High June: STRANGER ON HORSEBACK

STRANGER ON HORSEBACK is a 1955 American Western movie. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur. It was produced by Robert Goldstein and written by Herb Meadow and Don Marlin from a story by Louis L’Amour. The film stars Joel McCrea, Miroslava, John McIntire, and Kevin McCarthy.

Cast:

Joel McCrea as JUDGE RICHARD “RICK” THORNE

Miroslava as AMY LEE BANNERMAN

Kevin McCarthy as TOM BANNERMAN

John McIntire as JOSIAH BANNERMAN

John Carradine as COLONEL BUCK STREETER

Rick Thorne is a circuit judge who rides into a town called Bannerman and discovers that everything in that town is owned and/or controlled by a rich rancher by the name of Josiah Bannerman and his family. In dealing with the details of his job Judge Thorne asks the town marshal and the district attorney Colonel Buck Streeter why Bannerman’s son Tom killed a man but was never arrested or brought to trial. Taking matters into his own hands the judge arrests Tom – in the process meeting the Bannerman clan including Josiah’s niece Amy Lee. He finds witnesses who will testify against Tom. But realizing that he would never get a fair trial in Bannerman he sneaks Tom and the witnesses out of town intending to take them to the next town. However, Josiah Bannerman finds out and goes after them intending to free his son no matter what!

  • Joel McCrea liked working with director Jacques Tourneur so much on the film STARS IN MY CROWN (1950) that he signed on eagerly to do STRANGER ON HORSEBACK.
  • Miroslava was a Czech/Mexican actress who would do only one more American movie before committing suicide at the age of 30.

Dislikes

  • STRANGER ON HORSEBACK is only 66 minutes long. Not that I advocate padding out a movie. I would rather have meat, even if it is short meat, than non-meat filler. But the film could have taken a bit more time to flesh out its characters and establish relationships. Certainly more time could have been taken with the love story. The film seems a little too much in a hurry to tell its story.
  • I do not understand Judge Thorne’s motivations. Mainly because they are never established. We are shown him to be an honest man who believes in the law and is willing to stand up for it. But right away we’re led to believe that he is something special in this regard. If that is the case then why? What is it that made him so special? I understand the motivations of all the other characters – arrogance, greed, misplaced family loyalty, fear – but I do not understand what drove Judge Thorne.

Likes

  • I love Louis L’Amour and he is my absolute favorite western writer. I have loved every one of his books that I have read. I have also loved every western movie based on his stories that I have seen. What motivated me to watch this movie was that it was based on one of his stories. I was not disappointed and Mister L’Amour is batting a thousand. I loved watching this movie.
  •  John Carradine, as Colonel Buck Streeter, hams it up to no end! Every time he appears on screen he chews up the scenery. Most of the time when an actor in a film hams it up it turns me off but this time I found it funny and was actually looking forward to each time he appeared.

I like this movie – a lot! Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying it is one of the greatest westerns ever made. But it is enjoyable. It tells a crisp, clean story that is easy to follow. The characters are easy to like – or dislike – and everything makes sense. Joel McCrea – as always – makes you fall in love with him right away. I am a late convert to the great Joel McCrea. While growing up my western heroes were John Wayne, Randolph Scott, and Audie Murphy. Later Clint Eastwood was added to the list. I didn’t discover Joel McCrea until I was an adult. I’m glad I did. There is always a sincerity, often understated, in his performances that tugs at your heart. It’s there in this movie and it is one of the things that make STRANGER ON HORSEBACK so enjoyable. 

I recommend this movie. It’s a good little western with good performances and a good story. You will not be disappointed and instead will walk away once again sure you love westerns for all the right reasons.

On our rating scale I give STRANGER ON HORSEBACK four gray geeks.

Well that is it for this time buckaroos. Thank you for letting me share my love of movies with you and since this is “HIGH JUNE” I’ll be talking about westerns all month. Join me next time and don’t forget your Stetson hat, your Colt Peacemaker, and your trusty horse names Eustace. Okay, maybe not the best name for a horse but I let my horse pick his own name and he wanted Eustace. I let him make his own life choices. Adios and hasta la vista! YEEHA!!!

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