A cattle baron takes in an orphaned boy and raises him, causing his own son to resent the boy. As they get older the resentment festers into hatred, and eventually the real son frames his stepbrother for fathering an illegitimate child that is actually his, seeing it as an opportunity to get his half-brother out of the way so he can have his father's empire all to himself.Written by
Joanne Dru couldn't stand to be around horses, yet she is best known for her work in westerns. See more »
I got a story to tell - a yarn about cow country, cow punchers and men. I was workin' for the Strobie Ranch, a trade of worn leather and saddle blisters and brandin' irons. A trade with some song, some fun and some luck. It was as good a job as a man could ask for. Lonely sometimes and cold - so much distance you'd have thought you'd never get back - but for me, a young kid, it was a fine time. Memories are mostly good. You're up on top of the world where the air is clean and thin ...
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I didn't read many westerns growing up, but more devoted readers of the genre spoke well of writer Luke Short, on whose novel this film is based (screenplay by Irving Ravetch). Another reviewer points out that Short was a city boy who didn't know the west, but the movie is full of cattle ranching and driving lore (more than the otherwise superior Red River).
Above all the story has an impressively complicated plot--lots of moving pieces, with a large cast of characters variously related. A nice surprise was the voice-over narration by a somewhat marginal character who is nonetheless present at many crucial scenes. Add an outstanding cast: Burt's always a convincing action stalwart; Robert Walker plays just the kind of attractive weasel that people fool themselves into believing; John Ireland brings an air of implacable menace to the heavy; Joanne Dru and Sally Forrest make you want them to be on screen more often.
The limits of the film's running time squeeze the women out from fuller development especially at the end, but their issues drive the plot with surprisingly adult themes: Dru's character raises questions about what the Old West did about divorce, and Forrest's character Lily finds a way to raise her illegitimate child even while her no-good brothers make trouble.
The direction of the cattle drives against spectacular outdoor scenery and some good riding scenes are the film's best testimony for director Richard Thorpe. Otherwise the direction seems by-the-book, and the story concludes in a gun showdown that violates what we've learned of the characters involved. Other reviewers are correct that MGM's bland production values prevail. But within those limits, the various parts of the plot worked together well, and the excellent acting added depth and urgency.
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