Gil Kyle finds himself caught up in the politics and unrest of the American Civil War and soon gets himself framed for a murder. His only alibi is Candace Bronson, who is aiding the Confederate cause and has left the territory to deliver a vital message about a Yankee gold shipment. So he sets off in pursuit, running into desperados, government agents, and guerrilla fighters, who are more interested in profit than ideals.Written by
For a modest western, The Redhead & The Cowboy manages to rise above its station (so to speak) and become something much better : part character study (and an excellent one at that), part mystery, it's maybe a bit too densely plotted for the kind of film it is, and yet it rises above its slightly sluggish pace, especially early on, and once its story gains a head of steam one wants very much to know what the late radio commentator Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story", which is to say the payoff.
Set in the Far West during the American Civil War, the film's story is indeed connected to that bloody conflict, mostly tangentially or inferentially; and yet it's there all the same, and all the time. One can never forget that there's a war "back east"; and the loyalties of the sympathies of many of the characters in the movie factor in its final outcome. Yet's easy for the viewer to forget such issues, and what drives the film. Gold figures into the narrative, as does, more prominently the guilt or innocence of its main character, well played by Glenn Ford.
As its story develops, the film begins to feel more like a western as it moves forward; as bit by bit there are more action scenes, more vistas; and also more twists and turns in the story itself. By its (roughly speaking) third and final act, while there are still unanswered questions, and some uncertainty as to who the good guy really is,--though casting helps in this--the movie is clearly heading toward what's starting to feel like a slam-bang ending. Western fans should be satisfied by the way the movie ends, even as the resolution is, alas, bittersweet.
Solid work all-round from director Leslie Fenton and such gifted players as not only Glenn Ford, Rhonda Fleming, Morris Ankrum, Alan Reed and, in a pivotal role, Edmond O'Brien, who's first rate and manages to stay very much in character for the entire length of the film. For me, his playing is smooth and low key for the kind of actor O'Brien was; and he gives the best and most memorable performance in the film.
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