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The Gunfighter (1950)

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The Gunfighter (1950)

aka The Gunfighter

Directed By: 
Details: 85 mins · English


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Small Jimmy Ringo
Small Peggy Walsh
Small Marshal Mark Strett
Small Molly
Small Mac
Small Hunt Bromley
No_movie_poster Deputy Charlie Norris
Small Mrs. August Pennyfeather
Small Mrs. Devlin
Small Eddie


Small Henry King Director
No_movie_poster William Bowers Screenplay
No_movie_poster William Sellers Screenplay
No_movie_poster Nunnally Johnson Production
No_movie_poster Barbara McLean Editing


Notorious but aging gunfighter Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) tries to avoid the trouble that goes with his reputation as the fastest draw in the west. However, when a cocksure young man named Eddie (Richard Jaeckel) deliberately provokes an argument and draws on him, Ringo has no choice but to kill him. Ringo is warned to leave the area because the deceased has three brothers who are certain to seek revenge. Sure enough, the brothers pursue him, but he takes them by surprise, disarming them and driving off their horses.

Ringo then stops to wait in the nearby town of Cayenne, where he occupies a corner of the largely empty saloon for most of the remaining film. It is only revealed later that he is hoping for a chance to see his wife and young son, whom he has not seen in eight years. The local barkeeper, Mac (Karl Malden), remembers him from the past in another town and alerts Sheriff Mark Strett (Millard Mitchell), who turns out to be an old friend of Ringo's. Strett also knows Ringo's wife Peggy (Helen Westcott), and tells Ringo she has changed her surname to hide their past life together. Urging Ringo to leave town as quickly as possible, Strett nevertheless agrees to go and ask Peggy to come and see him. She declines, still fearing the notorious and hotheaded nature of Ringo's younger days that drove them apart.

While waiting, Ringo also has to deal with Hunt Bromley (Skip Homeier), the young local would-be gunslinger who is keen to make a name for himself, and Jerry Marlowe (an uncredited Cliff Clark), a semi-retired man who mistakenly believes Ringo killed his son some years before. Ringo also meets another friend from the past, a bar-girl named Molly (Jean Parker), who eventually persuades Peggy to come and talk to her husband. Meeting at last, Ringo tells his wife that he has changed, that he wants to settle down somewhere where people do not know him, possibly out in California, and asks her to leave with him. She refuses, but agrees to reconsider in a year's time if he will remain true to his word. Ringo also gets acquainted with his son at last, although he does not tell him of their relationship.

However, by this time Ringo has spent too long in town. The three brothers are still trailing him and arrive, but are captured by Strett and his deputies before they can ambush Ringo. As Ringo makes final preparations to leave, Bromley seizes his chance. Eager to get himself a reputation as a gunfighter, Bromley shoots Ringo in the back, fatally wounding him. Word quickly spreads through the town that Bromley has shot Ringo. As Ringo lies dying he tells Sheriff Strett to say that he, rather than Bromley, drew first. When Bromley starts to say that he doesn't want Ringo's help, Ringo rejects Bromley's words, informing his killer that he will soon know how it feels to have every hotshot and two-bit gunfighter out to get him in turn. An angry Strett tells Bromley to leave town immediately, punctuating his order with a severe beating which he warns is "just the beginning" of what Bromley's got coming to him for killing Ringo. It is clear that Bromley has become a magnet for trouble: he will soon discover (just as Ringo did) that notoriety as a gunfighter is in reality a curse which will follow him wherever he goes, making him both an outcast and a target for the rest of his life.

The film closes with Peggy Walsh attending Jimmy Ringo's funeral, making her way through the crowd around the church door with her son to reveal, quietly but with pride, what the townsfolk have never known – that she is Mrs Jimmy Ringo. Thus, despite his death, the gunfighter finally achieves what he sought in coming to the town – his wife's forgiveness and reconciliation.