Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Run-of-the-mill Western which shows handsome B-leading man Wayne Morris starting to go to seed. He plays Cole Younger, one of a number of celebrated outlaws from American history. In real life, Cole and his brothers drifted into lives of crime after Union soldiers burned down his family's home and killed his father; they eventually got a kind of Robin Hood/Bonnie & Clyde reputation before they were captured during a bloody bank robbery in Minnesota. Their real story might have made an interesting movie, but this one is essentially total fiction, another in a long line of Hollywood narratives of the era in which a handsome outlaw tries to go straight, is betrayed by old companions, almost put back in jail, but redeemed at the last minute. Here, Morris and his brothers are waiting out their parole time; if they can stay out of trouble a few more weeks, they will be free for good. Unfortunately, as they ride into Cedar Creek, their reputation precedes them and they are run out of town. The chief instigator of bad feelings against the Youngers is ex-Pinkerton Fred Clark, who helped get them behind bars in the first place and resents their freedom. His wife eventually leaves him because he can't put his obsessions behind him, and Clark winds up going to Kate (Janis Paige), the sister of a former compadre of the brothers who herself now heads up a gang of small-time crooks, and gets her to try and tempt the Youngers into pulling off a robbery. Though Morris has the hots for Paige, he resists returning to his old ways, so Kate's gang goes through with the crime, with the Youngers as kidnapped scapegoats. Our boys still prevail and the pardon goes through, so Clark makes one last attempt to stop them with a lynch gang. Unlike in real life, in which the Youngers all wound up dead or in prison, here they escape in a truncated, almost comic ending. Bruce Bennett and Robert Hutton are fine as two of the brothers, Geraldine Brooks has a rather thankless role as Bennett's wife, and Alan Hale is a sheriff who is fairly sympathetic to the brothers. Morris is OK, but getting old and fleshy before his time (at 35, he looks over 40) and isn't as dashing a figure as the part calls for. [TCM]

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