Having little character exploration, Rawhide (1951)—the movie—is nevertheless a good one about criminal men. It wasn’t meant to be The Wild Bunch, though, and so it offers a hero in Tyrone Powers‘s Tom and, in fact, a heroine in Susan Hayward’s saucy Vinnie. For good measure, Henry Hathaway’s film is one of the best I know about the holding of hostages: Tom and Vinnie need to free themselves and Vinnie’s toddler niece from a pack of fugitive thieves. One of them, smart Rafe Zimmerman, seems like a gentleman but isn’t (Who are you, Zimmerman? Tom demands). He will eliminate witnesses.
Hathaway’s directing is impeccable, with concentrated action in the frames and expert camera placement. He gets real Westerner prowess from his actors—notable performances by Hayward, Hugh Marlowe (Zimmerman) and Jack Elam. Dudley Nichols wrought what is apparently an original script, and it’s the kind of entertainment piece that makes you want to see the writer’s talent in other movies.