Cast & Crew
Johnny Mack Brown
Although he is an expert marksman, when a local saloon is robbed and its owner is killed, cowboy Johnny Hume hides in fear behind the bar and is subsequently branded a coward by the taunting bar patrons. Back on the road with his bumbling sidekick Oscar, a stutterer, a humiliated Johnny reveals that he is "yellow" because he is haunted by his past. Twenty years before, Johnny had witnessed the massacre of his entire family when their wagon was attacked by a gang of outlaws led by the infamous "Cat." Johnny's courage is soon tested a second time when, outside the town of Lawless, he and Oscar happen on a stagecoach robbery. After shooting at the fleeing outlaws, Johnny makes a daring rescue when one of the gang attempts to escape in the stage with the terrified passengers still on board. Riding into town with the grateful passengers, Johnny meets Ethel Carson who, impressed with his bravery, invites him to dinner. Johnny is warmly greeted by Ethel's father, Joe Carson, but when Carson hears Johnny's surname, he suddenly becomes chilly and later reveals to Ethel that Johnny's father, a lawman, killed his brother several years ago. Shortly after arriving in Lawless, Johnny receives a note from the "Cat" himself, warning him to leave town. Johnny pledges to avenge the murder of his family, however, and when the townspeople of Lawless, who have heard Oscar's exaggerated tales of Johnny's bravery, invite him to be their marshal, he accepts. The locals then warn Johnny that the "Cat" will not be easy to apprehend because nobody has ever seen him, and, to add to the mystery, each time it appears that the "Cat" has been killed, another "Cat" as fearsome as his predecessor takes his place. In the meantime, the gang devises a plan to get Johnny out of the way, and at the saloon that evening, some of the "Cat's" henchmen ply Carson with alcohol and then tell him that Johnny has behaved disrespectfully toward Ethel. When Johnny arrives, an incensed Carson draws on him while a hidden gang member takes aim and fires, but the bullet intended for Johnny misses and kills Carson instead. Ethel subsequently refuses to speak to Johnny, believing him to be responsible for the death of her father. Returning to his lodgings later that evening, Johnny discovers the body of Oscar, who has been murdered by the gang and has clutched in his hand a note from the "Cat" offering to meet Johnny at his hideout. Face to face with the "Cat," Johnny prepares to attack, but suddenly recognizes an unusual birthmark on the outlaw's arm and realizes that the "Cat" is none other than his brother Billy, whom he had believed killed, but who had survived the massacre and was reared by the gang. Before Billy can warn his henchmen not to fire on Johnny, one of them takes aim and Billy intercepts the bullet intended for Johnny. A gunfight ensues during which Johnny is seriously wounded. When he regains consciousness, he finds Ethel at his bedside and she gently tells him that Billy has died, but that before dying, he revealed to her that it was his gang, and not Johnny, who was responsible for her father's death.
Johnny Mack Brown
In the onscreen credits, sound man Corson Jowett's first name was erroneously listed as "Corwin." According to modern sources, Branded A Coward was a 57 minute Artclass and William Steiner release with the following additional cast members: Bob Kortman, Ed Peil, Sr. and Joe Girard.