Cast & Crew
As he travels west to the town of Pembroke, newly ordained reverend Terrall Butler learns that huge ranches surround the small community, which has become the center of a vicious feud between cattlemen and farmers. Because Pembroke will be his first parish, Butler is nervous, and the need for a steadying influence on the lawless town becomes apparent when Butler is warned by gunman Viggo Tomlin to keep his "eyes down." Butler ignores Tomlin and makes the acquaintance of Ann Davis and her father, general store owner Sam. Sam introduces Butler to influential cattleman Lathe Sawyer and Ed Halcomb, leader of the farmers, and the reverend invites them to attend his first sermon. Sheriff Ben Seale then apprehends Hub Wren, the town drunk, as he attempts to steal Butler's suitcase, but Butler accepts Hub's excuse that he was trying to carry the bag for him. As he escorts Butler to his new home, Hub reveals that he was once an architect who built the parsonage and the church. Butler invites Hub to stay at the now run-down parsonage and help him repair it, and Hub is delighted to have a purpose again. Later that day, Sawyer is about to engage in a gunfight with Tomlin when railroad representative Gray Arnett intercedes. Butler also gets involved and the men are astonished to see him instinctively reaching for a gun, marking him as a former gunslinger. After the combatants disperse, Arnett explains to Butler that Tomlin actually works for the Western Railroad, which hired him to protect the farmers. When the railroad was first built, the government gave it a mile-wide stretch of land on either side of the tracks, which the railroad subsequently sold to farming families. The cattlemen maintain that the land, which once was open grazing pasture, belongs to them, and have been fighting the farmers ever since. At dinner the next evening, Sawyer relates to Butler the ranchers' side of the feud and maintains that the cattlemen should have been given the first right to buy the railroad's land. When Butler protests that no argument is worth a man's life, Sawyer grudgingly agrees to allow him to help resolve the situation. Butler later seeks advice from Arnett, who confirms that the railroad has the right to sell the land to the highest bidder. Arnett also explains that because the ranchers had been burning out the farmers, the railroad was forced to hire Tomlin and his men. Having heard Sawyer's and Arnett's versions of the story, Butler goes to visit Halcomb, who admits that Tomlin is a hired gun, but states that the farmers need him to defend them. Butler urges him to have faith and seek a nonviolent solution to the problem, then returns to town. That night, Tomlin raids Sawyer's cattle, and in retribution, Sawyer's men burn down a farmer's house. Halcomb persuades Tomlin not to go after the cattlemen again, however, ordering him to use restraint, as Butler had suggested. Soon after, when Arnett learns that Tomlin backed down, he reprimands the gunman. Unknown to either faction, Arnett has been fomenting the feud, using Tomlin to burn homes and rustle cattle, in order to drive out the tenants and obtain their land cheaply. Arnett orders Tomlin to "take care" of both Halcomb and Butler, then is irritated to see Butler with Ann, in whom he is romantically interested. Soon after, Butler is confronted by the town council, who has learned that he was imprisoned for being a gunfighter. Butler confesses that he fell in with a "bad crowd" when he was young and committed several crimes, but maintains that he never killed anyone. After explaining that he was converted by the prison chaplain, Butler assures the council members that he is committed to a life of peace, and they vote to keep him on. Their meeting is broken up when Hub announces that Halcomb has been shot and wounded by Tomlin. Butler asks Seale if he is going to arrest Tomlin, but the ineffectual sheriff demurs, stating that they should mind their own business. When Butler then attempts to send for help, Tomlin stops him and a fistfight between the two men ensues. As Butler knocks Tomlin to the ground, the gunfighter hits his head on a railroad tie, and Butler carries him to the parsonage to receive treatment from Doc Runyon. Tomlin is baffled by Butler's solicitous behavior, especially when Butler declares that they could be friends. Soon after, at church, Butler urges his parishioners to rebuild the home of the burned-out farmer, and the townsfolk slowly volunteer their services. Meanwhile, some of Tomlin's men burst into the parsonage to free their leader, and Hub is killed during the raid. The next day, Arnett instructs the farmers to meet at the church that evening, then orders Tomlin to raid the ranches while the farmers are in town. Arnett hopes that the cattlemen will be so enraged that they will slaughter the farmers while they are at church, and eventually, Arnett will gain possession of all the farms and ranches. Tomlin insists that Arnett make him his partner in the scheme, and Arnett reluctantly agrees. That night, while Tomlin's men begin the raids, Butler and Ann, unaware of the violence, confess their love for each other, and Ann accepts his marriage proposal. At the church, Butler is surprised that all of the farmers are present but no ranchers, and worries that something bad is about to happen. Arnett is upset to see Ann rush to the church, as he does not want her to be harmed, but before he can do anything, the infuriated ranchers ride into town. When Tomlin arrives to watch the ensuing chaos, Arnett pulls out a derringer and shoots him. Before he dies, Tomlin confesses all to Seale. Meanwhile, at the church, Butler attempts to calm the ranchers, and by questioning them, learns that Arnett is the driving force behind the feud. Arnett attempts to shoot Butler from a distance but is himself shot and wounded by Seale, who informs him that Tomlin had accepted Butler's friendship before he died. With Arnett under arrest, Sawyer and Halcomb resolve to work out their differences, and Butler asks Ann if she knows where they can find a preacher to marry them.
Wayne B. Fury
Hal R. Makelim
The opening and ending cast credits differ slightly in order. According to a February 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Hal R. Makelim purchased the rights to Richard Poole's novel with the intention of using it as the basis for the first in a series of twelve films in his self-titled "Makelim Plan." The news item also announced that Charles Bennett or Jesse Lasky, Jr. would write the film's screenplay, and that "more than 3,000 exhibitors" had subscribed to the Makelim Plan to that time. Makelim sought to obtain production funds by pre-selling the pictures to exhibitors, who would be guaranteed the resulting product at a favorable rate. On September 30, 1955, Daily Variety reported that 4,000 exhibitors had committed approximately $300,000 to the plan, on which Makelim had been working for three years. The Daily Variety article noted that exhibitors who subscribed to the plan would share "50-50 with Makelim in all profits."
Makelim was forced to abandon his idea, however, and The Peacemaker was the only picture produced for the Makelim Plan. The BHC reviewer reported that Makelim's plan "blew up...because the exhibitors backed out of their pledge." The producer used his own money to make the film and secured a distribution deal with United Artists in late July 1956. Also in late July 1956, Hollywood Reporter noted that The Peacemaker had cost just under $400,000 to produce.
Although the BHC review stated that the picture marked the film debut of actor James Mitchell, he had previously appeared in a number of pictures. The Peacemaker did mark the feature film debut of director Ted Post, who had formerly worked in television, and continued to work in both mediums throughout his career. Makelim produced only one more film, the 1957 United Artists release Valerie (see below).