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One of the most underated western dramas.
mathewgarth29 March 2001
There are a handful of western films that have immersed me in the story and the characters so effectively that I never grow tired of viewing them. Even though I may have seen the film fifty times or more, I get so involved in the film that I hope that one plot element will change and the story will have a different ending. Those films are: "High Noon", "Shane", "The Shootist" and "The Gunfighter".

It was Peck's idea for Jimmy Ringo to have a mustache--to Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck's disgust. Zanuck thought that moviegoers liked to see a clean-shaven Peck. The picture was not a box office success at the time, but it ranks among the Top 10 western films of all time in my book.
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Memorable First Adult Western
jpdoherty30 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The fifties is regarded as the decade of the great classic western. For a whole ten years Hollywood was consistent at turning out the best and most mature tales set in the great American West. Gems like "Shane" "High Noon" and "The Searchers", to name just a few, were from this era. Along with the Randolph Scott/Bud Botticher collaborations and the splendid projects of such directors as John Sturges ("Escape From Fort Bravo" /"Last Train From Gun Hill") and Delmar Daves ("Broken Arrow"/"The Last Wagon"/"3 Ten To Yuma") there was also the splendid collaborative efforts of Jimmy Stewart and Anthony Mann with their remarkable contributions to the genre with "Winchester 73", "The Far Country" and "Naked Spur".

But the first picture to really start things moving on the road to producing western films with a dimension of intellect and reality was THE GUNFIGHTER. Produced by Nunnally Johnson in 1950 for 20th Century Fox this was the first time audiences would be exposed to an "adult" western. A dark downbeat story of the last days of a gunfighter (perfectly performed by Gregory Peck) told with genuine realism and honesty. Stylishly written by William Bowers and William Sellers the screenplay was based on an original story by William Bowers and Andre deToth. Sharply photographed in monochrome by the great Arthur Miller the movie was directed with a positive flair by Henry King.

Peck plays Jimmy Ringo the now world weary legendary gunfighter who after many years arrives back in town to see his estranged wife (Helen Westcott) and their small son. Hoping for a reconciliation - and with plans to start over in California - his presence in the town causes a great stir among the citizens and of course attracts all sorts of young guns out to make a "reputation" for themselves one of whom, alas, will be responsible for the doom of the protagonist in the final reel.

The picture is fleshed out with a marvellous cast. Millard Mitchell is excellent as the reformed outlaw turned Sheriff who once rode with Ringo and now wants him to leave town before trouble erupts. Good too is Skip Homeier as the brash errant young gun and Karl Malden as the amiable saloon owner. Helen Westcott gives a good performance as Ringo's wife. A well measured portrayal of a woman who still loves her husband and who promises to leave with him which ultimately can never be. Helen Westcott was an interesting actress! Very attractive with classical good looks she was born in 1928 but never distinguished herself in film and is remembered now only for THE GUNFIGHTER and possibly for her humorous turn as the Lady Diana in "The Adventures Of Don Juan" (1948) as Juan's "betrotted". After many parts in many indifferent films she became just another working actress mostly on Television. She died in 1998.

THE GUNFIGHTER stands up today as an engrossing taut and dramatic western which shows little signs of wear. But I have a problem with the omission of any kind of musical score. The great Alfred Newman composed a cracking defiant and robust main title and only gave what amounts to a coda for the closing of the picture but there is no underscoring whatsoever during the movie. And there are a couple of scenes that cry out for some scoring and would have benefited with the addition of music. For a studio that boasted one of the finest music departments in Hollywood under Newman's direction Fox were the worst offenders of sparse scoring during this period. Who knows? Perhaps it was a money saving Zanuck decision but a practice I always found to be impractical, doctrinaire and at the expense of more meaningful dramaturgy. Motion pictures are not plays which depend solely on the spoken word to connect to an audience. Film has the facility, through music, to heighten emotions, point up feelings of love and loss and to embellish triumphs and pathos. Therefore, since the possibility exists to add music to a film soundtrack to enhance dramatic impact, movies should be scored!

However, underscoring not withstanding, THE GUNFIGHTER still manages to remain one of cinema's most cherished and highly regarded westerns.
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Recommended to lovers of dramatic Westerns.
A. Judas Rimmer28 May 2000
I found every moment of this movie gripping. Now, I am a fan of the Western genre, but this one is one of my favorites along with The Oxbow Incident and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The "tough-guy who can not get away from his past/reputation" is a classic and Gregory Peck's performance has the perfect air of menace and weariness for the role. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys thoughtful and dramatic movies.
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A dark western
JB-1218 May 2000
This film was made during the peak years of "Film Noir". Although it is almost incongruous to place the western film into that genre, "The Gunfighter" comes close to meeting the criteria.

It is a deep dark western devoid of gunplay(until the conclusion)highlighted by a marvelous portrait painted by Gregory Peck as Jimmy Ringo, the gunfighter, trying to escape his past.

Ringo in his younger days was one of the "fastest guns in the west" who has survived to reach middle age. As he has matured he realizes you can't change what has happened.

Everywhere Ringo goes he is perceived as the "the fastest gun in the west" and everywhere he stops there is some young gun who wants to prove he is faster than the great Ringo. In fact when Ringo stops in a dusty town, he is being pursued by three brothers of his latest victim seeking revenge.

Ringo's arrival in this town is more than just co-incidence. We learn that the sheriff (what a performance by Millard Mitchell) used to run with the Ringo gang, the saloon singer was married to Ringo's best friend, and most importantly, Ringo's wife and son live there.

The bulk of the story is spent waiting to see if Ringo who lives by his wits as well as his guns, can survive.

The acting is uniform with Karl Malden as the saloon keeper and Skip Homeier standing alongside Peck of Mitchell for acting cudos

The script by Bill Bowers is taught and suspenseful. Henry King's in his second of 5 films with Peck(their previous collaboration was "Twelve O'Clock High") brings out the essence of a tired lonely tragic man without using any tricks(In fact there is no music except for the opening titles.

If you're looking for a shoot-em-up you won't find it here. If what you want is a top flight adult western, well pardner you've come to the right film.
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A very careful adult Western set in a believable community...
Nazi_Fighter_David22 November 1999
Is there any place, any retreat, any home of retirement, that an inevitably tiring gunman can move on to?

This predicament is best conveyed, explored and given its full tragic weight in Henry King's 'The Gunfighter.'

Ringo (Gregory Peck), wearing his reputation as the fastest gun in the south-west territories like a heavy load, enters each bar warily when he needs a quiet drink, knowing full well the reaction—fear, respect, perhaps admiration, and certainly the intervention in some form or other of a young upstart with itchy gun-fingers.

Although Ringo, guilty for previous sins, tries to refrain and to avoid the shoot-out... But he is always compelled to eliminate the worthless maladjusted gunmen, wishful for a big name...

The pattern is set early on when Peck has to shoot a boy (Richard Jaecke1) in self-defense. And so a feud begins—you feel it's only one of many—with the three brothers of the boy (Alan Hale Jr., David Clarke and John Pickard) hell-bent for revenge…

Peck deals with this situation, at least for the moment, sighs and then moves on to a place that passes for home... Here is his wife (Helen Westcott) and his son, who won't, however, be providing him with a welcome since in the eight years that husband and family have been apart the wife has been trying to build a life of their own… Here also is a sheriff (Millard Mitchell) formerly engaged in Peck's outlaw activities, but now reformed, and an old girl friend (Jean Parker) ready to he1p him in anything that concerns him most… His actual concern is reconciliation with his wife and a new life together… There is a tentative rapprochement but, of course, there is another of those young contender interventions, this time in the person of Skip Homeier…

Henry King draws up carefully the ultimate end of the 'top gun of the West.' His film is an inclination towards a classical tragedy, destined to be destroyed inevitably... Peck strikes the right note from his first edgy entry... He wants to shake off his past... He is disgusted to kill in order to survive... He is aimless for a change, sick with death and glory, showing tiredness of killing, conscious to a tragic fate one day...

Peck is superb in his brief and nervy reunion with his small son, impressed like the rest of the local kids by the fact that Jimmy Ringo, the gunfighter, is in town...

"The Gunfighter", keen and penetrating, explosive and tense, is beautifully acted, tautly directed and superbly photographed by Arthur Miller in black-and-white...
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A True Classic
shark-4328 October 2002
This underrated classic deservs to be seen by true fans of westerns - in 1950 when it came out it was one of the first that tried to get it really right - the clothes, the guns, the look, etc. Peck gives a wonderfully angry, sad performance as Ringo an old gunfighter who is dead tired of the "life" and wants to retire. Fascinating characters, great performances, tight, strong script. Seek this one out. Made before High Noon but never gets the attention it deserves.
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It's never really black or white
Matti-Man19 January 2006
THE GUNFIGHTER is the seventh western movie I've watched in the last couple of weeks in my quest to catch up with a bunch of films I've never seen that I recorded from TV. And I've made sure I've posted a review as I viewed each for the first time.

THE GUNFIGHTER is another superb western from a director not normally associated with the genre. Falling squarely between the 1940s and 1950s, I was at first uncertain at to which camp this film fell into. It has all the incidents you'd expect in a 1940s oater, but overlaid with the kind of psychology and sensibilities you'd expect in a 1950s western. In the end, I decided this is a film about contrasts.

The first contrast you notice is the visual one. The movie is shot in black and white and it seems that those were the only two tones available to director Henry King. The exteriors are bright, bleached out and hard on the eyes. The interiors are dark, cool and gloomy. There doesn't seem to be much shades of grey going on (of course, I could have been watching a bad print, but work with me, here ...)

This visual contrast is echoed by the contrasts between the characters. The first of these we see is the contrast between Peck's Jimmy Ringo and the dumb kid who challenges him in the first bar. Ringo tries to talk him round, the kid won't have it and goes for his gun. But Ringo - of course - is faster. Darwinism at work ...

The next telling contrast is between Ringo and his old compadre, Town Marshall Mark Street. While Ringo still drifts from town to town, occasionally having to show some punk who's fastest, Mark has gone respectable and settled down. Mark is a respected citizen while Ringo's presence causes mothers to call their children indoors.

Then there's the contrast between Peggy, Ringo's estranged wife, and the gossipping, prejudiced biddies of the town. Is it any coincidence that Peggy is a teacher, representing education and, by implication, civilisation?

THE GUNFIGHTER is very tightly plotted at just 85 minutes. It seems longer because of the wealth of incident it packed into its slender running time. Film makers of today could learn a lot about how to pace a story from films like this.

If it shows up on TCM or somesuch satellite/cable channel, do yourself a favour and make the effort to catch it. It's well worth your while.
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Psychological Western with an impressive Gregory Peck
Camera-Obscura14 October 2006
The Western is not my favorite genre. I've seen some of John Ford's classics and many B-Westerns. Of most I can't even remember the titles, but this one is different. It's much more a psychological study, without the grand landscapes, backgrounds or epic story lines. If John Ford's splendid cinematography is not for you, this one cuts back to the basics of human relationships, without the epic adventure many Westerns try to depict.

This film is skimmed down to an absolute minimum with Gregory Peck as Jimmy Ringo, notorious killer and the deadliest shot in the Old West. Though his appetite for bloodletting is over, Ringo is forced to stay on the run from young ambitious gunners determined to shoot him down. After killing an upstart in self-defense, he escapes to the nearby town of Caynenne. There, he hopes to convince his estranged wife (Helen Westcott) to resume their life together, but his arrival causes a sensation. With more young bucks gunning for him, Ringo's fate lies in the hands of the sheriff (Millard Mitchell), his old bandit partner.

With this film the old credo, "less is more", is evident. No great showdowns, not much action, just Gregory Peck in a great character study with carefully built-up tension. He never let me down, giving a fantastic performance, again.

Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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A Great Classic , But Hardly The First Adult Western
oldblackandwhite25 May 2012
The Gunfighter is surely one of the great classic Westerns of the late 1940's/early 1950's era. Yours truly saw it in 1950, when it was new, with my family in the local small-town theater. It made as powerful impression then as is possible on a 6-year old kid, and it gets better and better with subsequent viewings for the fading old geezer.

Tautly and skillfully directed by old studio veteran Henry King, and filmed in stark black and white, this hour and twenty-five minute picture moves along at a brisk pace with nary a wasted scene, all along building suspense while painting intense character studies. Gregory Peck, as the title's badman, and Millard Mitchell as his lawman friend, both turn in overpowering performances, with fine support coming from Jean Parker, Karl Malden, Helen Westcott, and Skip Homeier. The Gunfighter is tough, tense, poignant, gritty, authentic, dramatically engaging, and first rate in every way. The story by William Bowers and William Sellers drew an Acedmy Award nomination. The movie was well received by critics but not by the paying public for some reason. Yet it is now widely, and deservedly recognized as an all-time classic Western.

That being said and without detracting from its formidable merits, The Gunfighter was hardly the first "adult" or "mature" Western, as pundits on this forum and elsewhere keep saying. To think so, you must practically ignore most of the "A" Western pictures produced in the 1940's. Does Red River (1948) with its tough, brutal, overbearing antihero and its grand epic story seem to you to have been made for children? No, and neither were any of the "A" Westerns of the same era. "Adult" can't mean sexual situations here, because there was no hanky-panky in The Gunfighter. But there was a plenty in Duel In The Sun (1946), Peck's first Western and a text book example of the way Old Hollywood movie makers knew how to steam your eye glasses without really showing much! And if show and tell is required, get a load of Marlene Dietrich's outfit in the opening scene of The Spoilers (1942). Some very immature types think "mature" means displaying a nihilistic attitude. If that's you, check out Lust For Gold (1949 -- see my review). You can wallow in its angst and love it! But that wasn't the attitude The Gunfighter had anyway. If "mature" requires a dark, brooding, doom-laden, noir-type story, take a gander at early Robert Mitchum opus Pursued (1947), or Ramrod (1947). Are we talking a concentration on character development, adult, even sexual situations, complex dramatic development, try Canyon Passage (1946), Whispering Smith (1948 -- see my review), or The Sea Of Grass (1947 -- see my review). Below is a partial list of others embodying more or less the same "mature", "adult" approaches to the Western genre.

Yellow Sky (1948), Abilene Town (1947), Station West (1948), Honky Tonk (1941), Silver River (1948), Barbary Coast (1935), Cimarron (1931), Dakota (1945 -- see my review), San Antonio (1945 -- see my review), California (1946 -- see my review), My Darling Clementine (1946), Flame Of Barbary Coast (1945), Blood On The Moon (1948), Colorado Territory (1948), and of course Stagecoach (1939). And many others.

The Gunfighter was following an established tradition, not setting a new one. But it is a fine example. A true classic from the waning days of Old Hollywood's Golden Era! In a few years, they wouldn't be able to make 'em like this one any more.
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Addendum on the Gunfighter
frontrowkid20023 January 2009
The Gunfighter established the trend for mature Hollywood westerns by having the hero be a mature gunfighter who wants to retire in peace, not in pieces. The movie created the line which has been parodied since "everywhere I go, some young punk wants to try me." Using Richard Jaeckle and Skip Homier as the young wanna-be gunfighters was a classic piece of casting, since both of them went on to play similar parts in westerns, although not together. One piece of trivia about this film was that Harry Cohn at Columbia originally had bought the script with the intent of having John Wayne play the lead. Wayne,by now, was a major star, producing his own films. Wayne wanted to do the role, but didn't want to do it at Columbia. As a young actor, he had been treated badly by Cohn who humiliated him after his disastrous first lead in "The Big Trail." Wayne told Cohn in so many words what he could do with his script. The script was then sold to Twentieth Century Fox. Wayne did play a similar role in his final picture, "The Shootist."
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"What it's like to every moment face his death"
tmwest27 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The most important moment of this film is the one Bob Dylan mentions in his song "Brownsville Girl" when a dying Gregory Peck asks his killer to be freed. "Turn him loose, let him go, let him say he outdrew me fair and square,I want him to feel what it's like to every moment face his death." That is the destiny of a notorious gunfighter like Jimmie Ringo (Peck) and as he is getting old and tired it gets worse. Westerns were not taken very seriously when "The Gunfighter" came out, the critics loved it, the public not so much, it is not an easy film to see because it is tragic, oppressive, somber. But it is a great film which becomes better as it gets older. It also inspired another great western "High Noon". It is curious that when I first saw it what bothered me was the end, I could not accept that the killer would go free, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Jimmie Ringo knew what he was talking about.
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Sophocles And Sundance
writers_reign6 April 2005
Over a span of exactly 10 (1949 - 1959) years journeyman director Henry King shot five films starring Gregory Peck; two of them, The Snows Of Kilimanjaro and The Bravados were pretty ho-hum whilst the last one, Beloved Infidel with Peck as Scott Fitzgerald (King's next and final film was Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night)was woefully underrated and has still to find its audience. The first two, shot back to back, 12 O'Clock High and this one remain the pick of the bunch, two early and excellent studies of psychological stress. The Gunfighter is shot through with the air of inexorability that has been with us since Euripedes, Aeschylus and Sophocles were writing out of Athens in the 5th century BC. You are what you do; you can't reform and hope the Gods will forget your past. Take one false step and you've sealed your own fate. It's hard to think of an actor who, at the time (1950) could have conveyed an essentially decent killer (Alan Ladd of course did something very similar three years later in Shane but Ladd somehow lacked Peck's gravitas) so perfectly. Woefully underrated as an actor Peck was right on top of his game here, as he was in 12 O'Clock High and if they even considered 85 minute movies for Oscars then his Jimmy Ringo may well have preceded his Atticus Finch statuette-wise. William Bowers provided a very literate screenplay and snatches of dialogue have remained with me for years: an arrogant young punk (Richard Jaeckel) remarks to his barber-shop cronies that Ringo doesn't look so fast to him, 'I bet I'm faster than him', to which a friend replies drily 'if you're not can I have your saddle'; and Karl Malden's loquacious bartender, full of reminiscence of earlier encounters with Ringo 'I used to serve you and Bucky Harris all the time', to which Peck replies, equally drily, 'did we ever get a drink?'. Millard Mitchell was in both movies (12 O'Clock High and Gunfighter) and here he plays outlaw-turned-marshall Strett and serves as an illustration for what Peck's Ringo MIGHT have become if the Gods didn't have it in for him. We cover a lot of ground in 85 minutes whilst perversely seeming to have all the time in the world with King allowing his camera to linger on two-shots. Helen Westcott doesn't have much to do as Mrs Ringo but she lends just the right air of respectability that makes it hard for us to picture Ringo as a cold-blooded killer. As other posters have pointed out for a Western there's not all that much gun-play or even fistfights yet it towers over other Westerns that are packed with action. A real treasure.
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Great Western far above average!!!!
davnimm195618 November 2002
Many viewers may not expect this little known tale to grab their attention, but that,s exactly what it does. There are no spectacular gunfights, cavalry vs indians or raucous barroom brawls. It is quite simply a character study of a haunted man trying to exchange his reputation for a simple quiet existence far from his reputation. I suggest you watch this movie without outside interuptions. Don,t over analyze it,just accept it for what it is. Damn good storytelling.
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2 out of 5 action rating
scheelj121 July 2012
See it – This is easily one of Gregory Peck's best movies, let alone best westerns. Let me set the mood for you. It's the story of a famous gunfighter who drifts from town to town, not looking for any trouble. But eventually some cocky young buck will try to see if he can "take him", and when the young buck gets himself shot, the gunfighter is run out of town. But he's tired of running, and there's one last stop he needs to make. Only this town is different…are you feeling the vibe yet? Alright, I'll stop. This is one of those tragic psychological westerns that doesn't have many showdowns, but the tension just builds and builds until the ending you know is coming still hits you upside the head. It won't score very high on the action scale, but this must-see classic was an early pioneer for dozens of similar westerns that would soon follow.
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A Good "Bad" Guy
bebop63-120 May 2011
I chanced upon the DVD of this movie at the local library and decided to check it out, as having already previously watched Peck in other Westerns like "The Bravados", "The Big Country" & "Mackenna's Gold". In all these films, he appears to me to be playing the same kind of role - a reserved character whose behavior is atypical to those around him which manages to garner him unwelcome attention. Here in "The Gunfighter", he plays Jimmie Ringo - a tribute to the Johnny Ringo character, perhaps? - a dead-hand gunslinger with 15 kills to his credit (or discredit, whichever way you look at it), who wishes to put the past behind him and to be left alone and start a life anew in peaceful obscurity, but is hounded everywhere by would-be wannabe Billy the Kids who are vying for the "honor" and "distinction" of having shot him. Reminds me of the movie "The Shootist" starring John Wayne, which has basically an identical plot. Technically speaking, Ringo is an outlaw to be feared by the general public, yet one can't help but take sides with him and empathize with his situation. Serendipity takes him to a town where the Marshal turns out to be his ex-compatriot in crime and the bartender knows him from elsewhere but feels nothing but admiration for his past exploits and both do everything they can to help him, much to the dismay and annoyance of the townspeople especially the Ladies Committee made up of self-righteous biddies.

I understand that this movie did not do too well at the box office but great films are not necessarily big money-earners, and vice-versa. This is one Western which is, like the roles Gregory Peck plays in films of such genre, is atypical in that the emphasis is more on the study of central character and his inner self rather than his deeds. The only flaw I found was the lack of a proper movie score especially for some of the more tense scenes like the confrontation with the 3 cowboys, which would have highlighted the moments. Otherwise, a great film in my opinion.
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The Gunfighter: Like the Greatest of Westerns
imagiking9 May 2011
It was only about ten years ago, as a little kid, that I would turn on my television early in the morning, be greeted with a western, and rush to the remote to turn it off as quickly as possible. Westerns? Pfft. Boring old stories of cowboys and Indians. It's funny how much we change. Last week, I got up early just to catch the first western of the day.

A legend of the west, Jimmy Ringo is said to be better than them all, the fastest hand there ever was. Approached in just about every little town he arrives in by some kid out to make a name for himself, Ringo is tired of the heroism of the gunfighter. Pursued by the brothers of one such kid whom he was forced to kill, he decides to return to the family who would much rather forget him.

It is almost a rite of passage for kids in the modern age to grow up regarding westerns as boring old films meant only for grandparents. Indeed, this was a view I more or less maintained up to six months or so ago, Unforgiven the only western I had ever sat through. It was not until an academic approach to the genre began to peel away the predisposition that I began to appreciate the potential intricacies of the western film and the ways in which the conventions could be played with and subverted in order to create something truly great. Considering that, The Gunfighter is just what the doctor ordered. The traditional image of the western gives us a sweeping epic with horses galloping across plains, or the classic showdown on the main street with eyes appearing above the saloon door. This is none of those, the very vast majority of the film spent in a single location, Ringo biding his time at the bar while he waits to hear from his wife, if she will acquiesce to his request to see her. There is no grandiosity to Ringo the gunfighter; he is a tired old man, world-weary and deeply regretful of how he has spent his life. As the town's children pile against the window to catch a glimpse at him, he recedes further into a state of depressed resignation that this is his legacy, that this is the legend he will leave behind. The interactions between Ringo and Mark, his old friend and the now sheriff of Cayenne, are a strong part of the film's comment upon western lore. Mark is in many ways the antithesis to Ringo: he has evaded the appellation of gunfighter, escaped the same doomed fate as Ringo, and made a new life for himself of use to society and, crucially, to Ringo's family. He has all that Ringo desires and yet can never achieve. Like the greatest of westerns, The Gunfighter deconstructs the genre, reducing it to its fundamentals and criticising them for their flaws. Ringo is no role model, no heroic figure to be admired, no future for a young man to aspire to. Violence and bloodshed are not things to be admired, and the distinctly anticlimactic and entirely unromantic ending to the film confirms this.

Saying a lot about the myth of romanticism and heroism in the figure of the titular character, The Gunfighter continues the tradition of the revisionist western by reevaluating the genre's key aspects and displaying their disharmony with reality. Boasting a fantastically muted performance from Peck, and a sadly inevitable fate for his character, this is further proof of just how wrong I was about westerns.
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For the gunfighter, there's always someone waiting to kill him…
RJBurke19421 May 2007
Leaving aside the opening shots of Jimmy Ringo (Peck) riding through the New Mexico landscape while the credits roll, there's not a wasted scene or word in this great classic western.

For eighty-five minutes or so, the viewer is treated to some of the best dialog, cinematography and editing of that era, together with a truly suspenseful story as Ringo – reputedly the fastest gun in the west -- stops at a small town called Cayenne to find his estranged wife and to see his young son. Hot on his trail are three determined brothers of young Eddie (Richard Jaeckel) whom Ringo had been forced to shoot the day before in another town.

Ringo thinks he's got a good lead on those brothers because he'd left them in the desert with no horses. They, however, got some fresh horses and guns from a helpful rancher and were closing in on Ringo a lot quicker than he thought...

Complicating the situation for Ringo even more is the presence of an old man who wants to revenge the murder of his son killed by Ringo – or so the old man thinks. Unknown to Ringo, the old man waits across from the saloon, hiding, his rifle ready for when Ringo steps through the saloon door onto the dusty street.

But the real wild card is Hunt Bromley (Skip Homeier), a young tough who thinks he's fast on the draw and wants to prove it to all the townsfolk. And, he'll go to any lengths to do it.

Which all means that the local Marshall, Mark Strett (Millard Mitchell), has his work cut out to make sure that Ringo gets out of town as soon as possible and alive. Why? Well, he and Ringo are old buddies – long ago, they both rode together until Strett decided to go straight while Ringo carried on as the gunfighter. Strett doesn't want to see his old buddy die, so for old times sake, Strett will help Ringo see his wife and son and get him out of town also. Strett makes all the necessary arrangements with his deputies and thinks all is going okay...

Then those three brothers arrive, ready for a killing...

This is a superb narrative, the action moves quickly, and the suspense builds as Ringo paces around, waiting to see his wife and boy, and as a succession of people come to the saloon for various reasons. Amongst all this tension there is an astounding piece of comedy between Ringo, Strett and some of the town's womenfolk that has to be seen and heard to be appreciated fully.

The casting for this film is generally excellent, although Helen Westcott as Ringo's wife wasn't the best choice, in my opinion. Peck is as good as he usually is – solid, dour, tough as nails. But the best actor in this one, for me, is Millard Mitchell as 'the toughest man' of them all, to use Ringo's own words from the story. Kudos also go to Henry King again, who always seemed to direct Peck so well in quite a number of movies, including The Bravados (1958), Beloved Infidel (1959), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) and others.

Like Shane (1953), a few years later, The Gunfighter ranks as one of the great westerns that traces the tragedy of the lone gunfighter who's trying to change with the changing times but, for them, time is always running out too quickly...

Highly recommended.
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One of Gregory Peck's finest performances.....
doghouse-817 April 2001
Other than "To Kill a Mockingbird", I have not considered Gregory Peck to be a great actor. Having only seen him in films like "Roman Holiday","The Man in the Gray-Flannel Suit" and "Spellbound" I always thought his acting style was a little on the stiff side.

However, and this is a big however........I have now seen both "The Gunfighter" and "Twelve-O-Clock High" (he made them in succession) and realize that he can be sensational in the right part.

His portrayal of Jimmy Ringo was so wonderful, especially at the end, I have completely changed my opinion regarding his acting ability. I also thought that Millard Mitchell (the Marshal) was excellent. The final scenes of this movie were absolutely riveting........which is not always the case with westerns. I was also not surprised to find out later that this script was nominated for an Academy Award. I would watch this movie again just for the dialogue.
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Guns N' Roses
RJC-9917 July 2006
Meet the western, deglamorized: gunslinging makes you feel guilty, your ex is a prudish school teacher too hung up on your trail of corpses to see you, the town where you've decamped is filled with half-witted bums, puritans, celebrity-gazers and a most unlikely marshal, and somewhere on your trail are three brothers of the dead smart ass who drew on you in the last town. Jesus, do you need a whiskey.

No ordinary genre film, "The Gunfighter" (1950) is both a hugely satisfying entertainment and a conventional studio film with surprising depths. The surprise comes from the nature of the western in the mid-century where, with few exceptions, the black-and-white morality plays are as plain as the gunfire. Not so here, where we get the treat of seeing Gregory Peck play an antihero who has stepped far outside of conventional morality and now wants readmission, even though the bloodstains won't wash out. Welcome to Ambiguiety Gulch.

It's tempting to say that "Gunfighter" looks forward to the spaghetti western, especially in its themes of alienation and social revulsion. Frankly, though, it feels less like a western and more like a film noir. The feeling of claustrophobia is always near, whether in Peck's fear of another violent summons or in subplots involving the closeted desires of various townspeople to kill him (one gritty sequence in a boarding room is more unsettling than anything in Hawks or Ford). Surfaces are untrustworthy, motivations questionable, psychological derangement hovers in the wings, the "law" is both more and less than it appears, and as characters make startling pacts with their bloody pasts you can almost sense the triumphalism of the post-war years turning to anxiety and dread.
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I want you to see what it means to live like a big tough gun.
Spikeopath28 March 2008
Aging gunfighter Jimmy Ringo is feeling his age, he is tired of looking over his shoulder and just wants to get to a nearby town to be reunited with his son. Before he sets off on his journey he is partaking in a drink at a saloon, a hot young tough guy picks a fight with him purely because of his reputation. Despite repeated attempts for someone to calm the youth down, Ringo is forced to kill the kid after being drawn upon first, all the patrons in the bar agree that Ringo had no choice in the matter, but he is advised to leave town quickly because the kid has three older brothers who will not care who drew first. Ringo sets off to find his son knowing that his past, along with the stricken kid's gunslinging brothers, are catching him up.

Downbeat and downright grim in texture, The Gunfighter is a very polished piece boasting a wonderful turn from its leading man. There are a number of highly thought of psychological westerns that focus on the tough nature of the west, rather than the fanciful guns a blazing actioners that one time dominated the genre, but few look and impact as hard as this one does. Gregory Peck is excellent as Ringo, perfectly grizzled and worn, but gigantic enough in stature to make him still a fearsome figure. That Peck is able to smoothly shift gears for a number of scenes is often taken for granted, be it showing tenderness with his boy in one scene or exuding stoic machismo when facing down bad guys in another, there's smart acting layers being revealed by the big man.

Elsewhere Millard Mitchell is terrific as Marshal Mark Strett and Karl Malden adds some lively characterisation as bartender Mac. Henry King does a great job of directing, as he keeps it tight and never lets the pace veer to a place the story doesn't call for. Arthur Miller's cinematography is tonally perfect in its high contrast starkness, framing the sadness of the main character to great effect, while William Bowers' story doesn't cop out at the end by painting the outcome with a sugar coated brush. Sombre and one of the forerunners of the psychological western genre splinter, this is one of the better films of its type on the market. 9/10
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Hellhounds On My Trail
krorie3 October 2005
Of all the westerns cranked out by the Hollywood film factory over the years only a few have become classics. This is possibly the best one of them all, much better than such highly touted items as John Ford's "The Searchers." And Gregory Peck plays the gunfighter to perfection. Peck was such a creative and brilliant actor, one wonders why he was so under appreciated. "The Gunfighter" gives Peck his best movie role, even better than his marvelous Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Almost matching Gregory Peck is a stellar cast with stand out performances by Karl Malden, Millard Mitchell, Jean Parker, and Helen Westcott. Of special note are the characterizations by Skip Homeier as the wannabe gunfighter, sort of a carbon copy of Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) when he was wet behind the ears, and Richard Jaeckel who makes the most of his brief part.

What really makes this movie shine is Henry King's direction. When the movie opens, we see the gunfighter riding across the prairie as if pursued by the devil. One is reminded of the blues classic by Robert Johnson, "Hellhounds On My Trail." It is obvious that the gunfighter is running away from something hellish but it is soon revealed that he is also riding toward something, a lost dream, a life that could have been had he followed a different trail. The gunfighter thinks he can still grasp this life, that it is not too late. But deep in his psyche he knows it will never be. He holds on to the dream but is satisfied just to see his wife and little boy one last time, for the hounds of Hell are about to catch up with him.
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Peck is Superb.
JohnWelles12 February 2010
"The Gunfighter" (1950), directed by Henry King and starring Gregory Peck as an ageing gunfighter trying to shake off his past, is a near masterpiece. It predates "High Noon"'s (1952) clock-watching by a good two years and Peck is surprisingly mature as Jimmy Ringo. The supporting cast is mostly fine, and while there aren't many action scenes, they are well done enough. Most of the time, the film concentrates on Ringo and his character, which is slowly revealed through long, but interesting, dialogue scenes. This is what sets it apart from the rest: The subtle characterisation of of Jimmy until he becomes flesh and blood. Peck is uniformly superb as him. If it wasn't for that performance and screenplay that allowed him to give it, the film would be known only to a few B-movie Western buffs. The ending, which in some-ways is anti-climatic, is still the ideal one.
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The Cult Of The Gunfighter
FightingWesterner7 August 2009
The Gunfighter is the first of it's kind, a western themed drama about a man with a lifetime of regrets wanting to make a change for the better, only to find his destiny written in stone.

It's well crafted with superior performances, cinematography, and direction. The script is an intelligent, dramatic masterpiece that says a lot about man's capacity to change.

Probably one of the saddest moments was when Jimmy Ringo shares a drink at the bar next to the young upstart farmer with a wife and son, a look into what might have been for Ringo if weren't so arrogant in his youth. It sort of drove the point home that Ringo was really a nobody who everyone mistook for being an important man and the anonymous farmer was the one with real dignity and class.

The writers attempt to demystify the cult of the gunfighter in part by showing the toll it takes on him and also by showing the foolish behavior of the townsfolk who like to gawk. Then again, if the movie weren't for our curiosity about bad men like the gunfighter, would we bother to watch?
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A superb , adult and almost classic Western with rich characterisation of Peck's notorious gunslinger Johnny Ringo
ma-cortes20 December 2018
A serious-mature , humourless Hollywood Western with thought-provoking character studio about an aging pistolero searching for peace and quiet but unable to avoid his reputation and the duel-challenges it invites . As Ringo (Gregory Peck in a character originally sought by John Wayne) attempting and inevitably failing run away from his past . In the Southwest of the 1880 , the difference between death and glory was often but a fraction of a second . This was the speed that made champions of Wyatt Earp , Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok . But the fastest man with a gun who ever lived , by many contemporary accounts , was a long , lean , Texan named Ringo. A man pursued by nasty gunfighters sneering ¨He doesn't look so tough to me¨. Riding into the small town where the spouse and child he abandoned are living incognito , he insists on waiting in the saloon in the hope that she will agree to see him . Meanwhile, indignant rustling from the good ladies of the town serve notice that an outlaw is unwelcome and with assorted grudge-bearers already assembling , along with the aforesaid fast-draw gunslingers , there is clearly no future for Ringo . His only friends were his guns and his refuge was a woman's heart , Peggy Walsh (Helen Westcott).

Very good and pleasant classic Western with magnificent direction and flawlessly acted by Gregory Peck who steals the show as a peaceful gunfighter who learns that he has become no better than those he hunted . A Hollywood production full of interesting characters , shootouts and intense drama . It gives a profound observance of the unities , as clock-watching as obsessively as ¨High Noon¨, it is an altogether tougher , bleaker film and a groundbreaker in its day . Peck is nice as a man just about over the hill, haunted by the dead weight of his reputation , holding a fear of loneliness , the certainly of dying at the hands of some fast-draw punks . Studio executives at 20th Century Fox are said to have blamed the film's indifference box-office on the fact that Peck wore moustache . It's an exciting western with breathtaking showdown between the protagonist Gregory Peck against proud contenders , as two gun-happy cutthroats : Richard Jaeckel and Skip Homeier . It carries an enjoyable feeling of authenticity for a Western of this period and there are nice supporting characters from Millard Mitchell , Jean Parker , Karl Malden , Skip Homeier , Ellen Corby , Richard Jaeckel , among others . In the film premiere didn't attain success , nowadays is well valued and I think it turns out to be a good classic Western. The picture is fleshed out with a marvelous cast as Gregory Peck who is excellent as a good father turned gunfighter . Helen Wescott gives a good performance as Ringo's former wife , she does a well measured portrayal of a woman who still loves her previous sweetheart and who promises to leave with him which ultimately can never be . Nice too is Skip Homeier as the brash young gun , and Millard Mitchell as the amiable Sheriff . Richard Jaeckel , at a brief acting , as a cruelly baddie role , an angry young is also terrific . Stylishly written by prestigious by André De Toth , William Sellers and uncredited : Roger Corman , Nunnally Johnson , the screenplay was based on an original story by William Bowers . The movie was directed with a positive flair by Henry King . There are many fine technicians and nice assistants as Lyle Wheeler , Thomas Little and Walter Scott in charge of Art Direction and Set Direction respectively . Good production design creating an excellent scenario with luminous outdoors, adequate interiors , saloon and fine sets . The musician Alfred Newman composes a nice soundtrack and well conducted ; it's full of agreeable sounds, and a haunting musical leitmotif . Sharply photographed with striking cinematography by Arthur Miller in black and white with negative well processed .

This one is a dark downbeat story of a gunfighter perfectly performed by Gregory Peck told with genuine realism and honesty , being one of Henry King's best films . Henry King 's direction is well crafted , here he's more thought-provoking and broody and more inclined toward a deep seriousness , and a fateful sense of fate , it is a movie that has the genuine dimension of a Greek tragedy . Henry King was an expert on compelling Adventure/Western genre . Henry King directed other classic Western as ¨ Jesse James(1939)¨and ¨The Bravados (1958)¨ with Peck again . Koster was specialist on Adventure genre as proved in ¨Untamed , Captain King , Captain of Castilla , Black Swan , Stanley and Livingstone ¨and many others . Rating : Better than average . Worthwhile watching .
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Peck at his best
elgee3 November 1999
This is a good Movie. Filmed in black and white and well directed by Henry King, The Gunfighter gives more than a glimpse of the difficulties ageing gunslingers face when they try to return to mainstream society. As always Gregory peck gives a stirring performance as the frustrated Jimmy Ringo warding off up and coming young men with ideas of making a name for themselves, and in the process attempting to reunite with his family. The much under-rated Millard Mitchell, playing Sherrif Mark Stent, gives Peck some fine support as his former partner and now the local town custodian and, as the movie progresses we get to enjoy Millard's character, a likable guy trying to do his best for his friend and his family. So much so, we are suprised at the end of the film when we see a dark side of his make up emerge when he smashes his boot into the face of Hunt Bromley, played by the resident bad guy of the era, Skip Homeier. The only small criticism of the Movie is, there could have been a little more action revolving around Peck's character, rather then seeing him spend most of his time in the bar and back room of the Town Hotel while waiting to see his wife and son. We do see bits of what we are supposed to see from a man of his reputation, but I would have liked to see just how good Jimmy Ringo really was. Made in the fifties, in a time it seems when all good Westerns were made, I found The Gunfighter to be an enjoyable, thoughtful Movie, not quite in the Classic mould such as The Searchers and Shane, but one I look forward to seeing again.
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