|Index||10 reviews in total|
Fred MacMurray starred in a number of interesting color westerns in the
1950's. In this film, 3 brothers come face to face with violence,
cowardice and personality conflicts. MacMurray , with his laconic sense
of irony, shines in this film.
Jeffrey Hunter has the key role of the the young brother. Hunter was a great actor, who is best remembered to day for his role in The Searchers. He performs well in this one and is a good match for this interesting role.
This movie is only slightly above average, being aided by two fine actors at the top of their game. Worth a look for that alone ........
Gun for a Coward is directed by Abner Biberman and written by R. Wright
Campbell. It stars Fred MacMurray, Jeffrey Hunter, Janice Rule, Chill
Wills, Dean Stockwell and Josephine Hutchinson. Out of Universal
International Pictures, film is a CinemaScope production in Eastman
Color, with photography by George Robinson and music by Joseph
Three brothers must contend with big personal differences whilst also trying to see off a band of cattle rustlers who are pillaging from their herd.
But you don't cover me with your shadow.
So many good things involved with this production it feels unfair to label it as dull, but dull is ultimately how it ends up being after film has run its course. The cast assembled is a strong one, the dialogue is sharp and well written, and the location photography out of Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is most pleasing. Prolific Western scorer Gershenson also produces a highly effective score, very reflective of the characters' stuttering emotions. But with a running time of almost 90 minutes the makers have over stretched the family feud premise by having too many periods of story inactivity. Biggest problem of all is that the coward of the title, Bless' (Hunter) back story is never fully formed, adding little snippets here and there doesn't do it justice. For instance: it's only late in the day that we find his reputation is tarnished outside of his family, the whole damn town are down on him. A better director than jobber for hire Biberman would surely have got more from this tortured character axis.
Stockwell and Hunter are not the best of actors all told, but they fit right into the roles of two brothers made of different stuff. Stockwell does a good turn as the young and fearless one, and Hunter as the middle brother of the three effectively conveys the psychological pangs that sting him during the plot. The elder brother is played by MacMurray, who offers up a weary surrogate father performance for this fatherless family. It's the death of the father that is the catalyst for Hunter's problems. While Hutchinson adds a bit of class as the fretful mother and Wills is always good value for money. Rule gets the short straw from the screenplay, in what is a critical (two fold) role, she isn't asked to do anything other than look pretty and say soothing words to tortured Bless. The action is competently constructed, though the art of throwing a convincing punch is sadly missing here. And the ending, whilst being predictable (no shades of the far superior Saddle the Wind here), has enough warmth about it for those not in need of blackness in their Western viewings.
By definition it is very much a B movie in the truest sense of the term, but there is good in the production, even if it is undone by slackness elsewhere. 5.5/10
I read most of the reviews here, but saw the movie anyway because I
like Westerns and Janice Rule, and I especially enjoyed two other Fred
MacMurray Westerns, "Good Day For a Hanging" and "Face of a Fugitive."
The latter is a classic in my opinion.
Most of the movie was worthy -- the stars, production values, general story outline, dialog. It held my attention. But, I have to agree with most of the reviews here: there were long, boring, repetitious stretches. There were too many indoor talky scenes. The cattle drive scenes seemed small, cramped and cheap. There were hardly any scenes involving action, excitement or suspense.
My biggest complaint is that the movie consisted mainly of repeated boring scenes where Jeffrey Hunter's character declined to fight (with fists or guns) his adversaries. Some branded him a coward for this, but the way the scenes were structured, it seemed to me like a smart move to avoid meaningless, risky fights.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You have to admit: not much promise here. A Universal Studios cheapo
production with a cartoon title -- "Gun For A Coward" -- that sounds
like a prêt à cuire Audie Murphy number. John Larch, always a likable
actor, as a bearded nasty. Directed by Abner Biberman, probably best
known for his role as a slimy Wog in "Gunga Din." Wait. Can I take that
back? I don't mean "Wog", of course; I mean Oriental gentleman.
The whole line up suggests a crude moral tale in which a brave man, highly skilled with a six shooter, tries to hang up his guns and pretend to be a preacher or a farmer but must finally prove to the townspeople that he's a REAL MAN by killing someone. And nobody has any trouble telling who's good and who's bad because the good guys are all sympathetic and clean, while the bad guys wear black and are impolite.
Fortunately, it's a bit better than that. There is one fist fight that reduces the saloon to shambles but little in the way of gunplay. Instead, the script focuses on the disparate temperaments of three brothers who run the Keogh Ranch -- perfectionist Fred MacMurray, peace-loving Jeffrey Hunter, and temerarious Dean Stockwell -- plus a rivalry between MacMurray and Hunter over Janice Rule. There's a good bit of tension and some grown-up dialog in the script. Also, a couple of clunkers in the romantic scenes. As director, Biberman does a professional job, only occasionally lapsing into absurd clichés: when two men are about to draw on each other, they spread their arms like penguins in ecstatic display.
I'd like to be able to say the same for the performances but none really stands out. MacMurray hits his spots, says his lines, and projects his emotions like a bird dog on point. Hunter is handsome, brown as a Brazil nut, and adequate. Janice Rule, whom I've always considered one of the most beautiful actresses, and sexy too, of her period fails to rise above medium-rare. Dean Stockwell, as the willful youngster, is another performer I've always rather liked, though he's not at his best here. He was my supporting player in the superb "Blue Velvet", when he was a little nervous at taking the role of the surreal, gaudy, homosexual sadist, but I helped the kid over the rough spots. "Just relax!", I shouted at him, "Be yourself," and managed to duck the swing he took at me.
Overall, not a bad flick. Or, at any rate, an improvement over what you might expect from the title.
A mother and her three sons run a cattle ranch. At the same time, two
of the brothers compete over the same girl, though one of the brothers
Drama heavy western. Good thing that Universal went out and got some of the better young actors of the day which helps. Then too, there's Fred MacMurray, also a fine actor, but miscast as a 50-year old bother to both a 30-year old Hunter and Dean Stockwell at just 20 . At the same time, the supposed mother of the brood, Hutchinson, is only 5-years older than MacMurray and it shows. Too bad the screenplay couldn't make Will (MacMurray) the dad, but I guess that would have ruined the romance setup with the young Aud (Rule).
Anyway, the acting is good which helps the talky narrative go down, along with the excellent Technicolor photography. The movie's biggest problem, however, is the generally slow pacing that at times drags out the talky scenes long after we've gotten the idea. A brisker pace would have made the story more condensed and riveting. The elements of a good story are there. Is Bless (Hunter) a pacifist or a coward. People come to believe the latter. But if he's to win Aud and a share of the ranch he's got to show he can handle the challenges. But not in the hot-headed way of his younger brother Hade (Stockwell).
Note in the supporting cast the presence of the great Bob Steele who enlivened many a sagebrush matinée in his day. I hope he picked up a good paycheck. All in all, it's a decent western, a little heavy on the dramatics, but with a number of compensations.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This western from 1957 was the second of two westerns that were shown
on Sunday as part of channel 5USAs weekly western matinée, it was just
another boring Sunday afternoon so I sat down to watch it,the storyline
is like this, the Keough brothers, Bless(JEFFREY HUNTER),Will(FRED
MACMURRAY)and Hade(DEAN STOCKWELL)run their dead father's ranch along
with their mother.Bless,the middle child, has always had a fear of
fighting, getting hurt and Rattlesnakes ever since he failed to prevent
his father being killed by a Rattlesnake as a young boy. The boy's
mother favours Bless over his two brothers and insists on treating him
like a child, despite Will's attempts to turn him into a man, the
mother wants to move to St Louis and take Bless with her, but she soon
dies and Bless decides to remain on the ranch with his brothers. The
brothers then begin a Cattle drive and Hade, the youngest boy becomes
irritated with Bless' soft attitude on the trail but things soon come
to a head after Hade is killed in a shootout with some rustler and
Bless rides away from the trouble, Will and the other cowhands blame
him for Hade's death and label him a coward, does Bless still have the
chance to prove he is a man...
GUN FOR A COWARD is an alright western, but Universal have done a lot better, as far as westerns are concerned it's just above average, although it could have and should have been much better. It's a bit too story driven and feels like more of a moral drama than a western, there's too much boring dialogue and corny romantic scenes and too little action. Though there are a couple of impressive action sequences, the Cattle stampede and shootout with the rustlers was fantastic and superbly shot and the Saloon fight at the end between Bless and Will was excellent but could have been done a little better. The camera-work was magnificent,especially the shots of the Cattle moving across the plains, but the version I watched on TV was 1:33:1 full screen and this made various parts of the film appear washed out looking and faded which was a little disappointing, if you ever want to watch the film then watch it on another channel in it's original 2:35:1 cinemascope format as channel 5 have a reputation for widening their films. I did love the storyline and the premise about a man trying his hardest to prove himself, the film also have a towering, strong moral to it which was a huge bonus as I myself can relate to this. The film was brilliantly scripted and I particularly liked the way it ended, SPOILER ALERT, Bless finally proves himself by beating Will in a fight and then gets to lead a posse out against the rustlers.
GUN FOR A COWARD is certainly not a terrible film, it's a plausible and entertaining effort but just gets bogged down in too much dialogue and mushy scenes. The film's script, moral and cinematography build it up and make it worth watching and with a couple of exciting action scenes thrown it really isn't that bad, it's the perfect type of movie for a dull, quiet afternoon and I would be bold enough to say that it's worthy of a DVD release(a-hem Pegasus!).Overall, it's not the best western ever made, but it's far from the worst.7/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like westerns with a strong psychological component, along with some
action. That is what this film delivers. The theme throughout is
brother Bless's apparent cowardice or attempt to diffuse potentially
explosive situations by peaceful means. Bless(Jeffrey Hunter) is much
like Gregory Peck's character in "The Big Country", released the
following year. Bless's mother takes up for him when others criticize
him. Nonetheless, she wants him to move to St. Louis with her. She's
tired of all the hassles involved in ranching. Audrey, brother Will's
girlfriend, also takes up for him, saying he just has a different
attitude than the others. Even older brother Will sometimes takes up
The most blatant example of cowardice is when a rattlesnake is near a reclining brother Hade. Will tells him to shoot it. He tries, but his gun shakes in his hand, and he gives up, so that Will has to shoot it. Later, brother Hade and cowhand Stringer make a fake rattlesnake tethered by a string, with a dried gourd as a rattle. this is put on Bless's chest while sleeping. He jumps in a panic when he awakens, and shoots the fake snake. Later, we discover that he had a traumatic experience with a rattlesnake when a boy. It bit his father, who died, and he ran away. Another example: brother Hade chose to stay in a spot during a shootout with rustlers, with stampeding steers all around. Bless moved to a safer place, but Hade didn't follow him, and got shot dead. He was criticized for not staying with his brother, even if it was more dangerous. Another example: Cowhand Stringer was sore because Bless checked out the details of his property, which was about to be foreclosed. Stringer wanted to fight, because he saw the brothers as taking advantage of him. However, Bless and Hade finally convinced him that they were doing him a favor in buying his land. Still another example: he tried to calm a potentially explosive situation involving Hade in a saloon.
Some reviewers claim there is too much talk and not enough action. However, I cite the following examples of action.1)Will shooting the threatening rattlesnake 2)Will's encounter with the squatter nesters, shooting one. 3) The explosive situation in the saloon, where one man is shot 4)Bless riding a bucking bronco 5)Rustlers stampede their cattle, including several rustlers and Hade shot dead. 6)Stringer and Bless fight, followed by Will shooting Stringer.7)Will and Bless fight. The last 2 actions constitute the climax of the film. I won't reveal the subsequent ending.
Janice Rule plays the main romantic interest for both Will and Bless. She was beautiful and had a lot of charisma as an 'all American' girl. She has to make up her mind whether she wants to marry an older, well established, man(Will)or an age mate who is still uncertain of his calling(Bless).
Chill Wills was also present much of the time, as an old timer, with much wisdom. I believe that Fred MacMurray, as Will, should have been cast as the father, rather than an older brother. Although Fred still looked young at 49, he was only 5 years younger than Josephine Hutchinson, who played his mother, and 28 years older than Dean Stockwell, who played his kid brother.
This film is available cheaply as a DVD in a set of 8 westerns.
This is one rather unusual western with themes explored that are not
normally reserved for western films. Gun For A Coward did come out in
the Fifties the decade when the western finally did become adult.
Fred MacMurray, Jeffrey Hunter, and Dean Stockwell are the Kehoe Brothers who have the local Ponderosa spread courtesy of their father. Unlike the Cartwrights the Kehoes still have their mother Josephine Hutchinson still living with them.
MacMurray is the older and most sensible brother and he's in charge of the place. The youngest is Dean Stockwell who's a hotheaded kid. It's the middle brother Jeffrey Hunter. He's the one that mom kind of reserved for her own. The frontier life isn't for him, she wants him to go east possibly take up the law as a profession.
Hunter as per mom's raising always tries to talk his way out of all situations. That doesn't always work and older brother MacMurray is forever trying to both explain him and figure him out and younger brother Stockwell is impatient with his pacifism. Is Hunter really the coward of the family?
Some of the situations that normally come up with Ponderosa owners who are the good guys come up in this film. It's how they're dealt with and the attitudes expressed that are what makes Gun For A Coward a different kind of western.
One I think you'll enjoy.
This very enjoyable and rather surprising Universal western form 1957 has 5 terrific actors and a very good script. Even Fred MacMurray was good, but Chill Wills as the 'greek chorus' to Jeffrey Hunter's ethical dilemmas is an entertaining standout. However it is Jeffrey Hunter and Dean Stockwell's movie. Stockwell, just 20 and Hunter just 30 are magnetic in their conflicted brotherly dramas. A bit of pre-Psycho mother smothering sets the tone for some emotional blackmail by Mama who gratefully drops dead by reel 2. Then we get on with the girlfriend dilemma and the worry between two of brothers. It is all beautifully realized by Janice Rule, gorgeous and well cast as Audrey, the love interest that fractures brotherly love after the cattle stampede. I loved the music score and appreciated the production values. It is a good western, unusual and edited to just the right length.
The "western" movies are usually about solitary cowboys trying to find (or sometimes loose?) themselves. Brave, fearless men of little words who shed their failure to adjust and an ethics of their own on the screen. In two words, solitary heroes. But this film is maybe, just maybe, about a little more than that. It's about many things, possibly. About the beginning of one of those heroes (the older brother's destiny, at the end?) and about another kind of failure to adjust, the middle brother's one. And it gives us a hint of how everything starts: inside the family. Good acting, not so brilliant direction (but who needs one, when the contents and the dialogs are superb?). A final word to compliment the work of the actors in the 3 main roles (Will, Bless and Aud). And hey, how can John Ford's The Searchers be any better than this movie? Not in a million years.
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