centennial today by watching him in the most enjoyable Western WARPATH (1951).
WARPATH is a Paramount film with a terrific cast of favorites. It was directed by Bryon Haskin, filmed on location in Montana by the great Ray Rennahan. The movie was produced by Nat Holt, who made a number of Randolph Scott Westerns, as well as other Westerns starring O'Brien.
O'Brien plays John Vickers, a former lawyer and Union Army officer. Vickers is a man on a mission, looking for the three bank robbers who killed his fiancee several years previously. He finds one of the men, Herb Woodson (Louis Jean Heydt), and promptly kills him in self-defense. Following a tip that the other two men joined the army, Vickers enlists as a private in the Seventh Cavalry.
Vickers immediately clashes with Sgt. O'Hara (Forrest Tucker), having fought with O'Hara prior to enlisting after the drunken sergeant insulted lovely Molly (Polly Bergen). Molly's father (Dean Jagger), the fort storekeeper, unaccountably likes O'Hara despite his brutish behavior toward Molly, and he dislikes John. Hmmmm.
O'Hara is terrible to new recruit Vickers, but Vickers impresses Captain Gregson (Harry Carey Jr.), who has him promoted to First Sergeant. Suddenly the tables are turned and Vickers is giving orders to O'Hara! Just as it's become clear to Vickers who the two men were who killed his lost love, the wagon train they're all riding in comes under Indian attack.
This has a solid story and lots of excellent location shooting, although sadly the print shown on Encore Westerns was quite faded. The cast is what really makes the movie, though. For example, Western fans will be amused at Harry Carey Jr. commanding his real life father-in-law, Paul Fix!
I'd hoped look-alike, sound-alike favorites Louis Jean Heydt and James Millican would have scenes together, but Heydt doesn't make it through the first reel. Later on I couldn't help laughing when General Custer arrives at the fort and I realized it was Millican hiding under the wild hair and makeup!
Just when you think the cast can't get any better, here comes Frank Ferguson as a marshal. The cast also includes familiar faces like Wallace Ford and Walter Sande.
WARPATH runs 96 minutes. It does not appear to be available on DVD or VHS. It can be streamed at Amazon Instant Video, and it periodically turns up on the Encore Westerns Channel, where it's next scheduled to play on October 14, 2015. Although it's not working for me, it also seems to be available for streaming on the Encore Westerns site.