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Posted by martinteller on July 20, 2013

Clay Phillips (Robert Sterling) and his little brother Steve (Claude Jarman, Jr.) are driving a team of horses to start up a new ranch at Sonora.  Along the way, they come across a stranded group of dancehall girls: Mary (Gloria Grahame), Elaine (Jeff Donnell), Helen (Myrna Dell) and Marcia (Martha Hyer), also on their way to Sonora.  Clay reluctantly takes them on, not wanting to be burdened with a bunch of womenfolk but too softhearted to say no.  But he’s got more problems to worry about: the murderer Lednov (John Ireland) is on the loose, and looking to settle an old score with Clay.

This is a rather sleepy western, mostly about the oil and water relationship developing between Clay and Mary.  The most interesting part is watching the other “dancehall girls” (can’t say “prostitutes” now, can we?) peel off one by one… one for true love, one to stay with her parents and another who becomes a gold digger, in more ways than one.  The looming threat of Lednov is barely felt until the moment of truth.

Of course, I mostly watched it for Grahame.  It’s the type of role she was generally placed in, and always excels at: the hardened good-time gal who’s been around the block a few times but has a soft vulnerability.  Sterling is not the most compelling leading man, but he manages the stern but conflicted thing well enough.  Jarman (who had made his debut in The Yearling a couple of years earlier) is not too annoying, except when he gets sulky.  I feel like I’ve seen this dynamic — the young kid who wants his taciturn older brother to hook up with the nice lady — many times before, but I can’t think of any specific examples.

There’s nothing gratingly wrong with the movie, it’s just not that exciting or fresh or surprising.  Worth a watch for Gloria Grahame fanatics, though.  Rating: Fair (68)


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