Tuesday, September 24, 2002


Though not as good as THREE GODFATHERS or OX-BOW INCIDENT, this is a decent entry in the "bleak western" genre. Preston Foster is a gambler who owns a saloon which doubles as a gambling house (and a brothel, I assume). Despite the success of his business ventures, he is generally considered a bad influence in town. He reluctantly adopts a little orphan girl (who grows up to be Virginia Weidler) and, when a schoolmarm (Jean Muir) arrives to bring education to the rough frontier town, he turns the girl over to her, assuming Muir will be a better caretaker--and Muir gets some help from Van Heflin, as a young preacher who arrives with her to build a church. In the course of the story, Foster is revealed to be a softie and a good guy at heart. The rather rambling plot suddenly takes a weird turn in the last 10 minutes when Foster and some of his cronies are tossed out of town, and Muir, in love with Foster, follows. They wind up stranded in a cabin in a snowstorm with no food and no way to keep warm. Heroism and death follow. Like THREE GODFATHERS, the bleak ending leaves us with a somewhat muddled message. Most of the acting is good (Foster, Weidler, Heflin, and Margaret Irving as the good-hearted "madam" who basically lives with Foster and helps raise Weidler), but Jean Muir as the schoolmarm is wooden and irritating. I found it hard to believe that she'd fall for Foster, and especially that he'd fall for her. Overall, pretty good for a short B-western.

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