Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water.
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Fourteen years after starting his cattle ranch in Texas, Tom Dunston is finally ready to drive his 10,000 head of cattle to market. Back then Dunston, his sidekick Nadine Groot and a teen-aged boy, Matt Garth -who was the only survivor of an Indian attack on a wagon train - started off with only two head of cattle. The nearest market however is in Missouri, a 1000 miles away. Dunston is a hard task master demanding a great deal from the men who have signed up for the drive. Matt is a grown man now and fought in the Civil War. He has his own mind as well and he soon runs up against the stubborn Dunston who won't listen to advice from anyone. Soon, the men on the drive are taking sides and Matt ends up in charge with Dunston vowing to kill him. Written by
Montgomery Clift was nervous about standing up to John Wayne but gained confidence when Howard Hawks told him to play his scenes like David against Goliath. He also urged the young actor to underplay in his scenes with Wayne, particularly the scene in which his character challenges Dunson for the first time. Wayne was also not sure Clift could be convincing as a rugged cowboy, but after that first confrontation scene he told Hawks his doubts were gone and "he's going to be okay." See more »
When the drive is being organized, there is talk of a reliable cow hand from Alberta, which would not exist till 1905. See more »
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Fourteen years ago Thomas Dunson entered Texas across Red River with two head of cattle, his trail hand, and a young boy, Matt Garth, who survived an Indian attack on a wagon train that killed Dunson's sweetheart. After years of development he is now head of a ranch and is preparing to drive his head of thousands of cattle up to Missouri for sale, despite the perils. However Dunson's brutal leadership style bucks up against the more peaceful Matt, leading to a rebellion and a splitting of the ways between Dunson and his adopted son.
With an early scene establishing both Dunson's methods (taking land by force) and the source of much of his future bitterness and rage, this film sets itself out to be a real good character piece and pretty much manages to do it. The plot sweeps across 14 years but doesn't suffer for it. The main plot device is the cattle drive, which is depicted with affection here, however the main story is the conflict between Dunson and Matt's methods and views on man management. This aspect is not given quite as much time as I had hoped and tends to be over shadowed by the scale of the cattle drive itself however this is still good.
The weakest point here is the romance which feels tacked on at the end. Not only does it feel unnecessary but it doesn't really work very well either. To make matters worse when the conflict between Dunson and Matt manifests itself physically, it is devalued by the involvement of Tess somewhat. Wayne's leading man is strong and is a good performance considering how unpopular he is as a character. Clift gives a balanced performance and stands up well alongside the Duke. The support cast is full of western favourites and does well to fill the story out with colour, comic relief from Brennan's chuck wagon driver is great fun.
Overall this is a good western that I felt didn't quite reach it's full potential as a film. It could have gone further with the battle of wills between the characters but instead the cattle drive takes the lion's share of screen time. Having said that, there is still plenty to enjoy with both the character clashes and the perils of the cattle drive itself.
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