When Alan Ladd and his partners bring their cattle from Texas to Missouri, local cattle buyer Anthony Caruso cheats the men and treats them like he's doing them a favor in the process! Ladd, however, doesn't fight--having a live and let live attitude.
Ladd travels to a nearby town and is treated pretty poorly by the locals since he's a Southerner and the Civil War just ended. However, he stumbles into a relationship with Edmond O'Brien--an alcoholic who has a long history of screwing up his life. Ladd is able to help this new friend find a sense of direction and clean up his life, as they both hit on a scheme to build a town in Kansas that will make cattle drives closer AND they won't need to deal with Caruso. Of course, Caruso made it a habit of playing evil jerks in Westerns during the 50s, so it's pretty certain that he won't just sit back and watch as this new cattle town is created. And when he does behave in a naughty fashion, guess who's the guy to bring justice to this new town?
The film is helped by two excellent leads--Ladd and O'Brien. While story elements are often quite familiar here (the tough boss, the hero that is slow to act, John Qualen with his Swede routine, etc.), the film is handled well and is enjoyable throughout.
It's interesting that in this film O'Brien plays an alcoholic (a pretty familiar role for him actually, as he played this type character in several films) but in reality Alan Ladd was destroying himself with alcohol. He looks pretty lean in the film, but in subsequent films he became puffy and sometimes slurred his lines. It's really sad to see when you are a fan--fortunately, there isn't much evidence of this decline in THE BIG LAND.
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