“Mob violence is the death of any town.”
As he’s about to marry his sweetheart (Lizabeth Scott), a rancher (John Payne) is falsely accused by a newly arrived “marshal” (Dan Duryea) of murdering his brother, and relies on help from a friendly bargirl (Dolores Moran) in keeping his name clear.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Dan Duryea Films
- Falsely Accused
- John Payne Films
- Lizabeth Scott Films
- “No One Believes Me!”
Allan Dwan directed this compact, fast-moving western thriller set in real-time — just like its more celebrated counterpart, High Noon (1952). The movie opens on a wedding-interruptus, and we’re never clear from then on — intentionally so — about the true motives and realities behind the main characters. We know we’re supposed to believe that the protagonist (Payne) is telling the truth — but is there more to his story? Adding interest to the storyline is the fact that a beautiful bargirl (Moran, always feisty) is resentful about Payne’s marriage to the local rich-girl (Scott) — will she try to help or hinder him in his efforts? — and that Payne can’t seem to stop causing deaths all around him as he attempts to clear his name. The final unexpected sequence is a true humdinger, calling into question what we thought was a fairly standard end-of-a-western resolution. This one remains worth a look, especially given John Alton’s fine cinematography.
Note: Much has been made about the fact that Duryea’s character is named “McCarty” and that nearly the entire town gives into hysterical beliefs about sudden accusations made towards a man they otherwise trusted and respected for the past two years; the timeliness and parallels with HUAC couldn’t be clearer.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- John Payne as Dan Ballard
- Dolores Moran as Dolly
- Dan Duryea as Fred McCarty
- John Alton’s cinematography
Yes, as a fine western by a hard-working director.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)