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An unusual alliance is operating in the film Cattle Queen of Montana.
Cattle baron Gene Evans and dissident Blackfoot chieftain Anthony
Caruso have an arrangement of convenience. Evans provides whiskey and
arms and in return Caruso makes sure the braves under his command raid
and kill any settlers who come into the Montana valley that Evans wants
to keep all to himself.
Of course they pick on the wrong party when they attack Barbara Stanwyck's party. She and father Morris Ankrum have staked a claim on a piece of the valley. Her father is killed, but Stanwyck survives and his taken to the camp of Lance Fuller, Caruso's rival in the Blackfeet nation.
So we have some unusual white/Indian alliances forming here and lurking through it all is a mysterious stranger played by Ronald Reagan who is not quite what he seems to be at all.
It's a good, but routine western, helped considerably by good location photography and crisp direction by Allan Dwan. Stanwyck looks very much like she's in preparation for her role as Victoria Barkley in The Big Valley. And Ronald Reagan who while he doesn't do mysterious real well, does look right at home on the range.
What saves this film from being an average western, lost among so many others is the impressive scenery, beautiful strong colors, with a predominance of green because of the trees, the efficient direction of Allan Dwan, but most of all Barbara Stanwyck playing the main character, a part that would usually go to a man. Barbara was great in this type of role, she had already done it in "The Furies" and would do it again in "Forty Guns" and "The Maverick Queen". The story is plain routine, Colorados is the good Blackfoot, Natchakoa the bad one,and they are going to fight for power when the Chief (that looks more Irish than Blackfoot)dies. Ronald Reagan is the good guy acting like he is bad and Barbara the woman who comes from Texas with a lot of cattle and loses it all in a stampede.
"Cattle Queen of Montana" was one of those "tough old broad" westerns that
Barbara Stanwyck made during the 1950s.
In this one Sierra Nevada Jones (Stanwyck), her father Pop Jones (Morris Ankrum) and their foreman Nat Collins (Chubby Johnson) have driven a herd of some 1,100 cattle up from Texas to settle in Montana. On their arrival, the herd is stampeded, Pop is killed and old Nat seriously wounded. The raid is led by renegade Blackfoot Natchakoa (Anthony Carouso) who is in league with local rancher McCloud (Gene Evans) to drive off any new ranchers arriving in the area.
Into the picture comes gunfighter Farrell (Ronald Reagan) who signs on with McCloud. In the meantime "good" Blackfoot, Colorados (Lance Fuller) rescues Sierra and Nat and takes them to his village to recover. Gradually Sierra and Colorados become allies much to the chagrin of Colorado's girlfriend Starfire (Yvette Duguay) and Natchakoa.
It turns out that Farrell is an army officer working under cover to discover who has been selling guns to the renegade Blackfeet. Well you knew that the clean cut Reagan would turn out to be a good guy didn't you? Anyway, Farrell aligns himself with Sierra and Colorados against the baddies and well, you know the rest.
Director Alan Dwan gives us a beautifully photographed outdoor western. The VCI DVD has been digitally remastered to its original technicolor brilliance and this alone makes this a must see.
Reagan is not very convincing as a ruthless gunfighter. He just doesn't come across as being mean enough. Stanwyck would play a number of similar roles in other westerns culminating with her long run on TV's "The Big Valley". She's supposed to be a "cattle queen" here but doesn't have any cattle to speak of through most of the picture. Lance Fuller looks about as much like an Blackfoot Indian as I do.
Also in the cast are Jack Elam and Myron Healey (who has a good scene with Stanwyck) as McCloud's henchmen, Hugh Sanders as Col. Carrington and a toothless Glenn Strange as the old Blackfoot Chief.
Oddly enough most of the featured players (and Reagan) in this film would turn up in "Tennessee's Partner" the following year.
Perhaps the most uncomplicated of America's classic directors, Dwan
made a series of films in the fifties for producer Bogeaus that allowed
him a degree of flexibility he'd been unused to since the silent days.
Cattle Queen of Montana, the tale of Stanwyck's struggles to hold on to
the property of her murdered father, is beautifully lit by
cinematographer Alton, the great unsung Hollywood cameraman. It evokes
a world of easeful innocence far removed from the cynicism and violence
that was the norm in the Western of the fifties. Reagan is the
mysterious gunman who comes to Stanwyck's rescue. Stanwyck, who did all
her own stunts, so impressed the Blackfeet Indians hired as extras that
they made her a blood sister, and gave her the Indian name of Princess
Out of RKO Radio Pictures comes Cattle Queen of Montana, directed by
Allan Dwan and written by Robert Blees, Howard Estabrook (screenplay) &
Thomas Blackburn (story). It stars Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Reagan,
Gene Adams, Lance Fuller, Anthony Caruso, Jack Elam & Yvette Duguay.
The music is scored by Louis Forbes and it's a Technicolor production
with John Alton on photography. Locations used for the film are Glacier
National Park, Montana & Iverson Ranch, Chatsworth, California.
Stanwyck plays Sierra Nevada Jones, a tough cowgirl who along with her father, drive the family herd up from Texas to Montana. Planning to build a ranch to set themselves up, tragedy strikes when they are attacked by some renegade Blackfoot Indians. However, all is not as it seems, just what has shifty Tom McCord (Evans) got to do with things? Why is gunslinger Farrell (Reagan) working for McCord? And can war between the Blackfoot and the white man be averted?
Standard formulaic stuff that is only really of interest for the photography of Alton. Cowboys and Indians, good and bad on each side, go head to head in a cliché riddled movie bogged down by a pretty turgid script. Not even the normally classy Stanwyck can lift herself to a performance capable of saving the piece. There's some credit due for making the lead protagonist a strong willed woman, and even tho it's a bit late in the cycle of topic, depicting the Indians as not all savages-as the white man encroaches onto their land-is a bonus. But with American character actors Fuller & Caruso playing the in fighting leaders of the Blackfoot tribe, it just comes across as corny and wholly unbelievable, while Dwan was indeed a more than capable director, here the action lacks zip and the film gasps for some dramatic air as the narrative goes around in circles.
The story off screen is more entertaining than the film itself, where Reagan was constantly at odds with producer Benedict Bogeaus. The future President of the United States of America took one look at the script and voiced concerns, suggesting many changes, all of which were ignored. Royalty status was afforded Stanwyck while Reagan got next to no help from the producer, this perhaps goes someway to explaining his limp performance. Tho, again, the script calls for him to be part of one of the most lukewarm and pointless romances in 1950s Oaters, he got no help either way on this picture. Still, there's Alton's photography of the Glacier National Park to hold the attention, even if the "new" scrubbed up print of the film is far from doing it justice.
That its claim to fame is being the film playing at the theater in Hill Valley in the film Back to the Future, says volumes, this is poor all told, and not even worthy of recommending to those after a time filling Cowboys & Indians no brainer. 3/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Barbara Stanwyck doesn't take adversity laying down in director Allan Dwan's "Cattle Queen of Montana" as the eponymous, pistol-packing, lead-slinging, red-headed Sierra Nevada Jones. This adventurous horse opera features future U.S. President Ronald Reagan playing second fiddle to Stanwyck as a hired gun on her side in an Indian war. This is the kind of western that has good Indians and bad Indians. "Magnificent Obsession" scenarist Robert Blees and "Hell's Angels" scribe Howard Estabrook let Barbara kill her quota of guys, while Reagan gets to blast his six-gun out of her fist in one scene. The Glacier National Valley scenery makes the perfect backdrop to this larger-than-life oater. Basically, "Cattle Queen of Montana" is a revenge western with the heroine searching for the men who ambushed her dad. The villain is ambitious, but he seems a little short-handed when it comes to having dependable help. Stanwyck, her father 'Pop' Jones (Morris Ankrum), and their foreman move a herd of over a thousand cattle into the territory to lay stake to a ranch in the middle of the wilderness. Renegade Native Americans bushwhack Jones and her family. Jones' father bites the dust and their friend Nat is laid up while our heroine tries to absorb what has happened. She is surprised when good Indians arrive to help them. The Indians are Blackfeet, and two of them are vying to lead the tribe after their ailing father migrates to the Happy Hunting Ground in the sky. Colorados (Lance Fuller) is an educated Indian who asks questions before he fires his weapon. His volatile brother Natchakoa (Anthony Caruso) is an uneducated, liquor-swilling brave who shoots first and asks questions afterward. Colorados allows Sierra and Nat to recuperate in his village. The villain is greedy cattleman named Tom McCord (Gene Evans) who wants Natchakoa to scare off the settlers so he can buy their land up cheaply. Neither Natchakoa nor McCord are prepared to tangle with Sierra. She has no problem packing a pistol and putting lead into people. A wandering gunman, Farrell (Ronald Reagan), rides into the country, too, and takes a job as one of McCord's minions.
Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan star together in this tale of the growing state of Montana, becoming a landowner, fighting for land, and making one's dreams into reality. It all sounds rather profound, important, or dramatic, doesn't it? Well, I probably make it sound more so than it really is. This is basically Indians vs. White Man, The Law vs. White Man Selling Ammunition to Indians, Indian Brother vs. Indian Brother, and Stanwyck vs. Reagan. The later sounds more interesting, doesn't it? Well, the viewer is led to believe that Reagan is hired as a gunslinger to get rid of Barbara when she won't leave "her" land, after White Man got Indians to raid her family settlement, which killed her father. They don't know Stanwyck. That only made her more determined to stay, and mad. Watch out! The presence of Stanwyck and Reagan elevates this otherwise generic film, which emphasizes the Indians too much in the first half. It does get better in its last 30 to 40 minutes with Stanwyck declaring war. But, there's too much of everyone's against everyone else and trying to keep up with who's on whose side and who's betraying whom, and the actors portraying the Indians slow down the film with their, to be frank, pretty lame acting. By the end of the film, you'll probably like it on the whole, due to the chemistry and flirting between Barbara and Ronnie and their being on the screen more together near the end of the film. But, you'll also wish they were in other better films than this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Complicated Technicolor western, mostly filmed in the scenic foothills
of Glacier National Park. Blackfoot 'Indians', both real and
manufactured, are prominent in the story. The Blackfoot reservation
adjacent to the Park was a convenient source of 'Indian' extras. As was
common at the time, the main 'Indian' roles went to Hollywood actors
who spoke Hollywood 'Indian' pigeon English: very stilted, for the most
part. Reagan seems out of place as a famed gunslinger.
The complicated formulistic plot includes rivalries among both the Europeans and Blackfoot, both men and women, with some alliances of convenience included. Tom McCord(Gene Evans) is the thoroughly evil, backstabbing, cattle baron of this 'Buffalo Valley' region of apparently west central Montana. 'Pop'Jones and his matronly daughter Sierra Nevada(Barbara Stanwyck, age 46)headed a leisurely 7 month cattle drive from Texas to this well-watered grazing land, with only a preliminary claim on it, unaware of how criminal their well-established neighbor was. McCord is determined to scare off or dispose of these new land claimants, as he has previous ones. He utilizes the European -hating war chief Natchakoa to engineer a nocturnal stampede of their cattle, while dispatching their minimal cowhands. Initially, it is thought that all the Jones outfit died in this incident. But Sierra and her foreman Nat(Chubby Johnson) survived and were taken by friendly Blackfoot leader Colorados to a Blackfoot village to recuperate.
Meanwhile, army undercover agent Farrell (Ron Reagan) signs as a hired gun for McCord and is given the assignment of dispatching the stampede survivors. He pretends to agree, but is captured by Blackfoot, who now realize that it's bad for them to be involved in the planned murders. Meanwhile, McCord has filed a claim to the land Sierra assumed would be hers, as well as a claim on her cattle brand, thinking her dead. When he discovers his error, he sends Farrell to offer to buy her cattle, on the condition she return to Texas. At one point, she agrees, but then discovers that McCord was behind the stampede. Farrell discovers that McCord has been the source of the illegal rifles being supplied the Blackfoot, which is his main purpose here. Farrel gradually shifts his allegiance from McCord to Sierra, who has lost her companion Nat to a Natchakoa arrow.
The old Blackfoot chief Powhani dies. Rivals to replace him, Colorados and Natchakoa have a hand to hand duel, which Colorados wins, but declines to dispatch Natchakoa, to his later regret. We are now ready for the final confrontation between the 'good' and 'bad' elements. Blackfoot princess Starfire, jealous of Colorados' friendship with Sierra, leads her and Farrell into an ambush by Natchakoa's forces, but is accidentally killed herself. McCord's and Colorados' bunches now show up for a complicated 4 team shootout, and all the baddies are killed. Sierra and Farrell hint at a possible future together.
According to the stone property marker, this story took place in 1888, very close to the end of the open range period on the Western Plains. However, we have the anachronism of Colonel Carrington: Farrell's boss. This is a historically relevant name, as Colonel Carrington headed the effort to control Sioux raids on immigrants going to southwest Montana along the Bozeman Trail in the mid-1860s. But, he left this region after only a rather brief stay, and never made it past WY. Interestingly, the first significant drive of Texas Longhorns from Texas to Montana occurred during this same period, as dramatized in the '55 Clark Gable-starring "The Tall Men".
Barbara was not the first, nor most impressive, Hollywood Montana 'cattle queen'. For example, a much younger, more glamorous- looking Alexis Smith posed as an established 'cattle queen' a few years earlier in the Technicolor "Montana", with a more charismatic adversary/love interest in Errol Flynn.
The plot of this film appears to owe much to the historic story of 'Cattle Kate', which includes an established southwestern WY cattle baron named Boswell: a character very similar to that of McCord in this story. Unfortunately, newcomer 'Cattle Kate' didn't fare as well as Sierra, being framed as a cattle rustler herself, resulting in her execution.
Strange that the great cattle die off in the 1886-7 Montana winter wasn't mentioned. Many herds were decimated and ranchers ruined by the extreme cold and lack of winter feed. This is just prior to when this story supposedly takes place.
The whites-friendly Blackfoot leader Colorados supposedly had studied at a college. Most likely, this was actually the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, PA, established just a few years earlier. Neighboring Sioux were among the prominent early students.
Famed Western with a magnificent Barbara Stanwick and a splendid Ronald
Regan who is ideal as a mysterious gunslinger . This Western movie
produced by RKO , Radio Picture Inc , deals with confrontation between
cattlemen and settlers . This exciting picture tells the story of the
Jones family , formed by father , J.I. 'Pop' Jones (Morris Ankrum) ,
and his gutsy daughter (Barbara Stanwyck with the super name Sierra
Nevada Jones) , both of them about to prove claim to prime Montana land
. Then , they are attacked by rebel Indians led by Natchakoa (Anthony
Caruso) in league with nasty neighbor McCord (Gene Evans) , the latter
gets most of the stolen cattle and their lands . Nobody is willing to
help them ; however , appearing a good guy , a college-educated chief's
son called Colorados (Lance Fuller) and two survivors are helped by him
. Later on , there appears a good-looking gunfighter , Farrell (Ronald
Regan) , investigating weapon smuggling and livestock rustlings and
with whom Nevada Jones falls in love . Now Sierra Nevada Jones must
confront enemies , as villainous outlaws , as Indians raids .
This classic western is plenty of thrills and emotion as showdown approaches and the protagonists realize he must stand alone against impossible odds , while Nevada Jones attempts to clear her father's murder . The flick is of a higher than habitual calibre for a regular oater , filled with betrayals , hateful , ambition and Indian uprising. Montana prairies provide the backstage for a torrid love between Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Regan . Western fans will enjoy the continuous pursuits and confrontations among a brave Stanwyck supported Reagan , being raided by Indians , and against ominous villains as Gene Evans , Jack Elam , Anthony Caruso . Furthermore, an exciting ending climax at the meadows in which the protagonists are besieged by Indians and cutthroats . Nice acting by Barbara Stanwyck , she stars an uncomplicated lady who fights for her land against legal technicalities and assorted villains . Barbara Stanwyck as usual did her own stuntwork , so impressing the local Blackfoot Indians that they named her Princess Many Victories and made her an honorary member of the tribe . Acceptable acting by Ronald Reagan , his role of Farrell was originally offered to Robert Mitchum, who turned it down because he didn't like the script , it was then offered to Ronald Reagan, who took it . Large support cast does well , full of known secondary actors as Gene Evans , Lance Fuller , Chubby Johnson , Anthony Caruso , Jack Elam , Morris Ankrum , many of them usual in Western . Although made in no much budget by the producer Benedict Bogeaus is a very efficient film and very entertaining . It packs a colorful cinematography print in Technicolor by John Alton who along with Nicholas Musuraca are considered to be two of the best cameraman specialized in Noir cinema . Marvelous scenario is really superb , shot on location in Glacier National Park, Montana, and Iverson Ranch , Iverson Lane, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California . Thrilling as well as evocative musical score by Louis Forbes .
This middle budget movie was professionally directed by Allan Dwan , though has some flaws and gaps . Dwan was a good craftsman working from the silent cinema . He was Gloria Swanson's favorite director and after he began to work for Triangle in 1916 , he also won the respect of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford , who were , at that time, the most powerful couple in the film business . Dwan directed over 1400 films , including one-reels, between his arrival in the industry (circa 1909) and his final film in 1961 . Among them some good Western as ¨ Restless breed¨, ¨The rivers edge¨, ¨Cattle Queen of Montana¨ and ¨Montana Belle¨ , being ¨Silver Lode¨ is his unqualified masterpiece . ¨Cattle queen Montana¨ results to be an acceptable and passable picture . Watchable and presentable results for this classic western movie .
The Cattle Queen of Montana is a robust Technicolor western from RKO
that displays the gorgeous scenery of Glacier National Park. Yes,
outdoor photography may be most suited to the western genre. And this
film proves it.
It's easy to see that Barbara Stanwyck is in her element in a story that sets her in the great outdoors. The film, more than others on Stanwyck's varied resume, supports the idea that westerns served her very well.
During the course of the story, Miss Stanwyck demonstrates her range as an authoritative ranch owner. Savage natives? Rough cowboys? Natural disasters? They are no threat when she rides on to the scene.
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