Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Toughest Gun in Tombstone (1958)

TOUGHEST GUN IN TOMBSTONE is a solidly entertaining low-budget Western starring George Montgomery as an undercover lawman in 1880s Arizona.

I write about "docu-noirs" from time to time, and I wonder if one might call this a "docu-Western," as a deep-voiced narrator pops in from time to time to explain the origins of the Arizona Rangers and help keep the story moving.

Montgomery plays Matt Sloane, whose name appears on wanted posters for the robbery of silver shipments. In reality he's a recently widowed lawman who's gone undercover trying to rid Arizona Territory of outlaws.

His project is complicated when his little boy Terry (Scotty Morrow), who had been staying with a friend of Matt's, is chased by the outlaw who knows Terry saw him kill his mother. The little boy is shot and ends up in the care of lovely young Della (Beverly Tyler), who becomes devoted to Terry despite his father's dubious reputation.

It's absolutely no surprise to anyone that Matt takes care of the outlaws within the film's 72 minutes and looks toward a bright future with Della and Terry; the pleasure is in the journey. It's a sturdy little Western which is nothing special yet provides a very pleasant hour and a quarter for those who love the genre.

Montgomery's earnest, plainspoken sincerity is most appealing, and he has a nice chance to show off his riding ability, making a jump onto his horse from a rock; IMDb lists a stuntman for the actor, but that shot was clearly Montgomery's work. And yes, as usual, Montgomery wears a great-looking black hat! As a matter of fact I think he might have worn pretty much the same wardrobe as in BADMAN'S COUNTRY (1958) which came out later that same year.

Beverly Tyler was born in 1927. Her film career began as an MGM ingenue in films such as THE GREEN YEARS (1946) and MY BROTHER TALKS TO HORSES (1947); she played Tom Drake's bride in MGM's film about the invention of the atomic bomb, THE BEGINNING OR THE END (1947). In the '50s she moved into TV work and played the leads in several crime films and Westerns such as THE BATTLE AT APACHE PASS (1952). In 1962 she married Jim Jordan, the son of Jim and Marian Jordan ("Fibber McGee and Molly"), and retired from the screen. She passed on in 2005.

The still here with Montgomery and Tyler shooting in opposite directions is apparently a publicity photo, as such a scene does not appear in the movie. For that matter, the scene above, with Montgomery and Tyler on the color lobby card, and the scene on the DVD cover also aren't in the movie. Either a lot of the film ended up on the cutting-room floor or there were quite a number of publicity photos!

The film's chief villain is played by Jim Davis; hearing that gruff voice come out of such a young face is almost disconcerting for those of us who know him from his years as Jock Ewing.

The supporting cast includes Don Beddoe, Gerald Milton, Harry Lauter, Charles Wagenheim, Lane Bradford, and Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. Hank Worden pops up to lighten things with a couple amusing scenes as a livery stable owner.

The movie was directed by Earl Bellamy from a script by Orville H. Hampton. The film was shot in black and white by Kenneth Peach, with the location work done on Southern California movie ranches.

TOUGHEST GUN IN TOMBSTONE is available in a good-looking DVD-R in the MGM Limited Edition Collection. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

It's also been shown on the Encore Westerns Channel.

Previous reviews of George Montgomery Westerns: THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951), CRIPPLE CREEK (1952), GUN BELT (1953), THE LONE GUN (1954), MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954), BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER (1954), ROBBERS' ROOST (1955), CANYON RIVER (1956), GUN DUEL IN DURANGO (1957), and BADMAN'S COUNTRY (1958).


Blogger Jerry E said...

So glad you reviewed this little western, Laura. I acquired a good copy of it a while back but have not yet watched it and in fact, have never seen it. One of the few of Montgomery's westerns I have not. The fact that his nemesis in this one is Jim Davis is a big plus for me. Davis had a very good decade in the 50s - many films for Republic, Regal and others plus two good TV series. Great screen presence and a terrific voice. Add in George's superlative stetson and I'm there (soon). Thanks for reminding me!

9:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your note, Jerry! I hope you'll like this one as much as I did. It's interesting, I've not seen much of Davis's work outside of DALLAS but as I keep digging deeper into '50s Westerns I'm bound to run into more!

Please let me know what you think of TOUGHEST GUN IN TOMBSTONE when you have a chance!

Best wishes,

6:48 PM  

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