Cast & Crew
In the 1800s, Larry Delong wanders the West "riding shotgun" as a stagecoach guard, while searching for a ruthless killer, Dan Marady. Delong is so intent on his mission to find and kill Marady that he is lured from his post into a trap by an old-timer bearing Marady's good-luck piece, a Berringer pocket gun. After being captured by Marady's gang and left to die in the hills, Delong frees himself and retrieves his horse and gun, as well as the pocket gun that the old-timer dropped in the scuffle. As it is too late to stop the gang from attacking his stagecoach, Delong tries to warn the citizens in the nearby town of Deep Water that, while the sheriff and his posse are out investigating the stagecoach attack, the gang plans to rob their casino. To his surprise, Delong finds the townspeople, who have been his neighbors and friends, hostile toward him and soon learns that his fellow guard, Bob Purdee, was killed in the attack. Moreover, a young child and his mother riding the coach recognized the old-timer among the attackers as the man who rode off with Delong and from this the townspeople have concluded that Delong is part of the gang. Except for Delong's girl friend, Orissa Flynn, and Doc Winkler, no one believes in his innocence, not even Delong's ten-year-old admirer Johnny, who shoots him with a slingshot. Fearing that he has been sent by Marady to discourage the posse from pursuing them, the townspeople take Delong's horse, preventing him from riding out to warn the sheriff. The town's unrelenting suspicions finally cause Delong to take refuge in a cantina owned by the German immigrant, Fritz. When the chief deputy, Tub Murphy, returns to town with his assistant, Ross Hughes, the citizens clamor for Delong's arrest, but, reluctant to take charge or disbelieve Delong's story, Tub urges the citizens to wait for the sheriff. He does ask Delong to come, unofficially, to the sheriff's office, but Delong refuses, as he wants to remain free to fight Marady. Although no one is brave enough to confront Delong, who is an excellent marksman, the townspeople keep a vigil around the cantina, and many of Delong's innocent actions, such as reloading his gun, are interpreted by the crowd as intentionally harmful. Later, Winkler, seeing a lynch mob forming, tries to convince the townsmen that Marady has used the same strategy described by Delong in previous robberies and urges them to keep watch on the bank and casino, but the people remain stubbornly single-minded. When Orissa goes to the cantina to warn Delong that the crowd is getting meaner, Delong refuses to make an escape, explaining that he wants revenge on Marady, who killed his sister and nephew during a stagecoach attack three years before. Col. Flynn, who is Orissa's father and owner of the casino, orders Orissa out and asks Delong to give himself up. Delong persuades Orissa to leave with the colonel, but explains that it would be suicide for him to leave the safety of the cantina. Having worked up a collective courage, the townsmen try to flush out Delong and begin shooting. Delong refrains from returning fire, except to shoot out a candle flame that exposes his movements to the people outside. Marady and some of his gang ride into town, and Marady, judging that the townspeople's distraction with Delong will work to their advantage, enters the casino unobtrusively to await reinforcements, while his henchman Pinto mingles with the crowd. Then, Ben, a brash young man, tries to single-handedly drag Delong out, and Delong is forced to shoot back, but is careful to disarm him without doing serious harm. During the encounter, Delong spots Pinto in the crowd. Realizing that Marady is near, Delong escapes through the attic, leaving the crowd to discover his absence, and works his way to the casino, where a robbery is now in progress. Before entering, Delong cuts the cinch straps on the saddles of Marady's men, then shoots out the lights in the casino, and a gunfight ensues. The townspeople hear the shots and arrive in time to collect the escaping outlaws, who fall off their horses when they try to mount. In the darkened casino, Marady and Delong continue to fight. As he has been counting Delong's shots, Marady boldly approaches Delong after hearing six shots fired. Delong, however, still has Marady's good-luck pocket gun and with it, kills Marady. Outside, the crowd thanks Delong, but Pinto is with them, having so far escaped notice. When young Johnny sees Pinto taking aim at Delong, he uses his slingshot to hit the outlaw in the face with a rock, which gives Delong time to shoot in self-defense.
Boyd "red" Morgan
Mary Lou Holloway
Edward Coch Jr.
Benjamin S. Bone
Maurice De Packh
C. A. Riggs
Stalwart western star Randolph Scott actually rides shotgun (i.e., the armed guard sitting next to the driver of a stagecoach) for only a small part of the movie, adapted from the story "Riding Solo" by Kenneth Perkins. Taking the job in order to trap a ruthless gang of killers, he is tricked by them into leaving his post. Hogtied away from the stage, he frees himself and heads into town, only to find the coach has been robbed, its driver killed, and several passengers critically injured. The townspeople believe he was part of the gang and won't accept his explanation--"hate makes a man careless"--for why he left his post. He spends the rest of the movie fending off rumblings by the cowardly citizens to lynch him while trying to clear his name and stop the gang from killing and robbing more. His only allies are a kindly doctor and his girlfriend. If parts of this sound a little like High Noon (1952), that would explain why some observers feel Riding Shotgun (1954), like the earlier Gary Cooper movie, was a thinly veiled commentary on the anti-communist witch hunts and Hollywood blacklist of the time. Then again, a number of analysts have seen that same commentary in many movies of the 1950s.
Although he started in contemporary dramas and comedies in the early 1930s, Scott is most closely associated with the western, with very good reason. He appeared in about two dozen westerns up to 1947. After taking a break with the movie Christmas Eve (1947), he returned to the saddle with Albuquerque (1948) and worked exclusively in the genre for the remainder of his career. Riding Shotgun falls roughly in the middle of the 36 westerns he made between 1948 and his last, Ride the High Country (1962).
Scott's best westerns are usually considered to be the eight he made with Budd Boetticher, and he also had six hits in the genre with Ray Enright. Here, he works for the fifth time (of six total) with André De Toth, a Hungarian surprisingly at home on the range in the dozen or so westerns he made, half of them with Scott. The director was also known for some stylish film noir work--Dark Waters (1944), Pitfall (1948)--and for what is often considered the best example of the 3D trend of the 1950s, House of Wax (1953), ironic considering he had lost an eye early in life and so was unable to see in three dimensions. Late in his career, De Toth found work directing for such TV westerns as Zane Grey Theater, Maverick, and The Westerner.
De Toth brings an interesting visual sense to the picture, showing the town of Deepwater, where most of the action takes place, from a number of interesting angles and stagings of crowds. The look of the film is amply aided by cinematographer Bert Glennon, who knew a thing or two about filming westerns, having been the director of photography on several John Ford films, including Stagecoach (1939), which earned him an Academy Award nomination. Glennon gets some interesting shots in this picture through windows and doorways and makes good use of a large mirror behind the bar of the town saloon, adding something of a noir aspect characteristic of De Toth's 1940s work. Director and cinematographer worked together a total of four times, including an earlier Randolph Scott western, Thunder Over the Plains (1953), the noir thriller Crime Wave (1954), and the aforementioned House of Wax.
Viewers will no doubt recognize one of the picture's bad guys early in his career, when he was still known as Charles Buchinsky. After two more films, he would change his name to the more marquee-friendly Charles Bronson.
Producer: Ted Sherdeman
Director: Andre de Toth
Screenplay: Tom Blackburn (screenplay); Kenneth Perkins (story)
Cinematography: Bert Glennon
Art Direction: Edward Carrere
Music: David Buttolph
Film Editing: Rudi Fehr
Cast: Randolph Scott (Larry Delong), Wayne Morris (Deputy Sheriff Tub Murphy), Joan Weldon (Orissa Flynn), Joe Sawyer (Tom Biggert), James Millican (Dan Marady), Charles Buchinsky (Pinto), James Bell (Doc Winkler), Fritz Feld (Fritz), Richard Garrick (Walters), Victor Perrin (Bar-M Rider with Lynching Rope).
by Rob Nixon
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Born in Mako, Hungary to the son of a civil engineer, De Toth showed an early artistic bent, having his first exhibit of paintings and sculpture at age 14 and seeing his first play produced at age 18. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Budapest, he began acting, writing and working as a cameraman for cinematographer Istvan Eiben. In 1939, he went to England, where he worked as a second unit director for Alexander Korda on The Thief of Bagdad and other films. De Toth immigrated to Hollywood in the early '40s, and worked with Korda on The Jungle Book (1942) and several other films.
He made his Hollywood directing debut with the 1943 feature, Passport to Suez, a propaganda thriller about the Nazis wanting to bomb the Suez Canal.
Impressed with his ability, Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, put the director under contract for one film and the result, None Shall Escape (1944), launched his Hollywood career. This tense, sensitive drama about a Nazi officer made to examine his actions was fascinating in its structure: Set after the war's end, the film centers around the trial of a Nazi butcher, Wilhelm Grimm (Alexander Knox), in Poland and makes excellent use of flashbacks illustrating the prosecution's testimony to form the bulk of the film. In a way, the film predicted the Nuremberg Trials after the war.
de Toth earned considerable critical acclaim with the taut, intense noir thriller Pitfall (1948) which he co-wrote. Starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Raymond Burr, this story of a bored insurance salesman who embarks on an affair because he feels stifled in his picture-perfect home (a devoted wife, son, nice house, successful career, etc.) was striking as one of the first films to examine the American dream gone sour. De Toth followed that with a shared Oscar nomination with William Bowers for Best Original Motion Picture Story for The Gunfighter (1950), a haunting character study of a killer (Gregory Peck) trying to live down his past.
His biggest commercial hit came with House of Wax (1953), the movie that launched Vincent Price's horror film career and is still regarded as the best of all three-dimensional films to be released during that period. Unlike other directors who seemed to be dabbling with a new technique, De Toth emphasized character and plot over the special effects: Price was a sculptor rebuilding his wax figure collection (destroyed by fire) by making statues out of his murder victims. The one-eyed de Toth was an odd choice to helm a 3-D film as he could not experience the stereoscopic process, having lost an eye in his youth, but he persevered and it was the most successful 3-D film of its day.
De Toth followed that hit with some fine films: Crime Wave (1954), a hostage thriller that boasts some fine performances by Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson and excellent location shooting on the streets of Los Angeles; The Indian Fighter (1955) an exciting Kirk Douglas vehicle about a wagon master leading his train through rough territory that won accolades for depicting the Native Americans with more depth than contemporary directors; and Day of the Outlaw (1959), the stark, stylish, low budget western about an outlaw (Burl Ives) and his gang taking over taking a small town and matching wits with one of its citizens (Robert Ryan). For many, this film best articulated many of the recurring themes in De Toth's work that would be evaluated only decades later by film scholars: survival, betrayal, the capacity for evil and complexities of human relationships.
In the early sixties film work became increasingly scarce for De Toth and he found himself relegated to directing for television: Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip and The Westerner. Tired of the limitations he was finding in Hollywood, De Toth headed to Europe in the '60s, where he found work as an uncredited consultant and location scout on David Lean's extravagant Lawrence of Arabia (1962). He directed a few films abroad, the best of which was the World War II action film Play Dirty (1968), starring Michael Caine, and then he more or less retired from active filmmaking. It was not until recently that De Toth began to receive critical recognition for his entertaining body of work. The last few years have seen several retrospectives and he enjoyed a renewed popularity at film festivals from Scotland to San Francisco. His contributions to film were recognized with the 1995 life achievement prize by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the publication of his autobiography, Fragments: Portraits From the Inside, as well as an interview book, De Toth on De Toth, by Anthony Slide. De Toth was married for a time to Veronica Lake (1944-1952) with whom he had two children. He is survived by his wife, Ann Green.
by Michael T. Toole
TCM Remembers Andre de Toth
Voice-over narration spoken by Randolph Scott as "Larry Delong" is heard intermittently throughout the film. Modern sources add Carol Henry to the cast. The Hollywood Reporter review described Riding Shotgun as the "latest" of "off-beat satires which get chuckles out of kidding themselves." Other reviews described the film as tongue-in-cheek or satirical, questioning whether it was meant to be a "hoax or an honest western." Although only the New York Times review found the western to be "as ordinary as they come," the Variety reviewer wrote that the success of the film, in which "endless dialogue supplants motion until the climax," would depend on "whether the spectator regards it as a satire on westerns or a giddyap drama with a multitude of unintentional laughs." Riding Shotgun marked Ted Sherdeman's debut as a producer.
Released in United States Spring March 1954
Released in United States Spring March 1954