Cast & Crew
Mary Ellen Kay
While on his collection rounds, newspaper publisher Bill Stafford of the Hidden Valley News realizes a subscriber he is visiting is a former professional boxer convicted of murder. When the boxer sees another person riding up to his house, he quiets Bill with a deathblow punch and rudely sends the rider off. The rider, Rex Allen, continues toward town and encounters his friend, Deputy Marshal Happy Hooper, practicing a trombone outdoors. Rex and Happy, who served in the Air Force under Bill during the war, catch up on old times. Rex, who is now an artist for a national magazine, tells Happy that he has been assigned to do sketches of Hidden Valley, a town known for its "old West" atmosphere. Happy informs Rex that Bill's daughter Dell finished college and helps with the newspaper. As they talk, Bill's newspaper rig races down the road on fire, and they discover Bill dead inside. Later in town, Marshal Tim Gallery, another Air Force buddy, learns from the doctor that Bill was dead before the fire started. Outside, hotel owner Carson Masterson, who is campaigning against the incumbent, Mayor Larkin, gives an election speech promising to modernize Hidden Valley. When Masterson criticizes the marshal for not yet solving Bill's murder, his agitated followers start a street brawl, and Rex, Happy and Tim fight them until Rex yells "Geronimo," a codeword from their service days. Smitty the bartender, the boxer who killed Bill, is watching from the side and privately tells Masterson to have the men meet after dark at his place. Because Smitty lives near the location where Bill's body was found, Tim questions him, but Smitty claims that Bill collected money for the newspaper and left. Recalling Smitty's rudeness when he rode up to his house, Rex comments that Smitty seems out of place in Hidden Valley, yet is suspiciously familiar, and helps Tim look for clues along the newspaper route. Later, when Rex is alone with Dell, he discusses how Tim was taken prisoner with him during the war, and how recent events seem to be aggravating Tim's old anxieties. That night, Smitty explains to his henchmen how they will sway public opinion against the mayor and his marshals, and when Masterson is in office, will appoint their own marshal and start a gambling enterprise in the town. Masterson is at first reluctant to run a deceitful campaign, but finally realizes he will do anything to become mayor. As part of their plan, they trick Happy into driving slot machines into town. When he is caught, Dell suspects Happy has been framed, but feels obligated to run the story. Reacting to the bad publicity, Mayor Larkin considers dismissing Tim and Happy, but decides to deputize Rex to assist them instead. During a town dance Happy is tricked again, when innocent remarks he makes are recorded on tape and played back out of context to the public. Meanwhile, Masterson's men shoot at Rex and Dell while they are on a moonlight buggy ride, to keep them from discovering the wagonload of slot machines being smuggled out of town. When Tim and Happy hear the commotion, they come to the rescue and manage to arrest one of the gang, Slack Breedon. At the jail, Rex, who has been sketching the events, hypothesizes that Smitty is behind Masterson and probably killed Bill, and eventually recognizes Smitty as a boxer who was convicted of killing a soldier with a blow to the head. Happy scares Breedon to the point of confessing, but before he can, the outlaws kill Breedon and frame Tim for the murder. Mayor Larkin receives confirmation from the state penitentiary about Smitty, but still cannot prove Masterson's connection, so Rex devises a trap. At Smitty's house, Rex suggests to Smitty that Masterson is the brains behind recent events. Thinking he has control and will soon kill Rex, Smitty vainly admits his leadership, unaware that Happy is recording him from outside the window. The confession is interrupted when Tim, who has succumbed to postwar stress, enters abruptly to kill Smitty. During the chaos, Masterson and his men arrive, but are apprehended after a shootout. Smitty rides off into the hills with Rex in pursuit. They end up fighting hand to hand until Smitty falls off a cliff and dies. With law and order restored, Rex presents Mayor Larkin with his portrait. Happy, who has given up the trombone for the harmonica, arranges for Rex and Dell to have a last moment alone before Rex leaves.