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The workers on the railroad haven't been paid in months --- that's because Whitey and his gang, including fast-shooting, dangerous, but likeable Utica Kid, keep holding up the train for its payroll. Grant McLaine, a former railroad employee who was fired in disgrace, is recruited to take the payroll through under cover. A young boy and a shoebox figure into the plot when Whitey's gang tries to hold up the train and Grant and the Kid meet again to settle an old score. Written by
Workmanlike western with a good cast that gets better in the second half
The workers on the railroad are threatening to stop work and slow down the progress across the country because they haven't been getting paid. Every time the payroll is brought in it is stolen by Whitey Harbin and his gang. Thinking that nobody would suspect him, the bosses ask ex-employee Grant McLaine to carry the money on the next train. However when the train gets robbed anyway, Grant loses the money and is forced to set out after Whitey to rescue a boy, the boss' wife and the money bringing him into a fight with the infamous Utica Kid.
I was drawn to this film by the names in the cast list, which was a good thing because it were these names that made the film better than they were by virtue of their performances. The actual plot is quite plodding in the first half but gets better in the second half. Even with this stronger half though it is still not a great western that could possibly compare to Stewart's better films. The musical numbers, dances and gentle set up of the first half almost had be losing interest and it is only the twists and gun fights of the final 30 minutes that make it memorable and worth seeing. Even then it is not without other flaws characters are a problem. If you are able to understand the Utica Kid as a person then you are doing better than I did in fact the film even lost it's first choice director because he was unable to understand the character's personality or motivation. The rest of the characters are pretty much as you'd expect loyal girls, evil villains, cute kids etc, although they are made better by the delivery.
Stewart is always watchable and he carries the film well here. He is not a great singer but he does OK with the songs given him but his greater input is in delivering a tough character who is not all pure goodness but has a bit of a past to him. Murphy is cool and slick but he isn't a great actor and he isn't able to make the slightly irrational Utica Kid work as a person. Duryea overacts to good effect but gets forgotten by the film near the end, while support is OK from Stewart, Foster, De Wilde and Jack Elam.
Overall this is nothing special but it is still quite enjoyable. The number of well known names in the cast prevent me from calling it a B-movie but essentially that's what it could have been if not for the stars. The plot is deadly slow for the first half but has a good, fast-paced final 30 minutes that make up for it. The actors (in particular James Stewart) lift the film and make it feel better and it is fun if pretty unmemorable.
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