Joel McCrea Blogathon being hosted this weekend by Toby at 50 Westerns From the 50s. The blogathon, which celebrates McCrea's November 5th birthday, runs all weekend. Be sure to visit Toby's site for lots of great posts on Joel McCrea movies!
GUNSIGHT RIDGE was one of just a handful of Joel McCrea Westerns I'd not yet caught up with. It proved to be a very satisfying, well-done film which I rank as one of his stronger '50s films. I enjoyed it very much.
Mike joins forces with Sheriff Tom Jones (Addison Richards), who wants to solve the crimes he feels are a stain on his record. Mike's daughter Molly (Joan Weldon of THEM!) is initially dubious of Mike but it's soon clear there's an attraction between the pair.
The robber in question is Velvet Clark (Mark Stevens), who might best be described as a sensitive cold-blooded killer. (You might be sensitive too, if you were a cowboy named Velvet...) Clark once dreamed of being a concert pianist but couldn't afford lessons...so he took up robbing stagecoaches instead. Though on paper the plotline may make one chuckle over such an improbable character, in the hands of charismatic Mark Stevens the story is plausible and interesting.
McCrea is completely winning as a confident man who's not overly worried about first impressions; he proves himself soon enough, shooting the gun from the hand of a cowboy who's about to plug the sheriff.
Weldon doesn't have a great deal to do, but her time on screen is most welcome, and she and McCrea have an appealing chemistry. Richards, who plays her sheriff father, had been on screen for nearly a quarter century at this point and has a good role here with considerable screen time.
Among the strong cast I especially enjoyed George Chandler, making roughly his 400th screen appearance as a hapless rustling ranch owner who is tricked out of tax money by Ryan and who's later chased off his own ranch by his cowhands. The Lazy Heart ranchhands, who inadvertently provide Clark with cover when they rob a train, are played by L.Q. Jones, Steve Mitchell, Jim Foxx, and Morgan Woodward, who DALLAS fans might remember for his long-running role as Jock Ewing's best friend, Punk Anderson.
Production values for this United Artists film are relatively strong, including a good score by David Raksin (LAURA). It's a well-paced 85 minutes, directed by Francis D. Lyon and filmed in black and white by Ernest Laszlo. The movie was shot at easily recognizable locations at Old Tucson, as well as Southern California movie ranches including the Janss Conejo Ranch and the Bell Ranch.
GUNSIGHT RIDGE is available on DVD in a very affordable four-film set, along with two George Montgomery Westerns (GUN BELT and THE LONE GUN) and one with Rory Calhoun, RIDE OUT FOR REVENGE (1957).