughter. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film, which is divided into two related, but separate stories, with additional framing segments, used sequences from a pilot for a television series to be entitled The Wide Open Spaces. Anders had previously appeared on the television series The Ken Murray Show, which ran on the CBS network from January 1950 through June 1953. On that show, Anders used the tagline, "I like the wide-open spaces." Actress Bette Lou Walters, who portrayed "Miss Bolton" in The Marshal's Daughter was also a regular on Murray's television show.
In addition to the opening sequence, there are several other points throughout the film in which books are used for comic effect: A book is prominently displayed in the scene in which Laurie tells "Russ" about her abilities as a ventriloquist. Russ then picks up her book on mastering the art of ventriloquim. When Laurie adds that she has also learned jiu jitsu, Russ turns the book around to reveal the back cover, which reads "Mastering the Art of Jiu Jitsu." In the stagecoach sequence, a parson's face is obscured by the large book he is reading entitled Violence and How to Avoid It. When the parson puts the book down, he is revealed to be the film's previously established villain, "Trigger Gans."
Although a April 20, 1952 Daily Variety news item stated that Murray was planning to put together a "vaudeville unit" to tour the country with the film "starting in Jun" no additional information on the tour has been found. As noted in reviews and news items, The Marshal's Daughter was Murray's first feature film since his unusual 1946 bird comedy, Bill and Coo (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). In one of the film's flashbacks, Hoot Gibson, as his character, "Marshal Ben Dawson," describes how he obtained his faithful gun. The flashback sequence was taken from a silent Western featuring Gibson. The Daily Variety review indicates that the silent film was made in 1929, but the name of the film has not been determined.
Reviews also noted the similarities between the use of Ritter's ballad as an ongoing theme in The Marshal's Daughter and a similar use in the multiple-Oscar winning 1952 Western High Noon. A scene in The Marshal's Daughter in which Gans and his gang enter a deserted town was also reminiscent of a famous scene in High Noon.