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Tough Assignment (1949)

In order to investigate a modern-day cattle rustling operation, a newspaper reporter and his girlfriend infiltrate the gang.


William Beaudine


Carl K. Hittleman (story), Milton Luban (screenplay) (as Miltan Luban)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Don 'Red' Barry ... Dan Reilly (as Don Barry)
Marjorie Steele ... Margie Reilly
Steve Brodie ... Boss Morgan
Marc Lawrence ... Vince
Ben Welden ... Sniffy
Sid Melton ... Herman
John Cason ... Joe
Frank Richards ... Steve
Fred Kohler Jr. ... Grant
Michael Whalen ... 'Hutch' Hutchison
Edit Angold Edit Angold ... Mrs. Schultz
Leander De Cordova Leander De Cordova ... Schultz
Stanley Andrews ... Chief Investigator Patterson
Stanley Price ... Al Foster
Iris Adrian ... Gloria


Don Reilly, a Los Angeles newspaper reporter in 1949, recently married to Margie, a photographer employed by the same newspaper, stumbles upon the fact that gangsters are forcing butcher shops to sell their unlicensed beef, and he persuades his managing editor to allow him to follow up on the story. His bride goes with him on an investigation that leads him to the ranch hideout of the gang, who are rustling cattle using fast, refrigeration trucks. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


An Action-Packed Expose of Cattle Rustling Today


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Release Date:

15 November 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cowboy-Gangster See more »

Filming Locations:

Agoura, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


One of a handful of films shot with "The new Garutso lens for 3-Dimensional effect". The lens in question was hardly "new", having been developed and used in films since the '30's, but it made great ballyhoo. The lens is an extreme wide angle device that could be used with a large assortment of diopter filters, hence making everything seem, from foreground to background, in perfect focus. See more »

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User Reviews

Lighthearted Crime, Creaky but Fast
19 June 2009 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

Tough Assignment (1949)

Did They Hurt You? That's the General Idea, Sweetheart

Oh, I know I shouldn't expect much from some of these second-rate crime films. But the dialog is so forced from scene one, and there are little clumsy things like a car turning into a driveway behind some trees and a moment later the evil car following them knowing exactly where they went even though we can tell they couldn't have seen. Or the man grabbing the film from the woman in her kitchen darkroom and we can tell it's already got pictures on it before it's been developed. Or the action happening at night and it's daylight out the window (around 42 minutes in if you don't believe me).

But wait, this is pretty cool--an amateur female photographer accidentally getting a picture of some criminals (eat your heart out Mr. Antonioni). In this early vision of suburbia, it gets rough fast, so by six minutes into it, the slightly bumbling reporter/husband is knocked out by some thugs and his wife has been assaulted in her own kitchen closet. Such is Don and Margie Reilly's first few moments as the lead couple, played by Don Barry and Marjorie Steele. This is no noir film, but just the insertion of big city mobster thugs entering the sweet safety of this little ranch with a lawn is great. And then, in the next few scenes, it gradually turns into a kind of western, with cowboys of a modern sort, and cattle rustling.

So is this a throwaway? Not really, besides being a little fun, something interesting happens in a film about crime that isn't highly stylized or slick. On the one hand we know it's clumsy, and we know it's a mediocre movie. But on the other hand, once we accept the falseness, we know we are within a more real world...the thugs seem like more normal thugs and therefore are more likely thugs. A "bootleg meat" racket could really operate like this, and some very ordinary people (you, me) could get hurt on the fringes, just as the Reilly's are in danger of being hurt.

Now, I'm being a little Pollyanna, for sure. The comic element is just awkward and, well, lighthearted, in the most condemning sense. And Sid Melton? Ugh. He's so unfunny he ruins the lighter touch of some of the other lines. He does have a few B-movie laughs. "Girls make the most fickle women there is." Not that any of it works if you take it seriously, really. The parts of the film that succeed are the more conventional bad guy stuff, and the sweet interactions of our little known lead couple. And right before the end, there is a terrific montage of newspaper headlines and double exposed close-ups of the thugs. The very end? Another putdown for women--her camera is taken away from her and we are supposed to laugh.

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