I had never even heard of this film until I saw it today, Gun For A Coward is a really good western with a hint of Bonanza and with a climatic fight that reminded me of Red River. It's the story of 3 ranching brothers, the middle-age Fred MacMurray, the younger Jeffrey Hunter and the tough talking teenager Dean Stockwell with Chill Wills as the loyal ranch hand and friend to them all.
The question the film throws up, is Hunter's character a coward, or IMO he's sensible to walk way from a fight rather get into trouble. In contrast Stockwell, who reminded me a of a wilder version of a young Joe Cartwright, fearless and scared of nothing and MacMurray, Adam Cartwright, a man who looks out for his younger siblings.
The begining of the film is odd with the brothers widowed mother, favorinadg Hunter over her other sons, to the point of smothering him. She wanted him to go to St. Louis with her to get him away from the west. She resented MacMurray for keeping the family on the ranch, after her husband was killed by a rattler and she didn't worry if Stockwell took risks, the way she did with Hunter. She died shortly before the brother's went on a cattle drive.
The problems for Hunter worsened on the drive. On a trip to a nearby town to buy sugar, Stockwell gets involved in a confrontation with some men, over the company of dance hall girls. Hunter tries to talk down the situation, but fast draw Stockwell bts a man in a fair fight, leaving folk to believe his older brother backed down from a fight. Later on I felt Hunter showed real courage, without getting credit for it, by telling MacMurray he was in love with his older brother's girl Janice Rule and she was with him.
Hunter's supposed cowardice came to light again when, after MacMurray rode ahead to Abilene, when rustlers attacked the herd and cause a stampede. Hunter decided to ride off, telling the men that it'll be better to turn the herd later down the trail, but Stockwell talked the others into staying at the night camp and fighing the rustlers there. This resulted in MacMurray finally telling his brother he was a coward, even though Wills stood up for the middle sibling. Things came to a head, as Hunter prepared to draw against a trouble making cowhand, when his brother drew and shot the man in the shoulder. This is where I was reminded of Red River, when Duke Wayne had a fist fight with adopted son Monty Clift. MacMurray appeared to dominate the fight, but Hunter showed his courage by staying on and even threatening to win the brawl. It was only stopped when another cowhand rode in to say he found the rustlers.
The film ended with Hunter leading the men, as they went after the rustlers. MucMurray then told his former girlfriend he was going away, leaving her and Hunter with the ranch.
One interesting footnote the actress, who played the boys mother was only 5 yrs older than Fred MacMurray
Last edited by stuart.uk
on Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.