GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND is a genial Warner Bros. Western from Alan Ladd's Jaguar Productions.
The story concerns conflict between ranchers and lumbermen, with Jeanne Crain and Lyle Bettger heading up the ranchers and Alan Ladd and Gilbert Roland leading the lumbermen. Sheriff Regis Toomey keeps a close eye on the warring groups.
Ladd has second thoughts about his job after Crain shows him a ghost town caused by logging and resulting mudslides, and it doesn't hurt that he's also attracted to her. Meanwhile Roland loses patience -- and, one might say, his mind -- and decides he's going to cut down trees no matter who gets hurt.
The movie covers much the same ground as an earlier Warner Bros. movie, THE BIG TREES (1952), but it does so in a livelier manner; the script is nothing special, but the production is buoyed by a strong cast, a jaunty musical score by David Buttolph, and lovely location filming in Graeagle, California.
BATTLE OF BRITAIN, anyone?) Jeanne Crain's unnaturally thick makeup doesn't wear off even after hours of fighting a forest fire.
When one sees the name Aaron Spelling as producer and cowriter, it seems perhaps to explain some of the film's "glamour" and promotion of the young singing star over authenticity.
THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival.
It must be noted that though Alan Ladd was still in his 40s and otherwise fit, in many shots his handsome face is noticeably pudgy and strained, I assume due to his known issues with alcohol. I really like Ladd so the premature aging visible here made me a little sad, though the film overall is lighthearted in tone. Ladd would be gone less than four years after this film was released.
The movie's issues aside, it's nonetheless a pleasant 91 minutes for those who like the cast, with the extensive location work a real plus. The movie leaves the viewer with a smile as Ladd and Crain ride the logging train out of town while the lumbermen sing "Cry Timber."
The supporting cast includes Noah Beery Jr. and Verna Felton. The movie was directed by Robert D. Webb and filmed in widescreen by John F. Seitz. The screenplay by Spelling and Joseph Petraca was based on a novel by Louis L'Amour.
GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND isn't out on VHS or DVD. It was shown this week on Turner Classic Movies as part of Jeanne Crain Day in the Summer Under the Stars festival.
2014 Update: GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND is now out on DVD from the Warner Archive.