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Man with the Gun (1955, Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling)



ROBERT MITCHUM lays a path for Clint Eastwood’s future screen persona, playing laconic Clint Tollinger, a steely gunfighter and professional ‘town tamer’ who rolls into a small cattle town in search of his estranged wife, Nelly Bain (JAN STERLING). Nelly, who now runs a troupe of dancing girls working out of the town’s saloon, had fled the marriage because she felt her husband’s brutal professional methods betrayed a lack of pity. And when Clint is hired by the townsfolk to help Marshal Sims (HENRY HULL) rid the community of bullying rancher, Dade Holman (JOE BARRY), it’s not hard to see why. Those hooded eyes barely flicker as he calmly pops off Holman’s cronies in a series of shoot-outs.

Clint’s clean-up job would take no time at all if it wasn’t for young turk, Jeff Castle (JOHN LUPTON), a homesteader wronged by Holman who’s desperate to prove himself to fiancée Stella Atkins (KAREN SHARPE), by despatching the villain himself. When Jeff is taken hostage by the enemy, he really throws a spanner in the works, and Clint’s response – to fight fire with fire – unnerves his blood-weary employers. But the job has turned into a personal vendetta for Clint, and he sets out to single-handedly save Jeff, the town, and his marriage. But how can he do all that and still prove to Nelly that his heart isn’t made of stone?

Director Richard Wilson, who had acted, stage-managed and produced for Orson Welles, adds all-out action to nerve-jangling suspense. Variety described the picture as ‘a humdinger of an out-door actioner,’ and noted that ‘Wilson’s direction keeps tension mounting right up to the climax,’ while Monthly Film Bulletin commented that, ‘The hard, tough story is directly and sharply presented, and the black-and-white camera-work is effectively atmospheric.’

production details
USA | 83 minutes | 1955

Director: Richard Wilson
Script: Richard Wilson N.B. Stone Jr.

Robert Mitchum as Clint Tollinger
Jan Sterling as Nelly Bain
Karen Sharpe as Stella Atkins
Henry Hull as Marshal Lee Sims
Emile Meyer as Saul Atkins
John Lupton as Jeff Castle
Barbara Lawrence as Ann Wakefield
Ted de Corsia as ‘Frenchy’ Lescaux (as Ted De Corsia)
Leo Gordon as Ed Pinchot
James Westerfield as Mr. Zender (drummer)
Angie Dickinson as Kitty (uncredited)