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A cattle-vs.-sheepman feud loses Connie Dickason her fiance, but gains her his ranch, which she determines to run alone in opposition to Frank Ivey, "boss" of the valley, whom her father Ben wanted her to marry. She hires recovering alcoholic Dave Nash as foreman and a crew of Ivey's enemies. Ivey fights back with violence and destruction, but Dave is determined to counter him legally... a feeling not shared by his associates. Connie's boast that, as a woman, she doesn't need guns proves justified, but plenty of gunplay results. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Veronica Lake in her memoirs said that Joel McCrea was one of the kindest, most decent men she ever knew or worked with. When she was writing that she was talking about Sullivan's Travels which is certainly one of the high points in both of their careers.
Ramrod is light years from Preston Sturges. Based on a Luke Short novel it's a pretty grim and violent film. Preston Foster is the owner of the big spread in the neighborhood and a close ally of his is Charlie Ruggles who has an adjoining piece of territory. Foster's taken a shine to Ruggles daughter Veronica Lake, but she can't stand the sight of him. When Foster bullies her fiancé out of town, Lake wants vengeance.
She's got her own piece of land now and hires Joel McCrea to run it for her. The range war starts, but Lake thinks McCrea is too soft in his approach. She starts some backchannel schemes of her own.
The result of this is a whole lot of dead bodies piling up. A windfall for the coroner.
As always Joel McCrea is the moral centerpiece of the film, he's once again the gallant western hero. Preston Foster is the town bully you love to hate. Foster did a variation on this part again in Law and Order a few years later.
Cast against type are Don DeFore and Charlie Ruggles. DeFore who was usually the hero's best friend and a jovial kind of guy, is a violence prone sort of fellow, who Lake manipulates among others. And it is hard to believe that Charlie Ruggles ever played anyone as serious on film before or since. Our image of him is usually the henpecked husband opposite Mary Boland from the Thirties.
This film is significant for Lake because she married Director Andre DeToth. DeToth claims to have been married seven times, but only three are listed on his page at IMDb. It was not a happy union, but DeToth did get a good performance out of his bride.
Ramrod may be one of the earliest examples of an adult western. It is grim and violent, but fascinating.
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