The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959) Poster

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7/10
A Question of Honor
bkoganbing11 October 2004
My vote has always been that of all the great stars identified as western heroes, none was more upright than Joel McCrea. In fact whenever he tried to vary that character, the results usually weren't that good. Even in comedy parts like his films with Preston Sturges, he's still an honorable man, albeit caught up in some lunacy.

McCrea never crossed the line into making himself look ridiculous like Dudley Doo-Right and The Gunfight at Dodge City is a case in point. Here he's playing Bat Masterson who has come into Dodge City after a killing in another town and buys an interest in the Lady Gay Saloon owned by widow Nancy Gates. Brother Ed Masterson, played by Harry Lauter is the town marshal and he's keeping company with preacher's daughter played by Julie Adams.

Brother Ed is shot in the back during a cowboy hurrahing of Dodge City and Bat steps in to take his place. He brings some law and order back to Dodge City and makes both friends and enemies in the process. And he's got both the women mentioned before interested in him.

Fate would have it, a friend from another town comes back in his life. He wants him to bust his brother, who's mentally retarded, out of custody. The brother has killed a man who was making fun of him. He owes this guy big time and he has a responsibility to his badge in Dodge City.

I won't say anything, but Joel McCrea never took the less honorable route in his cinematic career. And as for which woman he winds up with? See the film.

Also look for an unusual performance against type from Richard Anderson. Anderson usually plays nice guys and he's best known for being Lee Majors boss in the Six Million Dollar Man. He's a serpentine villain here and a good one.

I saw this when I was 12 years old when it was the second feature of a double bill. That's what McCrea westerns were relegated to at that time. But Joel McCrea was a real cowboy hero to this 12 year old.

Still is.
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7/10
Nice and moody
patriciahammond9 March 2007
I enjoyed this. It provides everything one expects from a Western: good plot, revenge, love, conflict between law and personal conscience, plenty of gun-play, and mood. And a few excellent quotes. Try: "The distance between here and that street is the distance between a rabbit and a man." The beginning is refreshing too. Before the title and opening credits, a world-weary McCrea is telling a simple teenage boy who admires his prowess with a gun what it really is like. How scared one is, how little it has to do with heroics, and how awfully wretched one feels afterwards. In this film, the gunfights are fast, and mostly in the dark. That's probably more accurate than so many more overblown sequences in other films. The performances on everyone's part, even the baddies', are in many ways unexpectedly subtle. Take Regan, the bad Sheriff. Look at his strange, tormented eyes. None of it's overplayed. If it's raining outside, get out the popcorn and curl up with this.
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6/10
Decent western with romance , action and gun-play
ma-cortes10 October 2017
It deals with the gun-down that cracked the West wide open , as Bat Masterson (Joel McCrea) doesn't look for problems , but he doesn't walk away from it . When an army sergeant in Hays City attempts to shot Bat and dies for this attack , Bat heads for Dodge City where Ed , his brother , is city marshal and a candidate for county sheriff running against the nasty Regan (Don Haggerty) . While Masterson buys a share in a local saloon called ¨Lady gay¨ , partnering with the widow Lily (Nancy Gates) . Then , after an ambush carried out by the corrupt Dave Rudabaugh (Richard Anderson) , Bat , helped by a fine Doctor (John McIntire) , finds himself a candidate for sheriff and the heir to Ed's intentions toward Pauline (Julie Adams) , a minister's daughter . As Bat Masterson is elected to the job and is determined to find the killer and to maintain law and order and make Dodge City safe.

Better than average Western with Joel McCrea as the famous gunman and gambler Bat Masterson . As it stars Joel MacCrea who performed lots of Westers as ¨Unión Pacific¨, ¨Buffalo Bill¨ , ¨the Virginian¨, ¨Ramrod¨, ¨South of St Louis¨ , ¨4 faces West¨ , ¨The Oklahoman¨ and his final classic ¨Ride the high county¨ along with Randolph Scott . It contains a good cast as John MacIntire as a good Doctor , Richard Anderson , Don Haggerty , Timothy Carey , James Westerfield as reverend and two gorgeous girls : Julia Adams and Nancy Gates who previously played opposite a different Bat , George Montgomery , in the Western ¨Masterson of Kansas¨ . The movie is inspired on true events . Thus , Bartholomew ¨Bat¨ Masterson (1853-1921) spent the last twenty years of his life as a popular sports writer on New York newspaper . Previously he had taken part in the battle of Adobe Walls in 1874 in which a small party of hunters beat off a fierce attack by hundreds of Indians , events narrated in the meeting between Bat and the old man at the beginning of the film . In 1878 the marshal of Dodge City was shot by two cowboys , Bat rushed to the scene and gunned down the killer . Bat was appointed as deputy U.S. marshal by the Mayor and shortly after captured noted outlaw . Along with Bat were hired to keep the peace as lawman Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman . In 1902 he settled in N.Y.City and became a successful sports writer on the Morning Telegraph and he died at his desk from a heart attack . Masterson said he has not killed as many men as was popularly supposed though he had experienced a great many difficulties . The picture is set in Dodge City , Kansas , the most celebrated of the cowboy cattle towns , became a major railhead cowtown for the cattle driven up from Texas over the long trails , during the cattle boom Dodge shipped more than 250.ooo head a year . The free-spending cowboys attracted professional gamblers , badmen , saloon and brothel keepers and became a rough town in the best traditions of the wild west . Dodge City reigned as ¨Queen of the Cowtowns¨ until final XIX century when the free range cattle industry came to an end .

The film is an enjoyable western and well written by Martin Goldsmith based on a story by Daniel Ullman . Agreeable and evocative musical score by Hans J. Salter . Colorful and glimmer cinematography by Carl E. Guthrie . Production is in charge of Walter Mirish , an usual western producer: the Magnificent Seven saga . The motion picture was rightly directed by Joseph M. Newman . Joseph made all kinds of genres : drama , thrillers as ¨King of the roaring¨, ¨The story of Arnold Rothstein¨, ¨Love nest¨, ¨Great Dan Patch¨ , ¨Jungle Patrol¨ and a classic Sci-Fi : ¨The Island Earth¨. The flick will appeal to western moviegoers.
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7/10
It's not enough just to say no to anyone who is threatening you.
Spikeopath29 January 2011
The Gunfight at Dodge City is directed by Joseph M.Newman (This Island Earth/Fort Massacre) and jointly written by Martin Goldsmith and Daniel B. Ullman. It stars Joel McCrea, Julie Adams, John McIntire, Nancy Gates, Richard Anderson, Don Haggerty and James Westerfield. Hans J. Salter scores the music and Carl Guthrie is the cinematographer, with the production being in CinemaScope with colour by DeLuxe. Primary location shoot is Melody Ranch, Newhall, California, USA.

McCrea stars as Bat Masterson, we find him originally in Hays City, Kansas, where he has set up shop, but after killing a man in self defence he heads to Dodge City to stay with his brother, Ed (Harry Lauter), who is the City Marshall. But upon arriving he finds that Dodge City is not a nice place, beset with lawlessness and run by corrupt sheriff Jim Reagan (Haggerty). After befriending the town doctor, Sam Tremaine (McIntire), and meeting Ed's fiancée Pauline (Adams), Bat buys a half share in the ailing Lady Gay Saloon run by Lily (Gates), herself struggling because of Reagan's interference. Bat sets about earning an honest living, but sheriff Reagan has no intention of letting either of the Masterson's flourish in Dodge: and just why is Dave Rudabaugh (Anderson) in town?

Sometimes referred to as The Bat Masterson Story, The Gunfight at Dodge City is not a biography of the frontier lawman who once worked alongside Wyatt Earp. It does have some semblance of facts inked into the narrative, but ultimately view it as light telling of Bat Masterson's time in Dodge City. Running at just 81 minutes long, Newman's film has just enough character development, drama and period detail to sustain interest for that length of time. There's no attempt at histrionics or psychological depth, or even a message in the offering. This is a very stream-lined Western dealing in familiar B Western themes. But what it lacks in originality it makes up for with its all round production values.

Although the CinemaScope is not used to the full (not enough exterior panoramas here, sadly), the film boasts some fine performances, wonderful colour lensing (night time shots are gorgeous) and that under valued asset of the Western, costuming (check out Lily's purple frock). McCrea obviously doesn't have the iconography that Randy Scott, James Stewart and The Duke have, but he quite often cuts an imposing, straight backed figure of note. Such as he does here, giving Masterson a rugged noble elegance in the process. Adams is beautiful and proves adept during the more tender moments and Gates, likewise, is hugely effective in portraying the nagging pangs of yearning. McIntire is nearly always good value, especially in official roles, and he adds a touch of quality here as the Doc who likes a drink and stoically stands by Bat's side when he needs support. Haggerty is a touch weak, not really exuding menace, but that's offset quite some by Anderson's suspicious and sneaky portrayal of Rudabaugh.

All told it's just a real safe B Western with good production value into the bargain. 7/10
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7/10
No cane and derby hat here.
Mister-UHF1 December 2002
Absent from this film are Wyatt Earp, Masterson's close friend and colleague in Dodge City, and Masterson's dapper clothing, a lifelong trademark, two major flaws in the film. His avoidance of public office doesn't ring true, either. The plot itself takes considerable liberties with the truth. (The television series "Bat Masterson" was closer to the truth in spirit and sometimes in fact.)

However, McCrea's intelligent and introspective portrayal of Masterson is on the mark. The acting of him and the rest of the cast carry the film, which is saddled with uninspired direction.
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5/10
weak western, it was almost McCrea's goodbye.
tmwest9 July 2005
Somehow this western did not come out right. It is not the fault of the actors, McCrea is as good as always and Julie Adams is better than in any film I have seen her. No problem with the story either. I did not like the action scenes, except when there is a fistfight between McCrea and Don Haggerty. The shootouts were too quick, no strategy whatsoever,and not dramatic enough. The director can be blamed for that. Comparing this film with "Colorado Territory" made in 1949, a great western with McCrea you get to the conclusion that instead of evolving, in some cases the westerns regressed. This was to be the final film made by McCrea in his career. Good thing, Peckinpah saved him from this sad goodbye.
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6/10
Big budget but just OK............
Panamint7 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Technically well-made, first-class production values, viewed wide-screen it is impressive. As a legitimate effort from the grand days of the Western film, it doesn't deserve its near-forgotten status. However, despite good acting by McCrea and especially by Julia Adams this movie suffers from being a bit too formula overall and too superficial in its psychological aspects.

The way Masterson rides back to town in the end and faces everything is very manly and should have more impact. McCrea was certainly an actor capable of delivering such an impact. But the director has made this with a glossed-over style as if he is just skimming the surface, rather than with cinematic impact in mind. See the classic "High Noon" for such an ending done more effectively.

Many psychological westerns are successful, however this one has so little psychological conflict between the protagonists (Masterson and the first Sheriff) that the result is merely a formulaic western punch-out relationship between the good guys and bad guys.

Julia Adams delivers a fine acting performance. She and McCrea do a great job. Their performances are really the chief reasons for you to watch this. McCrea was a subtle and effective actor, and here he foreshadows his work in the legendary "Ride The High Country" a few years later.
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7/10
Tolerable But Tame Joel McCrea Horse Opera
zardoz-136 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Virginian" star Joel McCrea displays his virile charisma as legendary frontier lawman 'Bat' Masterson in "Fort Massacre" director Joseph M. Newman's an above-average but often predictable "The Gunfight in Dodge City," that Walter Mirisch produced a couple of years after John Sturges' superlative shoot'em up "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Mind you, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" was casual about its fidelity to facts, and "Two Guns and a Badge" scenarist Daniel B. Ullman and "Fort Massacre" scribe Martin Goldsmith are just as guilty. Indeed, Dodge City, Kansas, existed, and there was a 'Bat' Masterson as well as an Ed Masterson. However, Ullman and Goldsmith have altered the circumstances around Ed's unfortunate demise to stimulate conflict on our hero's motivation to eliminate the culpable adversaries. The production values are better-than-average, and the cast features several familiar faces, even those lurking on the periphery. Look for Robert Mitchum's younger brother John, for example, as a boisterous cowboy eager to whoop it up. Aside from seasoned western veteran Joel McCrea, the cast includes John McIntire, Richard Anderson, James Westerfield, Walter Coy, Don Haggerty, and the always dependable Harry Lauter as Ed Masterson. Basically, aside from the general facts, "The Gunfight at Dodge City" amounts to a dusty, standard-issue horse opera about the taming a wild cattle town and the evils of killing. Newman confines the action to a trim 81, so neither it nor he wear out their welcome. "Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend" lenser Carl E. Guthrie deploys his Cinemascope lens for the best effect, and this western looks better than it deserves. Western aficionados will notice that our hero is caught between the two typical women--the saloon girl and a preacher's daughters--and the outcome clashes with what usually occurs in a western. If you enjoy westerns, you'll find that Newman handles with clichés with competence.
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7/10
"Now I'm only going to half kill you".
classicsoncall15 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If this had been a black and white film, I probably would have rated it where I go with almost all of them, a solid 'six' and not much more. But you don't see many 'B' Westerns in color, hence the bump up a notch. That, and the main character named Bat Masterson, portrayed by the generally competent Joel McCrae in the lead role. The story plucks Bat from his buffalo hunter days and puts him directly into a situation challenging Dodge City sheriff Jim Regan (Don Haggerty). Standing up to bully Regan gets him elected handily, though it took the murder of Bat's brother Ed (Harry Lauter) to help push the story along.

Masterson's legacy as a real life gambler is dealt with neatly in the story line. Arriving in Dodge City, Bat's described as a dealer of black-jack with three fingers - thumb, index and trigger. Later, when asked if he's giving up his half interest in the Lady Gay Saloon after being elected sheriff, he declines citing Wyatt Earp's ownership of three gambling joints in Wichita.

I was a little surprised to see Bat put a move on his dead brother's girl (Julie Adams), and I probably would have been disappointed if the picture went in that direction. Fortunately he figured out that the relationship would have been doomed from the start. However there was a fall back position with partner Lily (Nancy Gates) from the Lady Gay which wound up working out in the end.

I had to do a double take with the gunfight finale here, as all the while it had the earmarks of the James Arness weekly opening of 'Gunsmoke' which ran for twenty one seasons. It made some sense, since Matt Dillon was the marshal of Dodge City too, probably right after Bat left if I had to guess. Interestingly though, the first season of Gunsmoke occurred four years earlier, making McCrae's showdown somewhat unoriginal in the execution.
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2/10
What happened to Molly?
roosterct23 October 2018
I had to laugh. Joel McCrea is in a saloon. An Army sergeant comes in mad at him that his girl use to be Joel's girlfriend. He starts shooting. Shoots his girl Molly who got in the way, wounds Joel before hes shot. But after the soldiers take the guy out, no mention of Molly? No one checks her body on the floor to see if shes alive. No mention of concern at all by Joel of his ex-girlfriend lying on the floor!! You dont see anybody remove her body. What the hell? Later he tells Bat Masterson, a friend, what happened. Again, no mention of poor, assuming dead, Molly. What???? Hahahaha. How the hell could that be so overlooked. Below, a question asks does this review contain spoilers? Should be a "Maybe" switch. Lol
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6/10
Formulaic western with an ageing McCrea
Marlburian13 March 2007
We've seen it all before in so many Westerns, even to the cosy buggy ride out into the country for a bit of romancing. If the tagline was "All The Thundering Might Of The Most Famed Gunfight Of Them All!", then this was hyperbole even by Hollywood standards; when I sat down to watch it it I thought it might be a reworking of the OK Corral shootout, but it wasn't; the inevitable gunfight at the end was quite tame, and its outcome predictable. McCrea was in his latish fifties when the film was made, and it would have been a sad swansong for an usually-watchable actor; thank goodness he went onto make "Ride the High Country".
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Judge Parker in True Grit and Rooster Cogburn
spicoli4930 November 2018
John McIntire and James Westerfield both played Judge Paker in the John Wayne movies True Grit and Rooster Cogburn.
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4/10
Western 101
seveb-2517923 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Joel McCrea plays a very fictional version of western legend Bat Masterson. McCrea doesn't have enough personality to rate among the front rank of western stars, but he can manage well enough as a sort of "poor man's Randolph Scott" On the other hand Richard Anderson does a fine job as the ambivalent black shirted rival and seems obviously destined to face off with McCrea in the final showdown of the title. This one builds a promisingly classical, if unoriginal, structure before surprisingly unravelling in the final act. After a relative of his provokes McCrea into a fight and is killed in the opening act, Anderson swears vengeance and is later able to kill McCrea's straight arrow brother, shooting him in the back, while the corrupt Sherriff's henchmen get the blame. He is then able to profess no hard feelings for the previous incident and pose as an ally of McCrea, although we the audience know better. So it's all set up for some sort of late revelation / double cross / final confrontation. Instead he suddenly decides to make a move on the beautiful Saloon owner, while McCrea is still in the same building, confessing his previous crime in the process, for no good reason. And after she screams for help, he is shot in the hallway... All so that McCrea's best friend can be shot in the arm, in order to force McCrea to commit a crime on his behalf and rescue his mentally handicapped brother from being hung. Really it's the crooked (by now ex-) Sherriff who should have been used in this way, as it is he who wants to acquire the saloon for his business empire and also because his character seems to have run it's course plot wise. The second huge error comes after McCrea comes into town to give himself up and justify why he rescued the prisoner. The crooked ex Sherriff, despite having half a dozen gunmen on the payroll, decides to go against all logic, by facing of against the renowned gunfighter fair and square! So, with none of his henchmen on the roof or in the alley or poking a rifle barrel out of a second floor window, he inevitably goes down in a rather tame ending To top it all off the romance isn't handled very convincingly either, and it is never clear why McCrea is attracted to the judgemental preachers-daughter-fiance of his dead brother, when the comely saloon-owner-widow always seems like a better bet. One of those "how to screw up a western 101" movies that leaves you wondering "what were they thinking?"

By the by, Richard Anderson play a fictionalised version of Dave Rudebaugh, a real life western outlaw who's remarkable career saw him hob knobbing with a host of legendary figures as he criss crossed the wild west Between 1876 and 1886 he befriended Doc Holliday, was chased by Wyatt Earp, was arrested by Bat Masterson, grassed on his fellow gang members and was later recruited by the same to fight in a railroad war, was recruited by Mysterious Dave Mather to join a corrupt political machine in Dodge City dealing in extortion and graft, later joined Billy The Kid's gang and was arrested by Pat Garrett, escaped and joined the Clanton gang in fighting the Earps in Tombstone and was present at the gun battle where Curly Bill Brocius was killed and finally met his end in a gunfight over a card game down in Mexico, after which he was decapitated and his head stuck on a pole If even half of that is true he would make a great subject for a TV series!
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8/10
Good Western
drystyx31 August 2012
This is old formula Western, which of course is better than the new formula crap that was shoved down our throats from about 1965 till about 2000, whether we liked it or not.

This was made in the days when the characters in the Westerns were written to look like mature grown up people who knew what rugged life was about. Lets face it. The spaghetti westerns ruined the genre for a quarter of a century, because the characters came across like spoiled brats who never walked outside of an arcade room.

This Western is loosely about a fictional part of Bat Masterson's life. It would be better if it wasn't Bat, so we could accept the plausibility of the story, but that doesn't matter. This story is certainly more feasible than the "Tombstone" version of Wyatt Earp.

What sells the story is the characters, the good and the bad guys. The two bad guys are very three dimensional. One is a little loco, so his fate is understandable.

The final gunfight with the more rational bad guy at the end was what weighted this down. At the end, we see a change in the bad guy, not that he's good, but that he's somewhat alert to the changing of the times. I thought the final gunfight was contrived, and it would've been better with a more toned down ending.

Still, it is the characters that make this worth watching.
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5/10
Utterly Routine
rmax3048236 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Average inexpensive Western.

Joel McCrae is Bat Masterson, saloon owner and now sheriff, newly elected to put an end to the cowboys who come to town on weekends to hoorah the place and frighten the dickens out of the good folk, like Doc John McIntire and Julie Adams, the purty preacher's daughter.

It resembles so many other routine Westerns of the period that they're all jumbled together in my head so I think I'll skip the details of the plot. They're not important anyway. You'll have no trouble distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys after the first few minutes. This isn't the kind of movie that humanizes either the hero or his enemies. Ambiguity? Streng Verboten! As for that titular "shoot out", McCrae has just been "called out" by his evil rival for the sheriff's office. Julie Adams begs him not to go. "I don't want to go," he replies, "but I've got to. That's the difference between an animal and a man." Something like that anyhow. Maybe it was, "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do," or, "Some things a man can't ride around." He confesses to being scared but I don't know why. The two rivals walk towards each other down the dusty and deserted street. "You call it," one of them says. And BANG and you-know-who is lying on the ground. It's all over with in about two minutes.

The real Bat Masterson had nothing to be afraid of. Maybe he didn't wind up with the breathtaking Julie Adams under the same blanket, which is too bad for him, but he did act, I think, as Time Keeper at some heavyweight championship boxing match, didn't he? I believe there is a photo of him at ringside. He's wearing a derby.

Joel McCrae didn't do badly either. He made his exit after a splendid early Pekinpah movie and spent his adult life married to the estimable Frances Dee. He seemed like a nice guy too and deserved his decent career.
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6/10
Mediocre western
vinnienh25 October 2002
Just what the audience could expect from director Newman: a routine action-packed western with veteran Joel McCrea as the legendary Bat Masterson. It is not so much the story that makes this film worth watching, but the appearance of Timothy Carey (uncredited-unbelievable!) as one of villain Haggerty's henchmen.
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