When he rides a bucking saddle horse without being thrown, it’s clear to the rest of the men that he’s no ordinary greenhorn. Decking himself out in store-bought duds and a western hat, he becomes the handsome hero we know from a score or more of his westerns. It takes the others in the movie quite a while longer to discover his actual identity.
Plot. The item on the props list that moves all the action is $250,000 in gold hidden by robbers somewhere in the snow-peaked mountains. Tucker, the one robber who knows where to find the loot, escapes from a law officer escorting him to prison. A saloon operator (George Macready) is after Tucker for the gold and employs several goons to do the necessary dirty work.
|Swapping clothes, Forrest Tucker and Randolph Scott|
That includes getting Macready’s alcoholic partner (Tom Powers) bumped off, and when Scott gets involved, having his men beat him unconscious. Macready’s daughter (a young Dorothy Malone) meets Scott as she sells him a horse at her father’s ranch. She takes a shine to him when he tells her she seems “pretty sure of herself.”
Malone eventually shifts her allegiance to Scott during the course of the film, as she confronts her father for being greedy and a miserable husband to her mother. When he slaps her down for defying him, he doesn’t do much to get on her good side either.
Scott joins Tucker in an uneasy alliance as they band together against Macready. Macready’s chief henchman (Jock Mahoney) tries to supervise the feisty Malone, but she gets away from him.
|Dorothy Malone, Randolph Scott|
There follows a trek into the mountains as Tucker and Scott head into the high country to get the gold, while Macready and two brothers (Frank Faylen and Jeff Corey) follow them. In a standoff outside an abandoned mine shaft, the villains get picked off one by one.
Matters aren’t resolved, however, until Tucker learns why Scott has become his partner, and a furious fight ensues inside the old mine, which begins to collapse around them. When all is said and done, Scott has delivered Tucker back into the hands of the law, and Malone, still pretty sure of herself, says Scott will be back some day--to get his horse.
|Randolph Scott and Jock Mahoney|
Parallels. The story is structured in a way that plays out some ideas about partners. There are three sets of partners in the film. Scott and Tucker make one pair, as they work together to retrieve the gold, neither fully trusting the other. “Don’t ever turn your back on a partner,” Tucker tells Scott.
Macready and Powers have been business partners for many years, before Macready decides that Powers is expendable and gets him into a fatal ambush. Also of interest is the bond between the two brothers, Faylen and Corey. Though they bicker and quarrel, they are dead loyal to each other. When Faylen is mortally wounded, he dies in the arms of the emotionally stricken Corey.
Wrapping up. The film was shot in color and standard ratio in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine, California, which accounts for the backdrop of snow-capped Sierras. Director Gordon Douglas made scores of movies over four decades in Hollywood, including several westerns: Fort Dobbs (1958), Yellowstone Kelly (1959) and Rio Conchos (1964). Earlier in his career, he’d directed numerous Our Gang shorts and, during the war, a series of Great Guildersleeve features.
Randolph Scott was surrounded in the film by no small amount of talent. Dorothy Malone was at the beginning of a career that would include starring roles in many films, as well as one of the central characters in TV’s long running serial, Peyton Place (1964-1968).
In the 1950s, Forrest Tucker was a B-film performer, appearing in westerns and action films before eventually joining the cast of the TV series, F Troop (1965-1967). George Macready, a Shakespearean actor, with a long screen career playing villains, also would be a continuing character on Peyton Place.
Character actors Frank Faylen and Jeff Corey each appeared in over 200 film and TV roles. Faylen is remembered as the father of TV’s Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). Corey, an actor’s actor, was active in the controversial Federal Theater Project in the 1930s and, after distinguished service during WWII, was called before the HUAC, refused to testify, and was blacklisted for a decade. During that time he developed a following as an acting teacher and coach for the likes of James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Kirk Douglas, and many others.
The Nevadan is currently available at amazon. For more of Tuesday’s Overlooked Films, click on over to Todd Mason’s blog.
Photo credits: Forrest Tucker, Frank Faylen, and Jeff Corey, imdb.com
Coming up: Old West glossary, no. 44