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The Maverick Queen (1956)

Approved | | Western | 3 May 1956 (USA)
A Pinkerton detective goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of thieves whose boss is a feisty lady saloonkeeper. Complications ensue.

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Cast

Cast overview:
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Kit Banion
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Jeff Younger
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Sundance
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Lucy Lee
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Jamie
Howard Petrie ...
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The Stranger
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Leo Malone
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Sheriff Wilson
George Keymas ...
Muncie
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Loudmouth
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Pete Callaher
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McMillan
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Storyline

Kit Banion, a Virginia-born beauty and product of post-Civil War chaos, has settled in Wyoming and prospered; acquiring a fortune and a hotel, which, like the owner bears the name of "The Maverick Queen."---a title picked up by Kit in her earlier days in Wyoming when she took every unbranded steer and put her own brand on it. Love and trouble enter her life in the person of a Pinkerton detective posing as Jeff Younger, nephew of the infamous Younger brothers. He is dedicated to catching Butch Cassidy and the members of The Wild Bunch. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Hear Joni James sing.

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Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

3 May 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mi amante es un bandido  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Trucolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First picture in Naturama, Republic's widescreen process. See more »

Connections

Featured in That's Action (1977) See more »

Soundtracks

The Maverick Queen
Music by Victor Young
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Sung by Joni James
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User Reviews

 
Lacklustre characters let down plot
27 June 2002 | by (England) – See all my reviews

Perhaps the first thing to note about this film is that the Maverick Queen herself, Kit Banion - cattle trader, saloon proprietor, hand in glove with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, and the richest woman in Rock Springs - doesn't actually appear until ten to fifteen minutes into the action! Even then, we initially assume she must be a minor character; surely the lady of the title song must be Lucy Lee - sweeter, younger and far less hard-faced - the girl the hero has already rescued in the first scenes? (Mary Murphy, just two years into her career, as opposed to Barbara Stanwyck, at this point a full twenty-five years into - and almost at the end of - hers.)

But Kit soon takes charge of the situation; and she can look after herself. There is a scene which cleverly subverts the audience's expectations, in which she is attacked and her lover rides to the rescue - only, before he can arrive, she saves the situation single-handed by deliberately sending her opponent over a cliff. When her would-be saviours arrive, they find her already bruised but triumphant. And in the final gun-battle, it is she who takes an active part when her lover is wounded, forcing him to keep moving, shooting without hesitation to protect him and taking a bullet in his defence.

The outlaw gang in this film are not the usual brutal but dim-witted cannon fodder provided for the hero's benefit, either. As it turns out, they've spotted the plot twist long before the audience (or before me at least!) When the fugitives hole up in a cabin, the pursuers actually take advantage of their superior numbers to surround the cabin and force their way in - and later on, instead of obligingly shooting it out, they simply set fire to the building in order to smoke out their quarry. The hero's ruse to lead them off fools them for a while - but as soon as they see through it, they jump to the right conclusion and head back in time to foil the planned escape.

The casual amorality of the outlaws is also well depicted. Sundance's disappearance after he gets the worse of a struggle with Kit is greeted by Cassidy with no more than "Well, I guess he deserved it", and his subsequent return is accepted with an equal shrug: "Thought you were dead, but I'm glad you ain't." There is no question, for example, of the rest of the outlaws hesitating for a moment to attack when they ride up just because Kit happens to have two of their number held at gunpoint.

My main problem with this film is that none of the principal characters seem to have any real motivation for what they are doing. Jeff at least has a plot rationale for his inconsistent actions - and for why we never see beyond his surface - but neither Kit nor Sundance seem to have sufficient justification for acting clean against their own best interests. In both cases, they are presumably intended to be in the grip of an overwhelming and unreciprocated affection - but Sundance spends the entire film chasing Lucy Lee rather than the woman who has supposedly prompted him to wild jealousy, and the Maverick Queen also displays an unjustified and distinctly surprising concern towards her. After all, not only did we see Kit cold-bloodedly engineering this same girl's bankruptcy for her own profit earlier in the film, but she also has to know by this stage that Lucy is her rival for Jeff's affections!

But whether due to bad acting or a poor script, Kit doesn't really give the impression in any case of having fallen passionately enough for Jeff to make it plausible that she should give up everything for him. Kit Banion is no lovable rogue with a heart of gold; she is depicted as a ruthless and hard-headed businesswoman - albeit with a slightly unusual turn of trade - who is deliberately toying with a young newcomer in order to pay out the lover of whom she has tired. At some point this is presumably supposed to betray her into genuine affection, but for all the kissing in evidence, it somehow fails to convince - particularly when faced with Jeff's lack of response.

Lucy too remains something of a cipher. Her early appearance, when we naturally assume she is the title character, leads us to expect that she is going to have a much larger role than ultimately transpires, but in fact, that initial scene more or less sums up her entire function - to act as a (repeated) plot device so that Sundance's pursuit of her can allow Jeff to get the better of him, and to provide the token 'good woman' required as the hero's love interest. There is no convincing relationship of any kind established between her and Jeff, any more than there is between Jeff and Kit - or Kit and Sundance.

All these characters come across as masks, without little or nothing real going on behind their faces. There is quite an intelligent plot going on in the background, but I simply couldn't find it in me to care very much about what happened to any of them. That lack of engagement on the part of the audience is, I think, the fatal flaw in this film.

I gather it is a Zane Grey adaptation. The virtues of the plot - such as they are - are owed entirely, I would guess, to the source novel. Any essence of the original characters would seem to have got lost in the translation from page to screen. Given its intelligently-drawn villains, morally ambiguous title character and cleverly set-up twist, the material might have made even a great off-beat Western...I'm afraid, however, that this isn't it.






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