I first saw ROUGHSHOD back in 2009, and as time has passed I've come to appreciate it even more. It was a delight to revisit it again in a lovely print, thanks to the new Warner Archive DVD.
Robert Sterling plays cowboy Clay Phillips, who is driving a herd of horses over the Sonora Pass with his kid brother Steve (Claude Jarman Jr.). They happen upon a broken buggy with four saloon girls who were headed to Sonora; Clay must be the luckiest cowpoke in history, because the women he's stumbled across are Gloria Grahame, Martha Hyer, Myrna Dell, and Jeff Donnell.
Unfortunately there's an escaped convict named Lednov (John Ireland) on Clay's trail, a cold-blooded killer who brutally murders anyone in his way...and he's gunning for Clay.
Most of the film is a character study of Clay, his relationships to his brother and Mary (Grahame), and tangentially the other women, who all make significant life choices during their journey. Sterling is so at home in a Western, I've wished ever since I first saw the film that he had done more of them. He did appear in THE SUNDOWNERS (1950) the following year, as well as in Audie Murphy's COLUMN SOUTH (1953) a few years later.
I've never been a big fan of Grahame, but for me this is her most appealing performance. She's lovely, and I especially enjoy the relationship she establishes with Steve as she teaches him to read. Jarman, who would appear in John Ford's RIO GRANDE (1950) the following year, is excellent as the determined brother, who refuses to leave when his brother wants to take on Lednov and his two confederates on his own.
While much of the film is easygoing and good-natured, there are dark moments, most notably when Lednov and his men stumble across Helen (Dell) and the new man in her life (Sean McClory). It's a disturbing scene which makes the stakes for Clay and Steve even more clear.
Except for a handful of interiors and a couple of process shots, ROUGHSHOD was shot entirely on location by Joseph Biroc. The Sierra locations look lovely in black and white and give the movie a feeling of authenticity which is sometimes missing from films shot on a Southern California movie ranch.
The screenplay was by Geoffrey Homes (OUT OF THE PAST) and Hugo Butler, based on a story by Peter Viertel. The running time is 88 minutes.
The supporting cast includes Sara Haden, Jeff Corey, George Cooper, James Bell, and Ed Cassidy.
ROUGHSHOD was an RKO film directed by Mark Robson. Another of Robson's 1949 releases, MY FOOLISH HEART, will be reviewed here in the near future.
ROUGHSHOD is another fine-looking print from the Warner Archive, with good sound quality. There are no extras.
A personal favorite which is recommended for Western fans.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.