By 1956, Barbara Stanwyck was in her late forties and aging out of the sorts of roles she’d played most of her career(you know movie executive minds). Westerns were her favorite type of film anyway, and it allowed her more time outdoors and riding horses, so she was gravitating more and more toward horse operas. The movie is based on the novel by Zane Grey, which I haven’t read. But by a description I did read, it sounds considerably different from what appeared on screen.
She’s the title character, a maverick queen, with a saloon of the same name. She’s also into cattle rustling and robbery among other things. She owns most of the Wyoming town of Rock Springs. She’s also allied with the Hole-In-The-Wall gang and once had a relationship with the Sundance Kid(Scott Brady), but that was over as far as she was concerned. In her climb to power, Kit Banion was attracted to strong men, but had a habit of using them up. But Sundance didn’t see it that way and his jealousy drives much of the plot of this film. Butch(Howard Petrie) doesn’t like it and tries to keep them apart.
Lucy Lee(Mary Murphy) is a young rancher who’s taking a herd of cattle to market at Rock Springs. Her father had been killed sometime in the past and she was determined to hang onto the ranch.
A man, Jeff Young(Barry Sullivan), hails the camp and asks for food. He’s there when Sundance and the gang approach to rustle the herd. He ducks behind the wagon and, when he emerges guns out, he’s wearing a kerchief covering his face from the nose down, getting the drop on the gang, and relieving them of their guns and forcing them to leave.
In town, he bathes, shaves, and dresses in a suit, heading to the Maverick Queen. There he runs into Lucy Lee who’s sold her head to Kit Banion, much to her consternation as she’d sent the gang to steal the herd. Lucy offers Jeff a job getting rid of Butch and Sundance, though he refuses as he has other plans.
Shortly in a poker game, he gets into an argument with Sundance, the gunman accusing him of cheating. Jeff flips the table over before Sundance can shoot him in the belly. It gets him an in with Kit and he introduces himself as Jeff Younger. When asked if any relation to Cole and Jim, he admits to being a nephew just out of prison(they got twenty-five years, he got three). He takes a job as a faro dealer and when a new “job” comes up, Kit volunteers Jeff to help, much to the jealous Sundance’s displeasure.
Jeff is also not who he appears to be. Kit learns that when the real Jeff Younger shows up and sets out to warn her Jeff.
It sets up a slam bang finish with the Hole-In-The-Wall gang and a posse lead by a Pinkerton.
Enjoyed this look at Butch and Sundance, much less likable than the version I was familiar with, the Newman and Redford portrayals.
I’ll be back next week with another Stanwyck-Sullivan western.
Couldn’t find a trailer, but the movie is on Youtube broken into chunks and I’ve included part 1 to give you flavor:
For more overlooked movies, Todd Mason gathers them on Tuesdays over at his blog, SWEET FREEDOM.