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Rancho Notorious (1952)

Approved | | Western | 12 May 1952 (UK)
After the murder of his fiancée, a Wyoming ranch hand sets out to find her killer.


Fritz Lang


Daniel Taradash (screenplay), Silvia Richards (original story)


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Complete credited cast:
Marlene Dietrich ... Altar Keane
Arthur Kennedy ... Vern Haskell
Mel Ferrer ... Frenchy Fairmont
Gloria Henry ... Beth Forbes
William Frawley ... Baldy Gunder
Lisa Ferraday ... Maxine
John Raven John Raven ... Chuck-a-Luck Dealer
Jack Elam ... Mort Geary
George Reeves ... Wilson
Frank Ferguson ... Preacher
Francis McDonald ... Harbin
Dan Seymour ... Comanche Paul
John Kellogg ... Jeff Factor
Rodd Redwing ... Rio (as Rodric Redwing)


A western based on the story "Gunsight Whitman" by Silvia Richards. Vern Haskell, a nice rancher, seeks out to avenge his fiancé's death when she is killed during a robbery. His revenge leads him to Chuck-a-luck, Altar Keane's ranch set up to hide criminals, and he finds more than he bargains for. Written by Andre'a M. Thompson <athompso@ziggy.st.hmc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She runs the West's strangest hideout... a ranch where a guest can hide his crime... quench his thirst... betray a woman... and knife a man in the back... for a price! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

12 May 1952 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Chuck-a-Luck See more »


Box Office


$900,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


According to contemporary articles in Daily Variety, Twentieth Century-Fox was to be the original distributor for this film. When cash-strapped Fidelity Pictures (the production company) learned that the film would not be released, nor paid for, until mid-1952, they backed out of the deal and sold the film to RKO, hoping for a faster return on their $900,000 ($8.9M in 2018) investment in the project. See more »


Ken Darby is given screen credit for the music and lyrics to "Gypsy Davey". In reality, "Gypsy Davey" is a folk song from the Scottish/Irish tradition that dates back to the 18th century. See more »


[first lines]
Vern Haskell: [after the opening title song ends with the line, "the old, old story of hate, murder, and revenge," breaking away from a kiss] There's nothing like that to make a man feel agreeable.
Beth Forbes: Especially in the middle of the day. Why'd you come in town?
Vern Haskell: To kiss you.
See more »


Referenced in Contempt (1963) See more »


Legend of Chuck-A-Luck
Music and Lyrics by Ken Darby
Ballad Sung by Bill Lee (as William Lee)
See more »

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User Reviews

Thrilling Western of murder , hate and revenge ; being compellingly directed by the great maestro Fritz Lang
14 September 2016 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

In Wyoming , when his sweetheart is murdered , then an embittered cowboy (Arthur Kennedy who was playing a young man , he was actually three years older than Mel Ferrer) hunting enemies and on the trail of his fiancee's murderer . First with a posse, then by himself , to an outlaw hideout ranch called Chuck-a-Luck (it means a gambling game commonly played in saloons in the Southwest) . As he arrives in Rancho Notorious and the main question is the following : to guess the killer in the mansion . Then , he falls for a dance girl , Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich who sings some songs in his usual style) , ranch owner that is a refuge for thieves and she posing as an upright rancher and horse seller . In the ranch there is a motley group of bandits (Frank Ferguson , William Frawley , Francis McDonald , Jack Elam and George Reeves with a scar on his cheek) led by Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer) who scheme to rob a bank in Clay Springs city .

This traditional Western contains drama , thrills , rousing action , frontier adventure , shootouts , and exuberant outdoors , though including matte painting images . This vintage epic Western turns out to be a throughly entertaining picture that will appeal to Western fans . It is an interesting flick in which an initial murder triggering off a tale of hatred , vengeance and a triangular love . A ¨period¨ sample'of 50s westerns , but different to common themes . Fine acting and a lot of duels , shots and killings . Medium budget Western for all those who love moody , thoughtful westerns . This is a very good Western by Fritz Lang , he made three , there's only one better than this , and that's ¨The return of Frank James¨ . Good performances for all-star-cast . Nice acting by Marlene Dietrich at her slinkiest , in fact Rancho Notorious is a must for Marlene fans . As Arthur Kennedy as a ranch hand called Vern Haskell who pursues the killers his girlfriend, following the trail to an outlaw's roost . Kennedy holds his twisted expression to great effect as the relentless cowboy hunting a hidden killer . Acceptable Mel Ferrer as Frenchy Fairmont , an outlaw really enamored to Altar and who defends his love .

The film displays a brilliant cinematography in rich Technicolor by expert cameraman Hal Mohr who had previously photographed Marlene Dietrich in Arizona (1939) . In addition , attractive and evocative musical score by Ken Darby , Emil Newman and uncredited Hugo Friedhofer and Arthur Lange ; including some catching western songs . The motion picture produced by Howard Welsch and RKO was tight as well as seethingly directed by Fritz Lang with great enthusiasm and in his particular style . This was Lang's third Western , following his favorite ¨The return of Frank James¨ with Henry Fonda and ¨Western Union¨ , a Darryl F Zanuck's 20th Century Fox production about construction of the glamorous ¨Western Union¨ route from Omaha , Nebraska , to Salt Lake City , Utah with Robert Young and Dean Jagger . The German Fritz showed himself a master of the most American of genres . As Lang directed masterfully all kind of genres as Noir cinema as ¨Big heat¨ , ¨Scarlet Street¨ and ¨Beyond a reasonable doubt¨ , Epic as ¨Nibelungs¨, suspense as ¨Secret beyond the door¨ , ¨Clash by night¨ and Lang's trilogy about Nazi time as ¨Cloak and dagger¨, ¨Man hunt¨ and ¨Hangmen also die¨, and of course , Sci-Fi with the classic ¨Metropolis¨. Rating Rancho Notorious : Better than average . Well worth watching .

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