They Rode West (Columbia 1954, Robert Francis, Donna Reed)

They Rode West

In a year when 68 horse operas saddled up, They Rode West elevated itself above the formulaic Cowboys and Indians setting to stand out.

It follows Dr Allen Seward (Robert Francis), a cavalryman with a strong sense of propriety. Encountering an enemy tribe, the cavalry is surprised at the lack of resistance, and discovers the tribe has been infected with malaria. Unless they receive immediate medical attention the men will die. Captain Peter Blake (Phil Carey) orders Seward not to intervene, whilst Laurie MacKaye (Donna Reed) demands actions based on humanity, and not hatred. Seward’s decision cannot appease them both, and meanwhile time is running out for the tribe.

Skirting past melodrama, director Phil Karlson used his training as a law student to take an intelligent approach to the theme of justice; his career on numerous other ‘B’ movies is also displayed in the skill with which character and story are established. Columbia, the studio financing the picture, showed their support by shooting the film in Technicolor, adding a rich layer to the excellent location work.

Robert Francis made only three other pictures, including The Caine Mutiny (1954) before a fatal plane crash ended his career. Donna Reed would keep the Stetson for her later appearances as Miss Ellie in Dallas.

USA / Columbia / 84 minutes / 1954 Technicolor

Writers: De Vallon Scott, Frank Nugent (from a story by Leo Katcher) / Director: Phil Karlson

Cast: Robert Francis, Donna Reed, Phil Carey, May Wynn, Onslow Stevens, Jack Kelly