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  • One of the better oaters that Republic put out that at least tries to rise above the usual B western fare. We even get to listen to Vaughn Monroe sing us a couple of songs, if you can stand it.

    Marshal Matt Landry (Vaughn Monroe) is after an outlaw named Frank Girard (Victor Jory) for selling guns and whiskey to the Apaches. He meets up with him and after a struggle, brings him back to town. Along the way he picks up the survivors of an Indian massacre, Mary Kimber (Joan Leslie) and a couple of kids. During the Indian raid, Mary's cowardly husband Verne (Harry Morgan) slips away and ambles into the nearest settlement leaving Mary and the two kids to fend for themselves.

    After Landry reaches town, he locks Girard up for transport the next day for trial in Prescott, AZ. In the meantime a woman named Della gets word to Frank's two brothers (Ian MacDonald & Lee MacGregor) and they spring Frank on the trail as he's riding in the back of a hearse with Marshal Landry. They also have the help of the cowardly Verne to intercept the telegraph messages as to when they'll exactly be leaving.

    Landry's left severely wounded during Frank's escape and makes it back to town. Meanwhile, Verne gets greedy and agrees to intercept more telegraph messages for when the next Wells Fargo shipment is supposed to be sent out. He wants a cut of the loot. It's also an excellent way Frank and his gang can intercept and rob the shipments ahead of time. And all throughout this adventure, Mary Kimber still believes her husband is dead.

    When Marshal Landry gets well enough, he interrogates Della because he believes she knows something about the robberies and where Frank's located. She breaks down and tells him and Landry and a posse head out in the middle of a rainstorm. When they reach Frank's hiding place, there's an excellent shootout in the barn and Frank and his brothers are killed while greedy Verne shoots Landry's Deputy (Edgar Buchanan) in the back. Landry slugs Verne and takes him back to town for trial for murder. And that's pretty much where the story ends.

    This oater would be even better if so much of it wasn't filmed on Republic's sound stages interspersed with some on-location filming. It makes the whole thing look awkward and docks it down a point for me.

    Still, it has a better than average plot which give it a better than average rating on the imdb scale, imo.

    6 out of 10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is better than most would expect, thus my review. I'd have liked to have rated it 6.5, but you can only vote in whole numbers (1 to 10).

    The movie fits many genres, and doesn't do too bad a job in any: ¶ family-oriented (kids, orphans, etc.) ¶ action and violence, and decent color cinematography. ¶ personal, character-driven, sad story of Harry Morgan's character (see below). ¶ Vaughn Monroe's singing. ¶ good supporting cast: Harry Morgan (of Mash and Dragnet fame), Joan Leslie, Edgar Buchanan, Victor Jory, Jean Parker and Ian MacDonald (played Frank Miller, the main bad guy in High Noon). Vaughn Monroe was quite stolid/uncharismatic as the hero, but you just have to assume that is the kind of guy the marshal is.

    What I most liked about the movie is that it was relatively believable, not the usual flamboyant over-the-top B western. It stuck to its tidy, little story. Most interesting was the part played by Harry Morgan -- **spoilers** the weak, complaining, cowardly husband, who was thought dead, then was forced to aid the bad guys with his telegraph operator skills, and who then was mistreated by and then turned on his tormentors and rescuers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The only way to survive director R.G. Springsteen's western "Toughest Man in Tombstone" is to mute the heavy-handed musical numbers that crooner Vaughn Monroe warbles throughout this wholly ordinary oater. Happily, he only belts out three songs, but these three songs are still too many for this hybrid sagebrusher. Not only is Monroe utterly miscast as straight-up, good guy lawman, Marshal Matt Landry, but also he is a widower with a young son and a teenage daughter. They all live together in sumptuous surroundings with an African-American butler who does a little soft-shoe himself, and Landry has a piano in his residence just for those moments when he wants to serenade the women and the children. Springsteen and "Gallant Legion" scenarist John K. Butler are saddled with the thankless task of having to graft a family-oriented soap opera onto a hell-bent-for-leather horse opera, and they do not fare well thanks to the uneven quality of the two genres. Action-adventure fans will be drawn closer to the movie's villain, notorious Frank Girard (Victor Jory of "Gone with the Wind"), than the clean-scrubbed Tombstone badge-toter. A subplot about the survivors of an Apache Indian wagon train massacre and a husband and wife that managed to elude the savages adds a modicum of tension to this mild melodrama. Nevertheless, the bad guys don't have a chance against super-square Landry. Fleshing out the cast in one of his early roles is future "Dragnet" and "Mash" star Harry Morgan as a tenderfoot telegrapher who falls in with the wrong company and a saintly Edgar Buchanan as an older lawman. Former Warner Brothers' contract actress Joan Leslie isn't as effervescent as she was in "Sergeant York," but she is still attractive enough to turn eyes as the telegrapher's wife. This RKO release looks considerably less than seamless with the action in long shots occurring on location while the close-ups and medium shots were clearly lensed faraway on an indoor sound stage. The bogus looking backdrops on those sound stages are a dead giveaway. Only western completists should squander their time on this saga, just to say that they have seen it.

    "Toughest Man in Tombstone" opens with dutiful Marshal Landry riding out to round up gun-running desperado Frank Girard who has been selling guns illegally to the Native Americans. Meanwhile, a couple of freighters pick up two covered wagons with a mother/father and two children as well as a husband and wife. The wagon that Verne Kimber (Harry Morgan) is driving with his wife Mary (Joan Leslie of "Sgt. York") breaks down, and the freighters reluctantly set up camp to repair the wheel. The U.S. Cavalry rides into their camp and warns the settlers and the teamsters about the imminent threat of an Apache attack. Matt demands that the Cavalry officer-in-charge (Sheb Wooley of "Man without A Star") provide them with safe escort from the wilderness. The officer leaves them two men in blue with a Gatling Gun. Predictably, even though they could have mown down every last redskin with the Gatling Gun, our heroes perish at the hands of the Indians. Vern's wife Mary and two children from another murdered couple escape and are rescued later. Vern who was supposed to stay behind to fight off the Indians gives the cavalrymen and the freighters the slip and survives the massacre. Later, the Tombstone Epitaph editor prints that Vern died in the raid. Marshall Landry and Girard ride up to their smoking remains of the wagon train moments later and bury the dead. After he puts Girard in the hoosegow, Landry makes room in his humble abode for Mary and the two children. One taste of Mary's home cooking only serves to remind Landry about what he has been missing since his missus died.

    The best scene with the worse logic of all time that still looks pretty cool concerns Frank Girard's escape from Landry. As it turns out, Vern staggers into the Girard brothers' clutches and they put his telegrapher's expert to their advantage. They want to know when Landry is going to move Girard and the details. They tap into the telegraph line and Vern provides the details. It seems that the authorities are going to sneak Girard out of town in a hearse. This information is strictly confidential. The brothers stop the hearse outside Tombstone. They free Frank, and lock the driver and Landry up inside the hearse. Girard pumps round after round from his Winchester carbine into the close confines of the hearse, and we see the driver die and Landry receive terrible wounds that put him out of action for a while. Of course, it would have been easier if Girard had gunned them down face to face, but instead he crams them back into the hearse and seems Devil-may-care into the vehicle. Since the villain cannot kill the hero, this enables Landry to look like he is dead in the villain's eyes. Naturally, neither Girard nor his brothers look back, so Landry has a legitimate chance to survive and does.

    "Toughest Man in Tombstone" qualifies as a tolerable run-of-the-mill western. There is a good shoot-out in the saloon at the end, but the last exchange between Landry and his daughter about Mary is enough to make you hang your head with its implication of a happily-ever-after finale. Springsteen never overcomes the uneven nature between the musical numbers and the six-gun savagery. Victor Jory as the evil villain and Harry Morgan as the sniveling, back-shooting coward compete for best acting accolades. Sadly, Joan Leslie seems more subdued than usual. Vaughn Monroe may have been a popular singer, but he isn't convincing at all as a marshal.
  • The title must have been left over from something Republic did not release; it certainly does not fit this western. It can't be referring to wimpy Marshall Landry (Vaughn Monroe who is hardly leading man material), or to outlaw Frank Girard (Victor Jory) who can't even outfight the Marshall.

    Along with the title disconnect is a story not so much bad as it is strange. The Marshall, a widower with two children, picks up a couple more when he discovers them in the desert following an Indian attack. Also surviving is Mary Kimber (Joan Leslie), who thinks her husband was killed in the attack. This sets up quite a few scenes of domestic bliss as Monroe gets to do what he does best-sing ballads around the piano. The producers recognized that they had something here and gave a lot of time to this domestic angle and the growing attraction between Mary and the Marshall.

    Unfortunately there is a side story about a bunch of criminal brothers and Mary's husband (a very young Harry Morgan) who ran away during the Indian attack and is very much alive. Morgan has fun playing one of the most cowardly characters ever to grace the sagebrush. Charlita plays a saloon girl called Senorita who appears to be feeble minded and slightly nuts.

    The action sequences are extremely weak, mostly second unit long shots in the desert cut into close-ups shot back on the sound stage. Unfortunately the tone and brightness of the backgrounds do not match and everything looks rather stupid. Which is a good word for Frank Girard who at one point gets the drop on the Marshall but inexplicably fails to disarm him (duh).

    Jean Parker does a good job as Della the saloon dancer and Frank's girlfriend. Leslie and Parker are both excellent actresses and one wonders why they signed on to this movie. But at least it provides one more opportunity to see them in a film. Diana Christian does a good job as the Marshall's teenage daughter and they go out on a cute little bit with her commentary on the relationship between her father and Mary.

    Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.