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It's 1883 in the Wyoming Territory. Sam Brassfield owns and operates the Teton cattle ranch alongside his foreman and housekeeper, husband and wife Ed and Ruth Winters, and his right hand man, a Mexican named Johnny Quatro, who likes his señoritas a little too much. He took in his now young adult nephew and niece, Webb and June Carter, upon the unfortunate circumstances concerning their parents, Webb who is learning to be ranch hand, his hotheadedness which often gets in the way. Sam is trying to do ranching differently, having a closed range of his own land as a more sustainable method. He erecting fences to keep other cattle out does not sit well with many of his neighboring ranchers, especially his former mentor, Clay Mathews, a Texas cattle baron who wants that open range all the way from Texas to the Canada border. Sam believes Clay's self interest is driven by he having purchased too many cattle for what his own land can support, he wanting eventually to oversupply the market ...Written by
"Cattle King" is the last film Robert Taylor made under his MGM contract. His full-time contract had ended in 1959 but he agreed to do three more pictures. "Cattle King" is the third. Mr. Taylor plays a large scale cattle rancher whose living is being threatened by a Texas cartel who want to build a cattle highway from Texas to Canada. This would bring thousands of undesirable cattle to Mr. Taylor's Wyoming home. It's a nice twist on the old cattle ranchers vs. sheep herders story. Instead of wanting to leave the range free for cattle to roam, Sam Brassfield (Mr. Taylor) wants to fence in land for the controlled breeding of high quality bovines. The only sheep herder in the picture ends up siding with Brassfield. The cinematography is outstanding with a palette that brings out the beauty of the area near Yellowstone Park. There are numerous scenes of groups of people riding which must have looked wonderful on the big screen.
The acting is done by seasoned professionals like Robert Middleton, Ray Teal and William Windom and a newcomer, Robert Loggia. They are all excellent. As usual in westerns, Joan Caulfield as the love interest for Sam isn't given enough to do. President Chester A. Arthur (Larry Gates) plays a pivotal role. In many ways Robert Taylor's colleagues at MGM made this a warm farewell. The name Robert Taylor fills the screen from top to bottom in the credits. He is photographed lovingly with numerous close-ups. There's a wonderful scene where Mr. Taylor stands proudly, legs apart in the western stance facing his enemy when the camera slides into a screen filling close-up. Robert Taylor was very good at playing characters who were larger than life, people who made a difference without losing their integrity. There's even a bit of humor as he spends a fair amount of time fussing with his various ties. "Cattle King" is a solid, well-acted, beautifully photographed western.
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