MAN OF THE WEST was one of the last handful of films Gary Cooper appeared in before his death in 1961. It was 1958 when the film was released and was directed by Anthony Mann.
Cooper is Link Jones, an ex-outlaw that has gone straight, leaving the gang his uncle ran without notice some years before and began to forge a life outside outlaw circles. Married, with children, his neighbors knowing of his former life, forgiving him, he was now headed, with the town’s savings, to hire a teacher. At a train station in a small town, his troubles begin when the town Marshall knows his face is familiar, but can’t quite place it.
On the train ride away, the engineer stops it when a number of logs block the track. Link takes charge of removing them when suddenly an outlaw gang rides from under a nearby bridge and attacks. Caught afoot in a gun battle, Link and a few others, guards for the money shipment, drive them away, the train jumping off before they return. Unfortunately Link, a gambler, Sam Beasley(Arthur O’Connell), and a woman, Saloon singer Billie Ellis(Julie London) are left behind.
Afoot, in the middle of nowhere, without food or water, Link knows of only one place to go. An old farm house where the gang used to work from in the old days. Unknown to Link, they still used the place. Getting there, he’s confronted by his uncle, Dock Tobin(Lee J. Cobb) and his cousins, the vicious Coaley(Jack Lord), Claude(John Dehner), and the mute Trout(Royal Dano).
They have his money now and he’s determined to get it back. The folks trusted him with their savings and he intends to use it the way intended. Dock Tobin wants him back in the gang, Coaley just wants to kill him. Claude doesn’t trust him and also wants him dead before he can betray Tobin. Trout just does what they want. Link has to protect Billie and Beasley. Claude has also brought word that that Marshall finally remembered Link’s face and figures he was on the train as part of the robbery attempt.
A heavy load for an aging man that hadn’t rode the outlaw trail in years, his carefully built up world crumbling around him.
A fine little film and one I’m going to use as a double-up. Friday for Forgotten books I’m featuring the novel it was based upon, THE BORDER JUMPERS by Will C. Brown.