Striking-looking square, b/w western with loads of great close-ups. Gary Cooper plays a cop on his last day on the job before retirement… and just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in! Years earlier the town had come together to defeat an outlaw and his gang – today, the gang returns, rides through town to meet the outlaw, who has been released from jail and is obviously aiming for revenge. But now that the town has been peaceful for a while, nobody feels compelled to fight. Anyone with a personal stake in the matter (sentencing judge Otto Kruger and love interest/hotelier Katy Jurado) skips town and everyone else backs down from helping Gary, leaving him to face the killers alone. Actually, Gary’s anti-violence quaker wife Grace Kelly (married to him earlier that day) helps out. Gary and Grace finish off the bastards then drive away from the ungrateful town.
IMDB: “This film was intended as an allegory .. for the failure of Hollywood people to stand up to the House Un-American Activities Committee.”
A character named Sam Fuller who’s a huge coward, has his wife pretend he’s not home when the sheriff comes to the door. Wonder how the real Fuller felt about this. The only interview I can find where he mentions the film, he just complains about the ending, “where the heavy grabs the girl and holds her in front of him, putting the hero in a hell of an embarrassing situation. Always, at the last minute, she pushes him away, and the hero kills him. I don’t like that in any Western. It doesn’t make sense.” Fuller would correct this ending in his Forty Guns a few years later, where given the same situation the hero shoots the girl.
Written by Carl Foreman, blacklisted by the time the movie came out. Being one of the most beloved westerns, it earned a 2000 Tom Skerritt/Michael Madsen remake and a couple of 1980 TV sequels with Henry Fonda and David Carradine. Gary Cooper won an oscar, lost best picture to The Greatest Show On Earth and director to John Ford. The movie has a nice opening credits theme song, but it didn’t keep “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” from remaining stuck in my head.