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George C. Scott,
Trish Van Devere
A TCF western means it's well produced on a bigger budget than most oaters. On the whole, it's a good movie, a little slow and talky, but then the story's a strong one. I like the way we follow Lat's (Murray) climb up the economic and social ladder. He's a 19th century entrepreneur, starting out with very little but with some good moneymaking ideas for becoming a rancher. Still, he needs start-up money, which he gets from dance hall girl Callie (Remick), who he romances.
With money in hand, he embarks on becoming a success, along with buddy Tom (Whitman). The trouble is that success causes him to lose some perspective, and he starts looking down his nose at Callie and Tom, and romancing society girl Joyce (Owens). Thus his challenge is not only in confronting bad guy Jehu (Egan), but in recognizing the moral debts he owes to those folks who helped him along the way. Thus, the story is more rewardingly complex than with most westerns.
Murray's boyish charm reminds me of a young Jimmy Stewart, and wisely the script doesn't require him to be the toughest guy in town. The movie also looks like an effort at promoting him into a studio star since he gets a lot of screen time on top of a strong supporting cast that ranges from a poignant Remick to the always commanding Dekker. There's also some of the most compelling scenery this side of the Happy Hunting Grounds (too bad IMDb doesn't credit the locations!). On the whole, it's a good western if you don't mind a lot of talk along with some good action, especially the dramatic lynching scene.
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