In the 1880s Jason McCord travels the country trying to prove he's no coward. He needs to do this because the military career of this West point graduate came to an end when he was thrown out of the army after being accused of cowardice.
Twenty-five years ago the Lavery baby was kidnapped. Bad guy Leffingwell gets Choya to impersonate the son to gain the Lavery estate. When he finally fesses up to his "sister" Ruth she is furious. To redeem himself he sets out to find the real son.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on January 28, 1952 with Mona Freeman reprising her film role. See more »
When Alan Ladd's character is washing up (takes his shirt off to reveal the fake birthmark) after riding the unbroken horse, he uses a faucet from a modern pressurized water system rather than a period hand pump. See more »
So what do they call you?
Choya. It is a name I have heard. Not too often. Not with the biggest reputation. Small things with a gun.
Big enough that the Rangers want to do a little hanging.
Me they wish to hang a thousand times.
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It is almost pity that Alan Ladd made such a lasting impact in "Shane." Certainly "Shane" is his best, but so closely is he identified with the role that many of his other worthy efforts have been undeservedly overlooked.
"Branded" is a case in point. As a western it may not pique everyone's interest, but as a morality play (as most good westerns are), it is an interesting study in personal identity, lost and found.
Ladd plays one of his patented icy gunmen, this time a small-time bandit named "Choya" who "lives by his wits" but is reaching the age where he "figures his luck's running out." He becomes involved in a scheme to bilk a wealthy cattle rancher by posing as the long lost son who was kidnapped by bandits some 25 years earlier. All goes well until he arrives at the Lavery ranch only to meet a loving, trusting family which welcomes him with open arms. It is the kind of love and warmth he has never known and, for the first time in his life, begins to question his motives. Resolving that he cannot go through with the sham, he sets out to find the real son and return him to the family.
The film is a good showcase for Ladd, one of the '40s and early 50s decades' most bankable stars. He appears in almost every scene and dominates it without deliberately bringing attention to himself. But equal credit must go to the supporting players who attack their roles with vigor and enthusiasm. Charles Bickford (who never, it seems, gave a bad performance) dignifies the proceedings with his presence as Lavery, the firm but fair cattle baron. Robert Keith is scornful as Leffingwell, a weasel of a man who knows his limitations but who also knows how to survive through cunning and maleficence. Joseph Calleia excels as Rubriz, the notorious Mexican bandit and the true son's adoptive father, whose character is not entirely reprehensible and whose own plight is worthy of our sympathy. And Mona Freeman is fine as the rancher's naïve but pretty daughter. She looks just angelic enough to lend credibility to Choya's reformation.
In terms of plot and presentation, "Branded" recalls the excellent silent films of William S. Hart whose westerns strove for authenticity and were the first to explore serious adult themes (unlike the formulaic Saturday matinée fare). All the ingredients are there: from the good-badman's colorful nickname to the young woman whose wide-eyed innocence leads him to question his unprincipled ways to the conflict between protagonist and adversary that eventually morphs into mutual respect. The action, primarily provided by a lengthy chase, is plentiful while the gunplay is minimal, serving only to advance the plot.
Directed by one-time cinematographer Rudolph Mate, "Branded" is a beautiful film its colorful, sweeping Arizona landscapes and wide open spaces. Mate made a number of pictures in the '50s, most of them genre-types such as "DOA" (film noir), "The Prince who was a Thief" (adventure), and "When Worlds Collide" (fantasy). Though few became bona-fide classics, all are highly entertaining and a joy to watch. "Branded" is one of his best.
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