Heading the cast is the always reliable Gregory Peck as the authoritative no-nonsense leader of an outlaw gang of misfits who arrive in the ghost town of Yellow Sky after robbing a bank and making their escape from a cavalry troop across the sun-parched salt flats of Death Valley ("let them go - saves us hanging them"). Here they encounter an old prospector (James Barton) and his granddaughter (Anne Baxter). The gang on learning they have gold stashed away devise a plan to take it from them culminating in a tense shootout between members of the gang and Peck, who by this time, has taken sides with the old man and the girl.
Performances are superb from all concerned. Peck gives one of his usual stalwart portrayals. Richard Widmark, in his first western is superb as the slimy, crafty double crosser. Also excellent is John Russell as the womanizing gang member ("Now ma'am, you wouldn't shoot a fine young handsome fella like me, would ye?"). Good too is Henry Morgan, the young Robert Arthur and especially Charles Kemper as the overweight member of the group trying to trade his canteen full of whiskey for a mouthful of water while crossing the desert and not getting any takers.(Peck giving Kemper's horse some water instead declares "a horse is a useful animal - no point in having it suffer because its owner is a Jackass"). The picture is also notable for an excellent cavalry chase near the opening of the movie, the remarkable trek across the salt flats (a tough time for the actors no doubt just like the characters they were playing) and the cavorting of Peck and Baxter in a corral at night which when viewed today must seem a tad steamy for 1949. Unforgivable however is the omission of a musical score of any kind which was a batty policy of Fox during this period, particularly regarding westerns. Alfred Newman reuses his standard Fox western Main Title music, which he originally composed in 1940 for "Brigham Young", and the same for the ending. But there are some scenes in YELLOW SKY that are just crying out for some music especially those for the salt flats sequence and the night stalking scene near the end where a lack of tension is quite evident.
However YELLOW SKY is still an imaginative classic thriller of a western that rewards repeated viewings and should be in every western collection. ANOTHER FOX WINNER!