A reformed Gunfighter Jimmy Ringo is on his way to a sleepy town in the hope of a reunion with his estranged sweetheart and their young son who he has never seen. On arrival, a chance meeting with some old friends including the town's Marshal gives the repentant Jimmy some respite. But as always Jimmy's reputation has already cast its shadow, this time in the form of three vengeful cowboys hot on his trail and a local gunslinger hoping to use Jimmy to make a name for himself. With a showdown looming, the town is soon in a frenzy as news of Jimmy's arrival spreads. His movements are restricted to the saloon while a secret meeting with his son can be arranged giving him ideas of a long term reunion with his family far removed from his wild past.Written by
Bob Dylan's 1986 song "Brownsville Girl," co-written with Sam Shepard, alludes to watching Gregory Peck in this film. Peck himself thanked Dylan publicly when he delivered the speech when Dylan was given his Kennedy Center award in 1997. See more »
When Jimmy Ringo goes into the hotel room to get the sniper with the Winchester rifle, the lock on the door is just a handle. There is no mechanism to go into the jamb to allow the door to lock. See more »
A Great Classic , But Hardly The First Adult Western
The Gunfighter is surely one of the great classic Westerns of the late 1940's/early 1950's era. Yours truly saw it in 1950, when it was new, with my family in the local small-town theater. It made as powerful impression then as is possible on a 6-year old kid, and it gets better and better with subsequent viewings for the fading old geezer.
Tautly and skillfully directed by old studio veteran Henry King, and filmed in stark black and white, this hour and twenty-five minute picture moves along at a brisk pace with nary a wasted scene, all along building suspense while painting intense character studies. Gregory Peck, as the title's badman, and Millard Mitchell as his lawman friend, both turn in overpowering performances, with fine support coming from Jean Parker, Karl Malden, Helen Westcott, and Skip Homeier. The Gunfighter is tough, tense, poignant, gritty, authentic, dramatically engaging, and first rate in every way. The story by William Bowers and William Sellers drew an Acedmy Award nomination. The movie was well received by critics but not by the paying public for some reason. Yet it is now widely, and deservedly recognized as an all-time classic Western.
That being said and without detracting from its formidable merits, The Gunfighter was hardly the first "adult" or "mature" Western, as pundits on this forum and elsewhere keep saying. To think so, you must practically ignore most of the "A" Western pictures produced in the 1940's. Does Red River (1948) with its tough, brutal, overbearing antihero and its grand epic story seem to you to have been made for children? No, and neither were any of the "A" Westerns of the same era. "Adult" can't mean sexual situations here, because there was no hanky-panky in The Gunfighter. But there was a plenty in Duel In The Sun (1946), Peck's first Western and a text book example of the way Old Hollywood movie makers knew how to steam your eye glasses without really showing much! And if show and tell is required, get a load of Marlene Dietrich's outfit in the opening scene of The Spoilers (1942). Some very immature types think "mature" means displaying a nihilistic attitude. If that's you, check out Lust For Gold (1949 -- see my review). You can wallow in its angst and love it! But that wasn't the attitude The Gunfighter had anyway. If "mature" requires a dark, brooding, doom-laden, noir-type story, take a gander at early Robert Mitchum opus Pursued (1947), or Ramrod (1947). Are we talking a concentration on character development, adult, even sexual situations, complex dramatic development, try Canyon Passage (1946), Whispering Smith (1948 -- see my review), or The Sea Of Grass (1947 -- see my review). Below is a partial list of others embodying more or less the same "mature", "adult" approaches to the Western genre.
Yellow Sky (1948), Abilene Town (1947), Station West (1948), Honky Tonk (1941), Silver River (1948), Barbary Coast (1935), Cimarron (1931), Dakota (1945 -- see my review), San Antonio (1945 -- see my review), California (1946 -- see my review), My Darling Clementine (1946), Flame Of Barbary Coast (1945), Blood On The Moon (1948), Colorado Territory (1948), and of course Stagecoach (1939). And many others.
The Gunfighter was following an established tradition, not setting a new one. But it is a fine example. A true classic from the waning days of Old Hollywood's Golden Era! In a few years, they wouldn't be able to make 'em like this one any more.
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