Cast & Crew
The citizens of the Western town of Sheridan City are under the constant threat of violence from powerful rancher Dade Holman, who controls the surrounding valley lands and is slowly taking over the town. One day, stranger Clint Tollinger comes to town and asks blacksmith Saul Atkins where he can find Nelly Bain. Nelly, Clint's estranged wife, manages the dancing girls who work at the notorious Palace Saloon. After Nelly refuses to talk with Clint, he returns to Atkins' livery stable. There he meets old acquaintence Doc Hughes, who explains to Atkins that Clint, a "town tamer," is a renowned gunman who is hired to eradicate lawlessness. Atkins, the president of Sheridan City's town council, considers hiring Clint, but Hughes urges caution, as Clint's methods can be extreme. Meanwhile, in the valley, young farmer Jeff Castle is building a homestead on his legally acquired land. Holman, who does not want farmers in the valley, sends his henchmen, led by Ed Pinchot, to intimidate Jeff, but he scares them off by firing at them. In town, Jeff complains to Marshal Lee Sims, but the ineffectual Sims retorts that Holman has too many gunmen to be defeated. Jeff, who is engaged to Atkins' daughter Stella, is determined to keep fighting and prove to Stella that he can provide for her. That night, Clint goes to Nelly's office and asks about their daughter Beth, whom he has not seen since Nelly left him. Nelly, who loved Clint deeply but left him because of his dangerous occupation, will not answer. Later, at a town meeting, Atkins proposes hiring Clint, even though Jeff protests that he will do his fighting himself. After Jeff storms out, he is shot in the shoulder by one of Holman's gunmen. The townsmen hire Clint when news comes that Jeff's home is on fire, and the next day, Sims deputizes Clint. Sims tells him about Holman, an obese, wily man who has not left his ranch in several years, preferring to surround his stronghold with gunfighters. Clint then visits Stella and Atkins to inquire about Jeff, and Stella asks him if the culprits would have shot Jeff if he had not fired at them earlier. Clint tells Stella the story of a man he once knew who hated guns and would not allow them in the house, but despite his nonviolence, was killed by "land-grabbers" while his young son watched. Clint then goes to Virg Trotter's bar and orders Fred and Cy Harkness, two of Holman's gunmen, to leave town. Clint continues patrolling the town by visiting the Palace, which is run by Frenchy Lescoe, one of Holman's cohorts. Clint informs Lescoe that from now on, there will be no wearing of weapons within town limits, and orders him to surrender his bowie knife. After leaving the Palace, Clint finds the Harkness brothers still in town and shoots them, much to everyone's astonishment. The townspeople worry that the violence will increase, and soon, in response to Clint's ban against weapons, four of Holman's men come after him. Clint outdraws two of the men, after which the remaining two ride off. A week later, Clint institutes a midnight curfew, which infuriates Lescoe. That night, Clint attends a town social and asks Jeff, who is recuperating from his wound, to wait before working on his homestead again, as he wants to keep the "battlefield" in town, where he can control it, instead of in the valley. Jeff stubbornly insists that he never asked for Clint's help, however, and Clint leaves. The next day, Jeff leaves town to work on his land, and Clint tells an anxious Stella that Jeff is old enough to take care of himself. Soon after, Pinchot and another Holman rider arrive and inform Clint that they caught Jeff "trespassing" and are holding him at the ranch, from which Clint can retrieve him. Knowing that he will be killed if he goes to the ranch, Clint instead arrests the two men for wearing guns. A few hours later, Trotter and other businessmen complain to Clint that he is putting them at risk of a siege by Holman's gunmen, but Clint ignores their demand that he free Pinchot. Later, a group of Holman's riders show up, accompanied by Jeff, and Clint exchanges Pinchot and the other henchman for Jeff. That night, Clint again visits Nelly, who, despite her bitterness about his work, cannot blame Clint for his attachment to gun law, as she knows that he was the young boy who saw his pacifist father murdered. As the couple quarrels, Nelly reveals that Beth died three years ago, during the first, difficult winter after they had left Clint. Wild with grief, Clint goes to the Palace, where he antagonizes Lescoe by starting a fire. Clint kills Lescoe after the saloon owner tries to knife him, and the townspeople then unsuccessfully attempt to douse the flames. Fortunately, no other structures are burned, although in the morning, many people are grumbling about Clint's seemingly erratic actions. The town council pleads with Atkins to fire Clint, but Atkins defends him, stating that he may have reasons they cannot understand. The council decides to meet that afternoon to settle the matter, and Atkins warns Clint that he will be fired. Soon after, as Nelly is escorting one of her girls to the stagecoach, she learns that a traveling salesman who spoke earlier with Ann Wakefield, another of her dancers, is actually Zender, Holman's lawyer. Realizing that Holman is plotting to kill Clint while the townsmen are at their meeting, Nelly warns Stella to watch for the missing Clint while she searches for him. Stella is distracted by Jeff's return from his homestead, however, as his shoulder wound has re-opened. Meanwhile, Holman rides into town in a buggy, shadowed by Pinchot. Ann, who was told by Zender that Clint was attracted to her, innocently detains Clint on the street, and Pinchot attempts to shoot him. Clint kills Pinchot first, and Jeff, alerted by the noise, spots Holman, who is leveling a rifle at Clint. Jeff yells that Holman "is his," and Clint, knowing that the younger man needs to prove his manhood, allows Jeff to shoot Holman, even though Holman wounds Clint before Jeff kills him. Nelly rushes to Clint, who has been shot in the shoulder and, comforted by his joke that there must be an easier way to make a living, assures him that they will find it together.
Ted De Corsia
Edward G. Boyle
Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
N. B. Stone Jr.
W. Lloyd Young
Man With the Gun
The script from Richard Wilson and N.B. Stone told the story of Clint Tollinger (Mitchum), a man who learned to shoot after losing his pacifist father to gunplay. As a result, he has made a vocation of hiring himself out to communities in search of rescue from their more unsavory elements. Tollinger's bloody lifestyle has resulted in the estrangement and flight of his wife Nelly (Jan Sterling), who he has tracked to a saloon in Sheridan City where she oversees a covey of dancing girls (which includes a young Angie Dickinson).
While trying to win her back, Tollinger is entreated by the locals to help them combat a ruthless land baron (Joe Barry) who's been trying to force them off their homesteads. These twin tasks occupy Tollinger for the balance of the film's brisk 83-minute running time. Of the effective supporting cast, note has to be given Henry Hull as Sheridan's feckless marshal, and Ted de Corsia and Leo Gordon as the heavy's primary henchmen.
In his memoir Them Ornery Mitchum Boys, Mitchum's brother John told of his visit to the shoot of Man with the Gun. Laid up with a work-related injury, John needed liquid courage to ask his star sibling for a fifty-dollar handout, and had already gotten into one scuffle by the time he reached Robert's dressing room. "Just then Bob returned to the set, sized up the situation and gave me a tap with the butt of his prop revolver," John wrote. "It subdued me enough that I raged out of the studio without further violence." Robert called up his sister-in-law to assess the situation, continued John, and shortly afterwards "a messenger arrived at our house with a check for $2,000, a red rose for Nancy and a note which read, 'Dear Nancy, if you ever need anything again, you call and tell me. Don't let the bull out of his corral, hurting. Love, Bob.'"
John Mitchum also related how his brother looked out for his co-workers, such as Lenny Geer, his stunt double on the picture. "Lenny was doubling for Bob in a shoot-out sequence and after the final exchange of gunfire and stunt fall, the wardrobe department came to the fallen Lenny and started to gut a [bullet] hole in his beautiful Pendelton shirt," Mitchum wrote. "'Hold it!' Bob admonished from the sidelines. 'That shirt looks good on Lenny.' He ordered the wardrobe man to tear the inexpensive double's shirt he was wearing and exchange it temporarily with Lenny's good one. Lenny wore that Pendelton proudly for a long time."
The film represented the directing bow for Wilson, the onetime radio actor whose longtime collaboration with Orson Welles commenced when he joined the Mercury Theatre in 1937. By the time they parted company in 1951, he had served as associate producer on The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and Macbeth (1948). His career credits as a director were comparatively short, but marked by flavorfully-made oaters and gangster flicks such as Al Capone (1959), Pay or Die (1960) and Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964). Man with the Gun was also the first producing credit for Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. The son of the industry pioneer embarked on a production career that continues to this day, with the upcoming remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Mike Myers.
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
Director: Richard Wilson
Screenplay: N.B. Stone, Jr., Richard Wilson
Cinematography: Lee Garmes
Film Editing: Gene Milford
Art Direction: Hilyard Brown
Music: Alex North
Cast: Robert Mitchum (Clint Tollinger), Jan Sterling (Nelly Bain), Karen Sharpe Kramer (Stella Atkins), Henry Hull (Marshal Lee Sims), Emile Meyer (Saul Atkins), John Lupton (Jeff Castle).
by Jay S. Steinberg
Man With the Gun
The working titles of this film were The Deadly Peacemaker, The Town Tamer and The Trouble Shooter. The filmmakers were forced to drop the title The Deadly Peacemaker when independent producer Hal Makelim, who intended to make a film called The Peacemaker, protested his prior registration of the title and his claim was upheld by the MPAA. Although Ted de Corsia's character is listed as "Rex Stang" by contemporary sources, he is called "Frenchy Lescoe" in the film. James Westerfield, who plays "Zender" in the film, is listed by contemporary sources as "Drummer," a frequently used nickname for traveling salesmen.
Pre-production studio publicity and a February 25, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item includes child actors Peter Votrian, Rudy Lee, Paul Williams, Bobby Diamond and Barry Froner in the cast, and other Hollywood Reporter news items add Rosemary Ace and Art La Forest, but their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed. Modern sources include Renie Riano in the cast but she was not identified in the viewed print.
On October 11, 1955, Hollywood Reporter noted that the picture was to have its world premiere in New Orleans on 28 Oct, but it has not been determined if that premiere was held. Man with the Gun marked the producing debut of Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., son of the renowned film producer. The picture also marked the directorial debut of writer Richard Wilson, who had previously worked as a film writer and producer. Wilson was under contract to Universal-International at the time of production. According to a February 10, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Wilson purchased the story "The Deadly Peacemaker" and was "writing [the] screenplay for independent production this summer." The film marked the screen acting debut of radio and TV character actress Amzie Strickland.
Man with a Gun received mostly positive reviews and several favorable comparisons to High Noon (see below). The Hollywood Reporter reviewer commented about Man with a Gun: "Like The Ox-Bow Incident and High Noon, it is one of those rare westerns that can be classified as screen literature."
Released in United States Fall November 1955
Released in United States Fall November 1955