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Ben Matthews gives up the flashy life of a riverboat gambler, hoping to settle down in Galena with his girlfriend, luscious entertainer Zoe. But Galena's leading citizen is murdered on the boat; Ben, on arrival, finds a lynch mob after his neck, and flees. Three years of wandering later, Zoe's letters stop coming and Ben returns to find her and attempt the hopeless task of clearing himself. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Rawhide Years is directed by Rudolph Maté and adapted from the Norman A. Fox novel by Earl Felton, Robert Presnell Jr. & D.D. Beauchamp. It stars Tony Curtis, Colleen Miller, William Demarest, Arthur Kennedy, William Gargan & Peter Van Eyck. It's a Technicolor production with photography by Irving Glassberg and the music is scored by Frank Skinner & Hans J. Salter.
Plot finds Curtis as Ben Matthews, a riverboat card player who along with his elder partner, Carrico (Donald Randolph), cheat unsuspecting players. But during one particular sting on The Montana Queen, Ben is found out by an observer, Minor Watson (Matt Comfort), who quietly pulls Ben aside to let him know he has been rumbled and that he has destroyed the life of one of the older players. This gives Ben an attack of consciousness who fixes the next game so that Matt can win enough money to pay the old fella back. After breaking the partnership with Carrico, Ben has a meeting with Matt who offers him a job back on his ranch in Galena. It's food for thought but later that night Matt is murdered and Ben and Carrico are chief suspects. Forced to go on the run as Ben Martin, he finds work but eventually feels he can't sit still in one place and he hooks up with shifty guide Rick Harper (Kennedy), for he knows at some point he must get back to Galena to solve the murder, clear his name and win back his true love, Zoe Fontaine (Miller).
Little known, probably forgotten and rarely seen, is this fun, entertaining but formulaic Western in the cannon of Tony Curtis. Running at just under an hour and half, Maté (D.O.A.) and his team make sure they fill out the picture with as many Western movie staples as they can. Only thing missing here is Indians, tho we do get a cigar store wooden Indian that's the Macguffin of the piece. The story is a safe one to execute, with its murder mystery core, romantic strands and shifty villains waiting to be knocked down a peg or two, it is never less than interesting. It also looks very nice in Technicolor, especially when the film goes off stage and out into Lone Pine, California, where Glassberg (Backlash) uses the backdrop to great effect. There's also a trio of pleasing songs to enjoy, "The Gypsy With Fire In His Shoes", "Happy Go Lucky" and "Give Me Your Love".
The cast, perhaps unsurprisingly for a B Western, is a very mixed bag. Curtis is very unconvincing as a cowboy type, but he's very handsome here and his character is one that's easy to get on side with as he seeks to achieve his goals. Curtis is aided by Kennedy (Where the River Bends), who is playing the material the way it should be played (with tongue in cheek and glint in the eye), they form a nice double act and Kennedy shines as the lovable rogue type. Miller sadly is very poor and her scenes with Curtis lack spark or conviction, while Van Eyck is just wooden as the chief villain. Demarest (The Jolson Story) is his usual reliable and stoic self, while the bonus turn comes from William Gargan (They Knew What They Wanted) who does a nice line in officialdom as Marshal Sommers. All told it's a more than adequate time filler for fans of Curtis and light entertainment Westerns. From gunfights to fisticuffs, to horseback pursuits, there's enough here to offset some of the ham and cheese formula that comes with such a production. 6.5/10
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