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Man Without a Star
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Man Without a Star More at IMDbPro »

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33 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

A mighty satisfactory entertaining Western...

9/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
17 September 2000

Kirk Douglas is perfectly cast as Dempsey Rae, the happy wanderer cowboy, expert in guns and horses... Rae rides the open range of the Old West with an eye for the ladies and a fancy way with six-shooters...

The theme of the film is the gradual disappearance of freedom as the Wild West settles down to business and puts up barbed wire to mark the lines of investment... Dempsey Rae is a happy wanderer, content to move further and further west to escape the fences... He meets up with a naive farm-boy "Texas" (William Campbell) who yearns to be a man of action and almost as inept... In Dempsey "Texas" finds the right tutor...

The two team up and get themselves a job working for a beautiful ranch owner, Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain), who turns out to be as unscrupulous as she is attractive... Reed is a 'cattle queen' who rides down the fences of her neighbors carrying the action to its absolute limit in order to prosper and make money...

Dempsey is happy to work for the lady for $30 a month and even happier to make love to her but he draws the line at laying his life for her in range wars... He quits the crooked beauty and drifts into the nearby town, to renew his acquaintance with Idonee (Claire Trevor), a madam with the proverbial heart of gold...

The likable Dempsey is rocked out of his contentment by his successor at the Bowment Ranch, a brute named Steve Miles (Richard Boone) who feels he has to defeat every man in sight, especially when motivated by his glamorous boss...

"Man Without a Star" is a mighty satisfactory entertaining Western, once its premise is established... William Campbell helps Douglas make it so... The two performances are sympathetic, with Campbell looking to Douglas for leadership...

Douglas comes out as a likable star when he announces his presence by throwing his 'good looking' saddle on a window; he is graceful when he combs his hair with water from a goldfish bowl; and he is charming when he plays the banjo and sings a gaily ballad called: "And the Moon Grew Brighter and Brighter."

Jack Elam is cast as the leering, treacherous gunslinger trying to knife Douglas...

Director King Vidor had long established his ability with action sequences and pictorial scope in films like "Northwest Passage," and "Duel in the Sun," and "Man Without a Star" has a full measure of Vidor directed bar room fights, stampedes and chases...

With a lot of color, humor and action Vidor's motion picture is a traditional cattle range movie distinguished by its sheer energy and forceful visual style... The film traces some sex interest between Douglas and Crain, centering on a bathtub 'inside' the house...

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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

From zero to 120

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
9 December 2004

Man Without a Star is not ranked as one of Kirk Douglas's great films, but it's a personal favorite of mine and a tour de force for this player.

I don't think any actor in screen history could ever go from zero to 120 in intensity as Kirk Douglas. His character Dempsey Rae in this film is a free footloose cowpoke with charm to spare. When provoked he changes like lightning and he's a man not to be trifled with. Kirk Douglas could do this better than any other actor.

Douglas gets good support here from western regulars like Jay C. Flippen, Eddy Waller, Roy Barcroft. Claire Trevor, although she's played more heart of gold floozies than anyone else in cinema history is never bad. Jeanne Crain as the boss bad gal did well being cast against type.

William Campbell was famous for two things, a role in the original Star Trek series as a Klingon Captain named Koloff and the fact he was married once to Judith Exner who also was linked to President Kennedy and Sam Giancana. He's pretty good in this however as Douglas's sidekick/protégé who turns on him for a while. And Richard Boone never gave a bad performance in his life and doesn't do so here as the foreman Jeanne Crain hires to run roughshod over the smaller ranchers.

Western fans and Kirk Douglas fans will love this.

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Flawed but Entertaining

6/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
31 May 2009

While traveling clandestine in a train, the drifter cowboy Dempsey Rae (Kirk Douglas) befriends the naive youngster Jeff "Texas" Jimson (William Campbell) and helps him when he is arrested by mistake in a train station. Dempsey Is hired by the foreman Strap Davis (Jay C. Flippen) to work in the ranch owned by the greedy Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain), who brings civilized habits from the East, like having a bathroom inside the house. When the owners of minor ranches use barbed wire fence in the open grass to protect some land for their cattle in the winter, Reed hires a gang of troublemakers leaded by Steve Miles (Richard Boone) to work in her ranch and tries to seduce Dempsey to convince him to help her. But Dempsey decide to help the ranchers against the gunmen and Reed.

"Man Without a Star" is a flawed but entertaining western. Kirk Douglas performs a nice cowboy that "adopts" a youngster to be the substituted for his brother that was killed in a dispute of land; hates barbed wire fences that he associates to the cause of the death of his brother; and is very successful with women. However, despite telling that barbed wire comes together with fights and killings, his character is incoherent when he defends the ranchers that are installing barbed wire fences. Jeanne Crain is amazingly seductive and sexy with her beauty, and her manipulative character is strong but totally forgotten in the end of the story. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "Homem Sem Rumo" ("Drifter")

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

A very good western that's under-rated

8/10
Author: David R. Schryer from Hampton, VA
18 November 1998

This is probably my favorite Kirk Douglas western. Although it has plenty of action this is not just another action western. Rather it deals with the implacable transition of the west from open range available to all to individually-controlled patches of range that are fenced off with barbed wire. Dempsey Rae (Douglas' character) loves open range and keeps drifting north to avoid the barbed wire which destroys it. Finally, however, he realizes that the small ranchers must fence off the range to protect themselves from the massive herds of a greedy rancher and her ruthless foreman and helps string and protect the wire that he hates so thoroughly. I love this under-rated western.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

He wanted to be free, so he had no star.

9/10
Author: alexandre michel liberman (tmwest) from S. Paulo, Brazil
28 November 2005

In 'Man Without a Star' Kirk Douglas as Dempsey Rae, gives a great performance; an outgoing cowboy, unstable and with fits of euphoria. This film is able to capture the beauty of the west, of the big herds of cattle, and the daily life of the cowboys. Dempsey is running away from barbed wire, which to him means the end of freedom. He calls himself a man without a star because he is obsessed about his freedom of choice, whereas following a star will bind him to a predetermined life. His affair with Jeanne Crain, with plenty of sexual innuendo, but far from being explicit, is one of the great things about this film. William Campbell has a very important part as an easterner who wants to become a cowboy and Douglas is there to teach him.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

To fence or not to fence, that is the question.

7/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
24 October 2010

Man Without A Star is directed by King Vidor and adapted by Borden Chase & D. D. Beauchamp from the Dee Linford novel. It stars Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell & Richard Boone. Photographed by Russell Metty in Technicolor around the Thousand Oaks area in California, with the title song warbled by Frankie Laine.

Dempsey Rae (Douglas) is easy going and a lover of life, so much so he has no qualms about befriending young hot head Jeff Jimson (Campbell). The pair, after a scare with the law, amble into town and find work at a ranch owned by the mysterious Reed Bowman. Who after finally showing up turns out to be a lady (Crain), with very ambitious plans. As sexual tensions start to run high, so do tempers, as the boys find themselves in the middle of a range war.

It's all very conventional stuff in the grand scheme of range war Western things, but none the less it manages to stay well above average in spite of a tricky first quarter. For the fist part Vidor and Douglas seem to be playing the film for laughs, with the actor mugging for all he is worth. Add in the wet behind the ears performance of Campbell and one wonders if this is going to be a spoof. But once the lads land in town and the girls show up (Trevor classy, Crain smouldering), the film shifts in gear and starts to get edgy with Vidor proving to have paced it wisely. The thematics of era and lifestyle changes, here signified by barbed wire, are well written into the plot. While interesting camera angles and biting photography keep the mood sexually skew whiff. Boone lifts proceedings with another fine villain performance, and Jay C. Flippen in support is as solid as he almost always was. 7/10

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

One of the best western movies of the fifties

10/10
Author: medtner1970 from Genova, Italy
11 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of my favorite westerns. Introduced by a beautiful song, beautifully sung by Frankie Laine (I have red someone who dislike this song, for me it is an error), is the story of a man without a star, no hope or illusion for him, not a sure trail. It is like a wild blowing wind, just the movie is like a wind: so powerful is the force of this movie. It is harmonically built: all the elements are at the right place at the right moment, everything is explained in the title song. I think it is loved more in Europe than in USA, there is always some difference between these different countries' critics. Personally, I find it a masterpiece. The title song lyrics "Who knows which way the world wind blows or where the trail of tomorrow goes, for a man without a star" reflect the spirit of the plot. I discover I have nothing to say about, it is just a powerful movie like the "world wind". I am unable to describe the blowing wind, you can only experience it, and for this movie it is the same thing: experience it, maybe that for its 1'29 running time, the world wind will blow in your home.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

In the best western tradition

8/10
Author: cartosan (ctosantos@terra.es) from Madrid, Spain
7 September 2002

Solid western directed in magisterial way, in the best genre tradition, by prestigious King Vidor. You can said the topic of the experienced cowboy teaching to a newcomer results very common at movies western. But Man Without Star is some more. This excellent movie picture tell us about the rivalry between two land´s possession different conceptions and about men´s maladjustment to new society rules. Everything is good at Man Without Star: the story (Borden Chase), the casting (Douglas, Trevor, Boone...), the song (Frankie Laine), and, of course, the production. Many director told us stories in western, but a few ones so efficaciously and with so easy manner like King Vidor at this picture. Because things results easier when you are expert. The same story was years later (also starring by Douglas) the Lonely Are The Brave starting point.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A rollicking, fast paced western

8/10
Author: bux from Tecumseh ok
7 November 1998

The man without a star is Douglas, and the Star is the picture here. Douglas apes, cavorts, and even sings his way thru the part of the seasoned cowboy attempting to teach a tenderfoot the ways of the range. Campbell is good as the young green-horn that learns his lessons perhaps too well. Although the fun seems a bit forced at times, this one is hard not to like.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Extraordinarily brilliant Western

10/10
Author: tentender from France
25 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a very difficult film to write about, and I have hesitated to do so for some time. But I've now seen it for the fifth (maybe sixth) time, and feel obliged to sing its praises, for it has entertained, even fascinated me each time. It seems, on first viewing, to be a Western like many others: neither the main theme (the beginning of the range wars, brought on by the enclosure of grazing land) nor the main characters (a compendium of Western types), nor the romantic conflict or the younger man mentoring the older man theme are unique. But the interweaving of these themes with the deeply conflicted title character is so seamless and subtle that each one seems to reflect light on the others in a very satisfying way. What is most evident on first viewing is the extreme physical vitality of the playing. Kirk Douglas, for my money, has never been more appealing -- not, in fact, the first word that comes to mind with this very intense actor -- and intense he is here, but also richly comic. In fact, with his intensity, the comedy is often almost nearly that of a burlesque comic (NOT an insult, in my book! -- think of Bert Lahr or Phil Silvers, for two of the best examples). His reaction, for example, on seeing young cowpoke William Campbell "duded up" for the first time, or his dipping his comb in a goldfish bowl to dude up for Jeanne Crain. Nor is Douglas the only wildly vital player. Claire Trevor (in a rather small role, though third billed above the title) is magnificently stagy and yet thoroughly inhabiting her role as a good-hearted madam; Jay C. Flippen really excellent as a ranch foreman, particularly good in a deadpan scene with Douglas, eating dinner while outside, unseen, Campbell and Sheb Wooley are kicking the bejesus out of one another; and, most importantly, Campbell himself (first-featured, but in what is close to a co-starring role with Douglas), very believably callow and quite endearing. On later viewings, what is most remarkable is the fluidity of the characterization of Dempsey (Douglas), who is strongly opposed to barbed wire (i.e. the enclosing of the common herding land), but, faced with Crain's ruthless grabbing of the land (with 30,000 head!) realizes that there is no other way to stop this robber baron. In the end, he has been helpful enough to the small ranchers that they offer him his own herd, and land on which to graze it. His reaction to this is poignant and true to himself: "I just don't like barbed wire." And off he goes, further north, from Wyoming, maybe, who knows?, as far as Canada. For a long time, I was not convinced by Jeanne Crain as, essentially, the film's villain. She is lovely in nice girl roles ("A Letter to Three Wives," "Centennial Summer," "Leave Her to Heaven," being three of her most charming parts), but in this she is meant to be hard and cold -- a real stretch for her. But Vidor has her play the part in a very stylized way, and ultimately I find that her stiff slinkiness is just about right for this part: she is meant to be the embodiment not of evil but, less judgmentally, of someone in mortal conflict with the welfare of the world and society that surrounds her. Interestingly, once Douglas has realized what she is (after she has bedded him simply to get what she wants), she disappears completely from the film. She doesn't even get killed -- she's just gone. A terribly interesting film, and one that bears easily many viewings. I'm glad to read that TMC is showing it with some frequency. I saw it first in Paris (several times during a short revival run) and have been lucky enough to acquire the French DVD. It's very curious that Universal has not seen fit to release this in the U.S. Certainly it's one of their best pictures, and Douglas is certainly a big enough star. But apparently no executive there has developed the necessary enthusiasm to get it released. Too bad. Once again, Europe is ahead of the U.S. in appreciation of our own cultural heritage. May I also put in a vote for another great Vidor picture, "Beyond the Forest," the Bette Davis picture that ended her years at Warner's. Oddly enough, Vidor in interviews has little respect for either of these pictures, but I find him at his very best in these "little" pictures (others being "Stella Dallas" and "The Champ"), where his "big themes" come to the fore from a distance, rather than being foregrounded (as in "The Fountainhead" or "Ruby Gentry").

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