"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Lone Gun (United Artists, 1954)

Standard fare

The Lone Gun is a stodgy mid-50s B-Western with not a huge amount to recommend it.

George Montgomery (1916 – 2000) did a lot of these second features. He had been Lassiter in the 1941 Riders of the Purple Sage, Davy Crockett (1950), and Jack McCall (1953). He was Matt Rockford in the TV Cimarron City and did some late spaghettis. He wasn't all that good really. In this one he is a lantern-jawed marshal out to bring law ‘n’ order to the town despite the cringing townsfolk.
In a (very) vaguely Earp/Holliday way, the tough marshal allies with a tinhorn gambler, quite well played by Frank Faylen in a frock coat. Faylen had small parts in twenty-odd Westerns. In The Lone Gun he manages to be amusing and cynical, as far as the wooden script allows.
Dorothy Malone pretty but ho-hum in this, George Montgomery not pretty but otherwise ditto, Frank Faylen quite good though
And Frank has a derringer, which plays quite a prominent part in the plot. So that's good.

The tinhorn's popgun, Neville Brand calls it

The ensemble was directed in a brisk, workmanlike way by Ray Nazarro, who did Western after Western from In Old Montana in 1939 to Apache Territory in 1958. He used to turn out a picture a month for Columbia, on time and on budget, if required (and studio boss Harry Cohn required). They were all uninspired and formulaic but OK fodder for the 1940s and 50s fans.

The Lone Gun is unremarkable in every way but it does move right along. The best thing about it is the bad guys, three rustler brothers, Neville Brand, Robert J Wilke and Douglas Kennedy, a pretty good line-up. Brand was of course a professional heavy, not just in Westerns, and in a couple of oaters, The Tin Star with Henry Fonda and Cahill, US Marshal with John Wayne, got quite big parts. Wilke we know of old, of course, and with that excellent sneer was a perfect Western bad man. He did no fewer than 178 Westerns, 1939 – 78, an incredible record, and nearly always as the bad hombre. Kennedy had been Wild Bill to Montgomery’s Jack McCall, and he’d been Custer in the Dale Robertson vehicle Sitting Bull. He later became a regular in TV Westerns but wasn’t always the heavy.
Neville Brand (left) always solid as a heavy
There’s also good old Douglas Fowley as the bar tender in cahoots with the rustlers (you can have fun Fowley-spotting in B-Westerns from 1934 onwards) and Skip Homeier who specialized in snotty kid parts. He was the punk who shot Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter and was equally punkish in various oaters like Ten Wanted Men and The Tall T.
Skip Homeier, punk kid specialist
So good to see these character actors anyway.

The title is quite good. Westerns liked the word lone. See the post I'm so lonesome I could cry.

But the title and character actors are about all The Lone Gun has going for it. We Western freaks will enjoy it but normal people should really steer clear to avoid disappointment.

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