Cast & Crew
One night, when a train stops at a small Western town, a deputy sheriff ushers convicted bank robber Jim Larson aboard, on his way to serve a prison term. At the train's next stop, Jim overpowers the deputy and is about to escape when his younger brother Danny unexpectedly appears with two horses. As the brothers ride off, the deputy shoots at Danny, badly wounding him, and Danny fires back, hitting the lawman. Now too injured to ride, Danny is helped onto a passing freight car by his brother. Once inside, Danny apologizes to Jim for implicating him in the shooting and possible murder of a lawman. Jim, a hardened, cynical loner, coldly replies that he never wanted Danny's help. After Danny dies from his wound, Jim stuffs his body in a mail sack and tosses it out the door as the train crosses a river. When the train stops the next morning, Jim slips into a passenger car and sits next to six-year-old Alice Bailey. The inquisitive Alice, who is traveling alone to the town of Tangle Blue, peppers Jim with questions, and he tells her that his name is Ray Kincaid and that he works as an inspector for a mining company in Tangle Blue. When the train stops at Tangle Blue, Alice introduces Jim to her widowed mother, Ellen. On the town's main street, Ellen's brother, Mark Riley, who has reluctantly assumed the post of sheriff after the recent death of the town's previous lawman, confronts rancher Reed Williams about fencing public grazing lands. When Mark orders Williams to take down his fence, Williams contemptuously sneers at him. Later, at the barber shop, Jim convinces Jake, the barber, that he is an old client. After gossiping about Mark's reluctance to trade in his law books for the sheriff's badge, the garrulous Jake reveals that the deputy from the train has died and that wanted posters identifying his killers will be delivered on the next day's train. Jim then goes to buy a horse at a stable, where the stable owner, impressed by Jim's way with animals, gives him a horse on credit and suggests that he apply for a job as Mark's deputy. Next, Jim goes to the general store to purchase a gun and a new set of clothes, and there meets Ellen, who works as a clerk to support her family. After Jim steps into the dressing room to try on the clothes, Williams enters the store and warns Ellen that he will kill Mark if he tries to remove the fence. Jim overhears the threat, and later, when he tells Ellen he is leaving town, Ellen surprises him by saying that she wishes she could leave, too. At the pass leading out of town, Jim discovers that Mark has posted deputies to prevent anyone from leaving until the wanted posters arrive. Rather than challenge the deputies, Jim turns back and asks Mark for a job. Mark promises to give Jim his answer at the dance that night. Jim is pleasantly surprised to meet Ellen at the dance, and they both discuss the responsibility and frustration they have felt for their younger brothers. After Mark informs Jim that he has decided not to hire him, Purdy, one of Williams' thugs, comes to the dance and insists that Mark accompany him outside to meet Williams. There Williams warns Mark that he will die if he tampers with the fence. When Williams suggests they have a showdown that night, Jim intercedes to stop him from killing Mark. In gratitude, Mark hires Jim, who then escorts Ellen home. On the wagon ride to her house, Ellen observes that Jim is a "good man." Upon seeing several townsmen gathered along the river bank, Jim stops the wagon and the men show him the body that has washed ashore stuffed in a mail sack. When they reach the house, Jim kisses Ellen, but when she returns his feelings, he abruptly leaves. In town, as Jim peers at his brother's body through the window of the coroner's office, Mark passes by and asks if he can identify the victim. After Mark wryly remarks that he and the victim were the same age, Jim suddenly urges him to marry his sweetheart Janet that night. Mark, who fears he will die the next morning in his confrontation with Williams, is reluctant until Jim convinces him that he should wed and agrees to serve as his best man. After the ceremony, Ellen and Jim wistfully speak of meeting in San Francisco one day, and Ellen declares that Jim's past is of no concern to her. The next morning, Mark and his deputies ride out to confront Williams. After Mark assigns Jim to guard the pass, Jim hints that he may be one of the fugitives, but Mark refuses to believe him. As Mark is about to leave to pick up the posters, Jim warns that Williams will kill him and advises him to use any means necessary to kill Williams first, but Mark refuses to disregard the law. The disputed fence lies along the trail to the train station, and when Mark finds Purdy restringing barbed wire, he pulls out his wire cutters. Just as Purdy draws his gun, Jim, from the hills above, shoots the weapon out of his hand. Soon after Mark leaves, Purdy's confederates appear. Pursued by Williams' gang, Jim takes refuge in an abandoned ghost town and climbs onto a roof for a better view of his hunters. The structure collapses, however, sending Jim plunging into the floor below. Jumping though the hole in the roof, Purdy shoots Jim, who, now wounded, crawls down a flight of stairs. When Purdy runs after him, Williams mistakes him for Jim and kills him. Williams then corners Jim, and just as he is about to kill him, Mark reaches town, accompanied by Ellen and his deputies, and shoots Williams. After scrutinizing the wanted poster, Mark questions whether Jim is the pictured fugitive. Mark then promises Ellen that he will testify in Jim's behalf, observing that Jim easily could have escaped but instead chose to stay and uphold the law.
Francis De Sales
Hal K. Dawson
David T. Chantler
Wilfrid M. Cline
Charles H. Schneer
Daniel B. Ullman
Face of a Fugitive
Here he plays a bank robber on the lam accused of killing a deputy sheriff. The real killer is his own brother, who dies early on. Changing his name, MacMurray attempts to start over in a new town close to the Mexican border, promptly falling for the deceased deputy's sister and getting involved in a bitter dispute between a corrupt rancher and the town sheriff. In defending the sheriff, MacMurray facilitates his own capture, even as he begins to redeem his criminal past. Perhaps the most notable detail about this downbeat Western is that the action all takes place in the course of a single day, with a chase at the climax providing the story's most exciting action.
This same year, director Paul Wendkos made a far more successful picture, Gidget (1959). He later made the other two Gidget movies (Gidget Goes Hawaiian [1961) with Deborah Walley, Gidget Goes to Rome  starring Cindy Carol), but spent most of his career working in television, although not on the Gidget hit series with Sally Field or any of the made-for-TV movies centered on the character.
Producer Charles H. Schneer's career took in a handful of Westerns and war movies, but he left his real mark in a long association with Ray Harryhausen, the special effects master of his time. Starting in 1955, they made eleven pictures over the next quarter century-plus, including The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and their last (together and separately), Clash of the Titans (1981).
Face of a Fugitive - the original working title was Justice Ends with a Gun - was only the third feature film scored by Jerry Goldsmith, who went on to become one of the most successful film composers of his time. Between 1979 and 1999, he was Oscar®-nominated seventeen times and won once, for The Omen (1976).
Although MacMurray starred as the anti-hero, the real bad guy in this movie is James Coburn, who is particularly nasty in his second feature film appearance. After Face of a Fugitive, he went back to television guest spots, often in Western series, until his breakthrough roles in The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). Late in his career, he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Affliction (1997).
Director: Paul Wendkos
Producer: Charles H. Schneer
Screenplay: David T. Chantler, Daniel B. Ullman, story by Peter Dawson
Cinematography: Wilfred M. Cline
Editing: Jerome Thoms
Art Direction: Robert Peterson
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Jim Larsen), Lin McCarthy (Sheriff Mark Riley), Dorothy Green (Ellen Bailey), Alan Baxter (Reed Williams), James Coburn (Purdy).
by Rob Nixon
Face of a Fugitive
The working title of this film was Justice Ends with a Gun. Although a September 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item states that Charles Lawton was to be the film's cameraman, his contribution to the released print has not been determined. Hollywood Reporter news items place Morgan Jones, K. L. Smith, Robert Dacost, Jon Lormer, Gil Rankin and Charles Bell in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. An October 8, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that location filming was done around Sonora, AZ.
Released in United States 1959
Screen debut for James Coburn.
Released in United States 1959