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Springfield Rifle (1952)

Approved | | War, Western | 25 October 1952 (USA)
Major Lex Kearney becomes the North's first counterespionage agent as he tries to discover who's behind the theft of Union cavalry horses in Colorado during the Civil War.


(as Andre DeToth)


(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Erin Kearney
Capt. Edward Tennick
Pete Elm (as Lon Chaney)
Matthew Quint
Pvt. Olie Larsen


Major Lex Kearney, dishonorably discharged from the army for cowardice in battle, has actually volunteered to go undercover to try to prevent raids against shipments of horses desperately needed for the Union war effort. Falling in with the gang of jayhawkers and Confederate soldiers who have been conducting the raids, he gradually gains their trust and is put in a position where he can discover who has been giving them secret information revealing the routes of the horse shipments. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Gun That Made One Man The Equal Of Five! See more »


War | Western


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 October 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gegenspionage  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Film debut of Fess Parker. See more »


When Captain Tennick is trying to line up a shot at the leader of the horse raiders, his kerchief changes from a bright red plaid color to that of an off-white, then back and forth several times. See more »


Sgt. Snow: Never exactly doubted you, sir, and that raw deal they gave you at your court-martial gave us a pain in the collar!
Maj. Alex 'Lex' Kearney: Where do you suppose it gave me a pain?
See more »


Referenced in Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Mixed bag in Cooper led espionage Oater.
23 March 2010 | by See all my reviews

Depending on what reviews you read of course, Springfield Rifle is either a slowly paced pot boiler or an action packed suspenser. Such is the diversity of this form of the arts, you could easily favour one or the other and nobody could really argue with you. The truth is that André De Toth's film wants to be both, but with an almost dizzying plot and a misleading title, it winds up being an over ambitious picture that doesn't quite pay off on its promise.

Gary Cooper stars as Maj. Alex 'Lex' Kearney who gets himself cashiered from the army on a charge of cowardice in order to go undercover to break up a Confederate ring who are stealing horses during the civil war. But Kearney is not the only spy at work so his mission is a touch more complicated than at first thought. Not only that but he is so deep undercover his wife and son believe him to be a real coward and have therefore ostracised him. Oh and the new and war changing Springfield Rifle will have a part to play in the shenanigans.

Released in the same year as Cooper was wowing genre fans in High Noon, De Toth's movie does actually feel like an attempt to cash in on the big mans star appeal. However, it should be noted that executives at Warner Brothers didn't want Cooper to play the role, fearing his wholesome image just wouldn't suit a role involving cowardice and double dallying for both parties in the war. De Toth stood by his guns and was rewarded, to my mind, by a film saving performance from Cooper. Frank Davis and Charles Marquis Warren adapt from a story written by Sloan Nibley (who is noted in the genre for his numerous work on Roy Rogers scripts), Max Steiner provides the score and Edwin B. DuPar photographs out of Lone Pine and Warner Ranch in California. The film is not shot in Technicolor {as stated by some reviewers}, it was shot in the Warnercolor process. With the result somewhat pleasing on the eye, notably the uniforms of the soldiers and the flame engulfed sequence towards the finale.

The support cast are fair to middling. Lon Chaney Jr. is sadly a shadow of his former self, tho a good old dust up with Cooper raises the temperature. Phyllis Thaxter, David Brian, Paul Kelly & Philip Carey file in and say their lines. While Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams & Alan Hale Jr. deserved more screen time than they actually got. With surprises in the plot and Cooper adding some quality, Springfield Rifle is entertaining enough. But ultimately it ends up being a modest genre piece that really should have been much much better. 6/10

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