John Wesley Hardin (1853-95) was an outlaw and a gunfighter in the Old West, operating mostly in Texas. In his time he was as famous as Billy the Kid, although history has favored the Kid in terms of the number of books and films. Hardin was played in films by John Dehner ("The Texas Rangers", 1951), Jack Elam ("Dirty Dingus Magee", 1970) and occasionally shows up in a TV show, even played by Clint Eastwood in a 1959 episode of "Maverick".
Time: 1870s. Place: Texas
Here in 1952 he is portrayed by Rock Hudson. Pretty boy Hudson (1925-85) was the world's favorite male actor from 1959 through 1963 and was nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Giant" (1956). He made more than 50 films then transitioned to TV where he appeared on "McMillan & Wife" (1971-7) and "Dynasty" (1984-5). This was Hudson's first film as the star and he does a good job, although the makeup doesn't age him as well as it should, and the much older Hardin doesn't seem to be any less a hunk than the teenage Hardin.
FWIW - Director Raoul Walsh gave Hudson his first screen role in "Fighter Squadron" (1948).
Beautiful yet vulnerable Julia Adams (1926) appeared in a few dozen films, usually westerns, then transitioned to TV in the 50s. She had recurring roles in "Murder She Wrote" (1987-93) as Eve Simpson. She does her usual excellent job, in this case as a salon girl in love with Hardin.
John McIntire (1907-91) had the unique distinction of filling in for an actor who died in the middle of his series (Ward Bond in "Wagon Train"). In a career from 1947 to 1989 he made nearly 100 films and appeared in many TV shows and movies. Although he usually appeared in westerns, I remember him best for his TV series "Naked City" (1958). He was usually a good guy, but could also play the bad guy (e.g., "Winchester 73", "The Far Country"). McIntire plays Hudson's preacher father (bad guy) and also appears as Hudson's uncle (good guy).
Hugh O'Brien, Lee van Cleef, and Glenn Strange play brothers who are hunting Hudson for killing Michael Ansasa, their brother.
Hugh O'Brian (1923) is best remembered for his years on the TV series "Wyatt Earp" (1955-61), but in addition he was a Golden Globe winner as Most Promising Newcomer for his role in "The Man from the Alamo" (1953) and made dozens of films before the TV series hit. He did a great job as Arnold Schwartznegger's father in the 1988 hit "Twins" and pops up occasionally in TV movies, occasionally reprising his role as Earp (e.g., "The Gambler Returns", "Return to Tombstone").
Lee Van Cleef (1925-89) was one of the great film villains or anti-heroes, specializing in westerns like his debut in "High Noon" (1952) and his man in black in "For a Few Dollars More" (1965) and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (1966). Cleef was so popular as a cult figure that he spawned his own series of westerns in the late 60s and 70s - "Sabata" (1969), "El Condor" (1970), "The Magnificent Seven Ride" (1972), etc. before transforming himself into a martial arts figure in films like "The Octagon" (1980) and "Wild Geese" (1984).
Michael Ansara (1922) is best known from his years as Cochise on TV's "Broken Arrow" (1956-60) or, to younger viewers, as Kang in 3 different Star Trek series or as Mr. Freeze in the "Batman" series. He plays a gambler killed by Hudson. He barely has a line or two to speak before he's dispatched.
Dennis Weaver (1924-2006) is best known for his years on "Gunsmoke" as Chester and his detective series "McCloud", but he also had a distinguished career in films such as "Touch of Evil" and "Duel" (1971). He received two Emmy nominations for "Gunsmoke" and for "McCloud" and won once (1955). Weaver plays Hudson's cousin. If you sneeze you'll miss him.
Look for Francis Ford (1881-1953) in a small role as a saloon sweeper. Ford was director John Ford's older brother. He was a writer and a director and also an actor, appearing in several films directed by his younger brother - "The Informer" (1935), "Drums Along the Mohawk" (1939), "The Quiet Man" (1952), etc.
The film is directed by Raoul Walsh (1887-1980). Walsh had been an actor appearing as John Wilkes Booth in Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" (1915). He turned to directing in 1930, directing John Wayne in his first film ("The Big Trail"). Walsh directed such notable films as "The Roaring Twenties" (1939), "Dark Command" (1940), "They Drive By Night" (1940), "High Sierra" (1941) and "White Heat" (1949). With Errol Flynn they made 7 films together from 1941 ("They Died with their Boots On") to 1945 ("San Antonio"). Walsh declined notably in the 50s after he left Warner Brothers, but his 50+ year career made him one of Hollywood's most memorable directors. Flynn called him a "great and imaginative" director.
The top grossing films in 1953 were "Peter Pan", "The Robe", "From Here to Eternity", "Shane", and "How to Marry a Millionaire". "From Here to Eternity" won 4 Oscars (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor and Actress) and Bill Holden won best actor for "Stalag 17". Other notable films that year were Brando's "The Wild One" and "Julius Caesar", Vincent Price's 3-D classic "House of Wax", Richard Burton in "The Desert Rats", and Disney's "Peter Pan",
Westerns were popular in 1953. In addition to top 10 grossing films "Shane", "Calamity Jane", and "Hondo", there were "Arrowhead", "The Great Sioux Uprising", "The Mississippi Gambler" "The Naked Spur" and "Pony Express".
Told from the POV of Hardin, this is an interesting film, interspersed at various intervals with newspaper accounts of Hardin's exploits and/or the attempts to capture him. The acting is good, the photography is excellent, the technicolor is vivid, and Walsh keeps the action moving right along. Of course this isn't history, and it isn't even Hardin's account of history, since the ending was changed following negative preview audience reaction. But it is an entertaining B western from the 50s, and it's a chance to see some stars like Weaver, O'Brien, and Van Cleef, during their early years.