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Showdown at Abilene (1956)

Approved | | Romance, Western | October 1956 (USA)
After the Civil War, Confederate Jim Trask returns to his native Abilene to find his sweetheart engaged to his old friend Dave Mosely who's leading the cattlemen in a feud against the farmers.


Charles F. Haas (as Charles Haas)


Berne Giler (screenplay), Clarence Upson Young (story)


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Complete credited cast:
Jock Mahoney ... Jim Trask
Martha Hyer ... Peggy Bigelow
Lyle Bettger ... Dave Mosely
David Janssen ... Verne Ward
Grant Williams ... Chip Tomlin
Ted de Corsia ... Dan Claudius
Harry Harvey ... Ross Bigelow (as Harry Harvey Sr.)
Dayton Lummis Dayton Lummis ... Jack Bedford
Richard H. Cutting ... Nelson
Robert Anderson ... Sprague (as Robert G. Anderson)
John Maxwell ... Frank Scovie
Lane Bradford ... Loop


Jim Trask, former sheriff of Abilene, returns to the town after fighting for the Confederacy to find everyone thought he was dead. His old friend Dave Mosely is now engaged to Trask's former sweetheart and is one of the cattlemen increasingly feuding with the original farmers. Trask is persuaded to take up as sheriff again but there is something about the death of Mosely's brother in the Civil War that is haunting him. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


THE BLAZING STORY OF THE GREAT ABILENE RANGE WAR! (original print ad - all caps)


Romance | Western


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

October 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Gun Shy See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In a 2007 interview, director Charles Haas talked about helping Jock Mahoney, the star of this film, not be upstaged by a young David Janssen, whose gifts he recognized. "In a picture at Universal [Showdown at Abilene], I had David Janssen. I had him with [Jock Mahoney], who . . . was basically a stuntman. Stunts were easy for him, but as an actor he lacked a certain energy. So I couldn't afford to have David Janssen as his assistant, but he was under contract at Universal, and I had to [use] him. So I had him leaning against a door in every scene. He never understood why. The reason was, if I hadn't had him leaning against a door in every scene that he was in, he would've outdone [Mahoney], who was the star." See more »


Verne Ward: You know the trouble with this business is it makes a man old before his time. You know I never did hear of a sheriff living to be a ripe old age, did you?
Jim Trask: Sure. Ed Murdock. They didn't shoot him until he was 38.
Verne Ward: Probably lied about his age.
See more »


Remade as Gunfight in Abilene (1967) See more »

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User Reviews

An action-packed , decent Western set in Abilene in which the events crackle with intrigue , fights , and shootouts
17 July 2019 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Pleasing , concerned Western with plenty of suspense , tension , thrills , exciting situations and some action ; regarding the blazing story of the great Abilene range war . Acceptable and attractive Western with a simple , standard story with a certain intrigue that engages the viewer until the last scene when there takes place the denouement by a moving final . Thrilling and stirring story set when the Civil War is over, dealing with a Jim Trask (Jock Mahoney) , former sheriff of Abilene, goes back to his town accompanied by another soldier called Chip Tomlin (Grant Williams) after fighting for the Confederacy to find everyone thought he was dead . His old friend Dave Mosely (Lyle Bettger) is now engaged to Trask's prior girlfriend (Martha Hyer) and is one of the powerful cattlemen increasingly feuding with the original farmers. Then , Trask is appointed sheriff of Abilene . He is a tough ,reckless sheriff with no guns and with his own hands he has to keep law and order . There is a strong confrontation between settlers and cattlemen all around the movie . Things go wrong when Mosley is leading the cattlemen in a feud against the farmers . As our two-fisted marshal without his Six-Shooter has to contend with farmers and cattlemen , both of them working up to a range war .

Entertaining Western , standing out a fine main and support cast , including action , thrills , fights , shoot'em up and a peculiar triangular love story among Jock Mahoney-Martha Hyer-Lyle Bettger . The story is plain and simple , a strong confrontation with a twisted intrigue behind , as a sheriff faces off enemies alone and being abandoned to his fate by the gutless townspeople . An agreeable and slight tale , almost rudimentary , though full of cliches , as the script lines too often settle for crude routine ; however , packing some surprises . Bursting with appealing , charming characters, including adequate filmmaking and interpretation . The picture gets action Western , shootouts , a love story and being quite entertaining . It's a medium budget film with good actors , technicians, production values and pleasing results . The film is totally set in Abilene (Kansas) which was the first of the major railhead cattle towns . From 1867 to 1872 it was a booming depot , shipping some one million Texas Longhorns by railroad to Kansas City and Chicago and meat markets in the East . The place was selected as a terminus for Texas cattle drives in 1867 . Then the long drives began from Texas over the Chisholm trail . At trail's end in Abilene the rowdy,free-spending cowboys attracted saloon keepers, gamblers , brothels and all types of frontier riff-raff , the town became notorious for its lawlessness . Gunmen were hired for a time to keep the peace in Abilene . With the numerous presence of homesteaders the town prospered , stabilized and grew , its lawabiding citizens decided to discourage the troublesome cattle trade with his transient cowboys and early requested the Texas cattlemen to drive their herds elsewhere , which they soon did and Abilene's role as a wild cow town came to an abrupt ending. . The final stand-off results to be tense , charged and riveting . As the desolation and bleakness of this town stands in contrast to the heroism starred by the brave sheriff .

The narration is perfectly adjusted , from the beginning , until the final showdown and being approximately developed in appropriate runtime : 90 min . Jock Mahoney makes a pretty good sheriff of Abilene planning to vanquish the villain cattlemen . Mahoney played a number of Westerns , some of them directed by Charle F. Haas . Mahoney was basically a stuntman , stunts were easy for him, but as an actor he lacked a certain energy . This is a suspenseful as well as intriguing film in which Jock Mahoney plays decently an ex-confederate rides into town and he suffers threats , intimidation , violence by the nasty Ted De Corsia . Not very-known actor Jock Mahoney was a decent player who had a passable career . When World War II broke out, he enlisted as a Marine fighter pilot and instructor. In Hollywood, he was a noted stunt man, doubling for Errol Flynn, John Wayne, and Gregory Peck. Gene Autry signed him for the lead in his 78-episode The Range Rider (1951) TV series. He tested to replace Johnny Weissmuller, as Tarzan but lost out to Lex Barker. In 1960, he played the heavy in Gordon Scott's Tarzan the magnificent (1960), and his part there led Sy Weintraub to hire him as Scott's replacement. In his two Tarzan movies, he did all his own stunts. As he played Tarzan goes to India and Tarzan's three challenges Tarzan (1963), he continued working in spite of dysentery, dengue fever and pneumonia. By this time, Weintraub was looking for a younger Tarzan, envisioning a future TV series. By mutual agreement, his contract with Mahoney was dissolved. After a couple of years regaining his strength and weight, Jock returned to making action films .There are excellent acting from some Hollywood's best support players , including prestigious secondaries such as Lyle Bettger as an ambitious cattle tycoon , Grant Williams of The incredible shrinking man , the usual villainous Ted de Corsia , Richard Cutting , Chuck Hayward , Robert Anderson , and David Janssen of The fugitive .

It contains colorful and brilliant cinematography in Universal International Picture style by cameraman Irving Glassberg . Being shot in Morrison Ranch , Agoura, California and Universal Studios ; Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California . And functional and thrilling musical score by uncredited and Universal regular composers : Henry Mancini , Hans J. Salter , Herman Stein . Produced in middle-budget by Howard Christie , here director Charles F. Haas managed to create a nice work of art with nice acting , appropriate scenarios from production designers Alexander Golitzen and Richard Riedel , and attractive plot . As he makes a picture really intriguing , not merely because Charles Haas 's tersely economic narration of his material , but because Universal Pictures made a decission to cut budget and reducing locations . He was a good craftsman and Western expertise . Haas worked heavily for Universal, and was assigned to write and produce Moonrise (1948). He soon returned to making industrial films, then turned to television directing. He made his feature directorial debut in 1956, and turned out a string of low-budget westerns, gangster and juvenile-delinquent pictures - several with third-string Marilyn Monroe wannabe Mamie Van Doren - before returning to television. In the early 1950s he, along with such Hollywood notables as actor Robert Ryan and director John Sturges, founded the Oakwood School, a private academy in Los Angeles geared toward "progressive" education. As Charles Haas directed films of all kinds of genres such as : Screaming Eagles ,The Big Operator , Girls town , Showdown at Abilene , Wild Heritage, Summer Love , Platinum High School , The beat generation . And especially working in known TV series , such as : Perry Mason , Bonanza , Hawaiian Eye , 77 Sunset Strip , Broken arrow ,Man Without a Gun, Death Valley Days , Charlie Chan , Zane Grey , Route 66, Maverick , Caravan , The Mickey Mouse Club , Dick Tracy , among others . Rating : 6.5/10 . Acceptable and passable western. Well worth watching .

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