Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

The Fighting Lawman (AA, 1953)


US Marshal Morris unmasks the bad guys


Big, beefy and blond Wayne Morris started in the 1930s as a “sunny juvenile”, as the IMDb bio puts it, with a Warners contract, but he abandoned Hollywood for war service and afterwards, again according to the IMDb sages, “Losing his boyish looks but not demeanor, Morris spent most of the Fifties in low-budget Westerns.” He died of a heart attack aged only 45. He did 16 big-screen Westerns altogether, early on being Bob Younger in Bad Men of Missouri then being promoted to Cole in The Younger Brothers. He made four in 1953 alone, all Westwood productions released by Allied Artists, and The Fighting Lawman was one.



It was directed by Thomas Carr, who helmed many a second feature for Monogram, then Republic, before moving over to TV and churning out episodes of pretty well every small-screen Western series you care to name. And indeed, The Fighting Lawman, though a theatrical feature, has a definite look of a TV show, with its black & white, frequent studio sets with some perfunctory Corriganville location shots, small cast, just over an hour runtime and occasional fade-to-black.


Tom at the helm


The picture was written by Daniel B Ullman, who worked on over 200 Westerns, big-screen and small, penning Joel McCrea oaters as well as Fred MacMurray ones – he’s probably best known in our beloved genre for the likes of Wichita, Face of a Fugitive and The Gunfight at Dodge City. This one has a fairly standard (but none the worse for that) plot of a US Deputy Marshal (Wayne) chasing bank robbers who are living in 1880s Prescott, AZ under assumed names. The hero has to unmask the villains and bring them to book (aka kill them).


Dan was at the typewriter


The bad guys are John Kellogg, Harry Lauter (a favorite of director Carr’s) and John Pickard. They will spend most of the film double-crossing each other and scheming to murder their fellow gang members. Kellogg is the boss and, as is right and proper in Westerns, is a saloon owner with a henchman (Dick Rich).


Boss baddy Kellogg threatens la Grey


On the cast list next after Morris, though, was Virginia Grey (also Wayne’s co-star on the ’52 Western Desert Pursuit) as femme very fatale Raquel (the enterprise will indeed prove fatal for her, but then the last reel has more bodies littered about than Act V of Hamlet). She too is alternately in cahoots with and at loggerheads with the robbers. Ms Grey was a former child star who won an MGM contract when older and she did a dozen or so feature Westerns – I remember her most with Audie in No Name on the Bullet.



Marshal Burke (that’s Wayne) joins forces with the decent local sheriff and it’s our old pal Myron Healey, who also worked quite a bit with Carr. He looks rather dashing in his frock coat.


Sheriff Myron and Marshal Wayne recover the loot, but it’s RIP Virginia


There are plenty of chases, fisticuffs, gun battles and such, to keep the action rattling along. The final shoot-out takes place amusingly in a china shop as the burly protagonist and antagonist slug it out bullishly.


Wayne has a voiceover commentary at the start and the end and that gives it a semi-documentary feel, in a way, or maybe they were after a crime-noir vibe, with the femme fatale and all.


I enjoyed it. I’m probably easy to please (if it’s a Western I’ll watch it) but you know, though great art it ain’t, I’ve def seen worse.



3 Responses

  1. I have never been impressed with either Ullman or Carr, but the cast in this thing is pretty good, especially Grey and Morris. Too bad they did not have something better for them.

    1. I agree that neither Ullman nor Carr was in the top rank, as far as Westerns go. Those Fred MacMurray and Joel McCrea oaters Ullman wrote weren’t bad. Carr’s best work was probably also with McCrea, THE TALL STRANGER, which I like quite a lot. But they both worked on a fair number of stodgy plodders.

      1. That is fair. The MacMurray films hold up better, and the production values were way ahead, which essentially means more time allocated for principal photography. Asa for the McCrea films, they leave me cold, but as they are reasonably well-considered, that may be just a matter of personal preference.

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