Cast & Crew
Lon Chaney [jr.]
In the late 1880s, Bill Dowdy retires as sheriff of the western town of Boyce and pressures his younger friend, Gregg Leech, to run for the office. With Dowdy's backing, the reluctant Gregg wins handily against his opponent, lawyer John W. Harmon. At a rally celebrating Gregg's victory, his fiancée, Karen Childress, asks Gregg why he was opposed to accepting the position. Gregg, whose father and grandfather were both sheriffs and died in the line of duty, states that a man can be either a gunman or a family man, but Karen assures him that he can have a family and be sheriff. The next morning, on his first day in office, Gregg rides out to Dowdy's house, and there the older man tells him that the Leeches have always made good sheriffs. Gregg is doubtful, but Dowdy encourages him, telling him that Boyce has become less "peaceable," and the townsfolk are counting on him to maintain law and order. As Gregg rides on, he encounters a close friend, Ward Blythe, and is forced to arrest him for refusing to obey his orders about carrying a gun in town. Gregg is worried by Blythe's lack of faith in him, as he had admitted that he never carried a gun when Dowdy was in office, but realizes that he must prove himself to gain the people's trust. Gregg then takes his limping horse to see blacksmith Henry "Tiny" Longtree, who bluntly states that he voted for Harmon because he does not think that Gregg is man enough for the job. As they are talking, three riders race into town, stopping in front of the hotel to tear down Karen's banner celebrating Gregg's victory. Young Bainey tries to prevent the men¿gunslinger King Daniels and his henchmen, Yancy Lurton and Tom Schwartz¿from taking the banner, but they beat him up. Daniels and his men go to the saloon, owned by Karen's father Charlie, and ask him when Gregg is likely to appear. When Karen comes in to demand the return of her banner, Daniels calmly informs her that he has come to Boyce to kill Gregg, even though he does not know him. Meanwhile, Tiny warns Gregg that he will not be sheriff long, as a certain faction within the town wants to get rid of him to clear the way for "money people," such as gamblers. Tiny tells Gregg to question Dowdy for more information, and when Karen comes to Tiny's to find Gregg, she learns that he has left for Dowdy's. When Gregg tells Dowdy about the three riders and admits that he did not pursue them, Dowdy advises him that he must, in order to fulfill his responsibilities. Dowdy admits that some citizens are pressing for a more "open" town, and that he is relying upon Gregg to keep out any criminal elements. Karen then arrives and informs Gregg that Daniels issued an ultimatum that if Gregg has not left town by 8 p.m. that night, he will kill him. Despite Karen and Dowdy's pleas for him to stand up for himself, Gregg is filled with despair as he returns to town. At Gregg's office, the new sheriff is visited by Harmon, who wishes him well and also urges him to confront the strangers. Gregg is reluctant to enter the saloon, however, and instead visits the graves of his father and grandfather. Happy, a townsman who had been run out of the saloon by Daniels' men, tells Gregg about the encounter, and Gregg retorts that if the law-abiding citizens back him up with a posse, he will go after the gunmen. Gregg then asks train stationmaster Ben to flag down that evening's train for him, but Ben, suspecting that Gregg intends to run away, is reluctant to comply. Worried about Gregg, Dowdy goes to the saloon himself and tries to intimidate Daniels into leaving but fails. Although Dowdy learns that Daniels has been hired to kill Gregg, he is unable to ascertain the name of Daniels' employer. Dowdy then accuses Harmon of hiring Daniels, as he knows he is interested in expanding the town, but Harmon dismisses his concerns. Meanwhile, Gregg packs his belongings, and later rides to Dowdy's, where Karen is still waiting. Karen refuses to leave with him, however, and states that she does not want a future with a coward like her father. After Gregg tosses his badge onto the table, Dowdy picks it up and, learning that Belle has buried his gun, takes Gregg's weapon and heads to town to confront Daniels. Gregg follows on foot, and by the time he reaches town, Dowdy has engaged the gunmen in a shootout and killed Lurton. Gregg obtains another revolver and helps his friend, who succeeds in shooting Schwartz. During the shootout, Harmon meets with Tiny, and their actions are witnessed by Bainey. Daniels seriously wounds Dowdy, but after Gregg drags him to safety, the older man is encouraged by Gregg's new resolve and courage. Gregg tracks down Daniels and kills him, after which he finds Harmon's card in his pocket. Aided by Bainey, Gregg confronts Tiny and Harmon. While Bainey fights Tiny, Gregg pursues the fleeing Harmon. Bainey is forced to kill Tiny, but Gregg apprehends Harmon. Then, joined by a relieved Karen, Gregg prepares to force Harmon to leave town.
Lon Chaney [jr.]
The ballad "The Silver Star," composed and sung by Jimmy Wakely, is heard over the opening credits and throughout the film. The lyrics comment on the action and explain "Gregg Leech's" emotions. Actor Barton MacLane's surname was misspelled "McLane" in the onscreen credits. Marie Windsor was borrowed from Universal-International for the picture, which marked the first production by L & B Productions, the company of producer Earle Lyon and director Richard Bartlett. According to an November 18, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, portions of the film were shot on location at the Paramount Ranch.