Wanted outlaw Bill Longley and Jim join forces to retrieve money stolen from Wells Fargo. Another outlaw working with Longley tricks Hardie into having the $5,000 reward available to steal and then steals Longley's girl with the money.
Jim Hardie is in Fork City near the Texas border at the Wells Fargo office with the local agent when a young man, Jess Evans, enters the office asking if the $5,000 reward for Bill Longley is valid and available that night. He says he can provide Longley but needs the money immediately. The agent says he would have to wire for it but under pressure Hardie promises it will be available. In a few minutes he returns with Bill Longley tied up on horseback. Upon entering the Wells Fargo office and seeing the cash on the desk, Longley unties his hands as Jess holds a gun on the agent and Hardie. Evans knocks Hardie out before they take off leaving him feeling very foolish. After they are out of town Evans steals all the money and runs off Longley's horse saying he has plans for Longley's girlfriend Marge. Hardie on their trail finds Longley's horse followed by Longley. They decide to work together to recover the money and Marge but Hardie can't be sure of the outlaw. Written by
Steve McQueen pours on the charm as outlaw Bill Longley
"Tales of Wells Fargo" had a number of episodes centered around famous outlaws and often got future stars to play the roles. Chuck Connors played Sam Bass, Robert Vaughn played Billy the Kid and in this episode, Steve McQueen plays Texas outlaw Bill Longley, just a few months before the premiere of his own western series, "Wanted: Dead or Alive." McQueen's star power is clearly in evidence and the director of this episode responds by giving him lots of closeups and allowing McQueen to engage in the smiles, smirks, shrugs and assorted facial and body gestures making up the charm that would help him achieve stardom in such movies as THE BLOB (premiering later that year), THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, HELL IS FOR HEROES, THE GREAT ESCAPE, LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER, and THE CINCINNATI KID in just a few short years.
When the episode opens, Longley is a wanted outlaw and Wells Fargo agent Jim Hardie (Dale Robertson) is visiting an office in Texas when a strange young man named Jess (Steve Rowland) comes in and offers to deliver Longley to Hardie that evening if he can have the $5000 reward ready. It's all a ruse by Longley and Jess to steal the $5000, fetch Longley's girl, Marge (Jacqueline Holt), and high-tail it over the Mexican border. Jess winds up getting the drop on Longley, taking all the money and heading to pick up Marge himself, leaving the outlaw alone without horse or gun. Hardie picks up their trail and reaches Longley, who offers to guide him to the hideaway where Jess and the gang are holed up, going so far as to agree to give up the money and give himself up in return for a lenient sentence. Hardie can't promise the latter, but he'll put in a good word for Bill if everything goes according to plan. So it all depends on whether Hardie is right to place his trust in Bill or not.
When they catch up to Jess & co., there's a great barroom shootout where Hardie does some fast-draw work that looks forward to Clint Eastwood's gun prowess in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. At some point, however, disaster strikes and Hardie's fate is in Bill's hands. Is Bill a man of his word or not? It's quite an enjoyable and suspenseful episode and gives us a chance to admire the early work and blossoming charisma of an actor who became one of the most popular movie stars of the 1960s.
I watched this episode on the Encore Western Channel, which airs two episodes of "Tales of Wells Fargo" back-to-back every weekday afternoon.
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