Big-theme Western feels whittled down a size or two, as if someone lost confidence in the material between conception, development & production. You’d never guess a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel lay behind it. Don Murray & Stuart Whitman play opposites-attract cowpoke pals. Murray the ambitious striver with visions of a cattle empire; Whitman more go-with-the-flow roustabout. So while Murray discards the tart who gave him the stake that led to fortune & quick political rise; Whitman marries his and slides into life on the wrong side of the law. All while their wild little town matures as a force in Montana’s march toward civilized ways. And by the time Murray realizes how he’s lost his soul in a grab for success, it’s probably too late to change things. Director Richard Fleischer & lenser Charles Clarke get a lot out of their handsome locations, but the film goes a little dead indoors. Maybe producer David Weisbart just didn’t have the clout (or interest) to follow thru on where the drama seems to point. Story & character arcs go missing, and half of the last act (most likely a piece of courtroom drama) simply isn’t there. Plus, it’s hard to maintain rooting interest for Don Murray (or anyone) once he opts for blandly proper, society gal Patricia Owens over lit-from-within/girl-with-a-past/ cornflower-blue-eyed Lee Remick.
DOUBLE-BILL: William Wyler covered similar terrain (with all the size you could wish) on his habitually underrated THE BIG COUNTRY/’58.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Note how our poster works the contemporary card, downplaying any period Western elements. Too many tv Westerns at the time?