No Matt Dillon Here: The Western Movie, “Gunsmoke”

Audie Murphy was a war hero, but a charmless and very limited actor—too limited as a leading man.  Still, the 1953 Gunsmoke, which stars Murphy, is another enticing Old Hollywood Western adapted from an obscure novel.

Here, Reb Kittredge, Murphy’s character, is hired to kill a man (Paul Kelly) but ends up buying his failing ranch instead.  He becomes the instrument for protecting the rancher’s interests.  However, he himself needs protection from Johnny, a coldly practical friend of his who might find it necessary to gun Kittredge down, and from big Curly, who resents Kittredge’s liking for Rita (Susan Cabot), the woman Curly is wooing.

I like that the film is in color, but Nathan Juran‘s directing is certainly unspectacular.  There is extensive drama, though, and a handful of nifty performances (by Jack Kelly, Donald Randolph, Jesse White).  Cabot’s Rita could have been an interesting character—as interesting as Susan Cabot herself, with her horrible life—but there is no development of her.

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