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Gun Fury (1953, Rock Hudson, Donna Reed)



Don’t be alarmed if you find rocks, chairs and knives being thrown at your screen during Gun Fury . That’s because the film was shot in 3-D, at a time when cinema was looking for new gimmicks and thrills to drag people away from their TV sets. Shown here in its flat form, the Western is notable for one of the first lead performances by Rock Hudson who was described at the time by director Raoul Walsh as ‘a mixture of John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck, with some of the qualities of all of them’. Indeed, Walsh took a personal interest in Hudson’s development, placing the former truck driver on a contract to appear in his films when Hudson arrived in Hollywood in the late ’40s.

In Gun Fury , Hudson plays Civil War veteran Ben Warren, travelling south to California where he plans to settle down with his fiancée, Jennifer Ballard (Donna Reed). But when their stage is attacked by Frank Slayton (Phil Carey) and his gang of rebels, Ben is left for dead and Jennifer is abducted by the posse, who then head for the Mexican border. Joined by a group of people all seeking revenge against Slayton – including an Indian, Johash (Pat Hogan), whose wife was killed by the rebel leader – Ben embarks on the 1,500-mile horseback ride to rescue his would-be bride.

Film advertisements at the time pitched Gun Fury as a Death Wish-esque vigilante movie. ‘An act of violence!!! A woman crying out for revenge… and a man riding South to avenge her!’ was one of the promos, although the best was undoubtedly ‘The stakes: His right to live like a man – and her right to be his woman!’

Although Phil Carey was well known at the time for playing villains, he was soon to be usurped by one of his fellow Gun Fury cast members, Lee Marvin. Later to appear in the likes of Cat Ballou and Paint Your Wagon, Marvin described director Walsh as ‘a delightful, tough old guy to work with. I don’t think he was interested in dialogue. He was an action director. He loved horses, stagecoaches and explosions.’

production details
Rock Hudson as Ben Warren
Donna Reed as Jennifer Ballard
Philip Carey as Frank Slayton
Roberta Haynes as Estella Morales
Leo Gordon as Tom ‘Jess’ Burgess
Lee Marvin as Blinky
Neville Brand as Brazos
Ray Thomas as Doc
Bob Herron as Curly Jordan
Phil Rawlins as Jim Morse
Forrest Lewis as Weatherby

Director: Raoul Walsh
Writer: Irving Wallace, Roy Huggins (based on the novel by KGR Granger)

USA | 83 minutes | 1953