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|James Stewart||Marshal Guthrie McCabe|
|Richard Widmark||First Lt. Jim Gary|
|Shirley Jones||Marty Purcell|
|Linda Cristal||Elena de la Madriaga|
|Andy Devine||Sgt. Darius P. Posey|
In the 1880s, Marshal Guthrie McCabe (James Stewart) is content to be the business and personal partner of attractive saloon owner Belle Aragon (Annelle Hayes), receiving ten percent of the profits. When relatives of Comanche captives demand that Army Major Fraser (John McIntire) free them, he uses a combination of army pressure and high pay to get the reluctant McCabe to take on the job of ransoming any he can find. He assigns Lieutenant Jim Gary (Richard Widmark) to accompany McCabe.Marty Purcell (Shirley Jones) is haunted by the memory of her abducted younger brother Steve. She keeps a music box that belonged to him. McCabe warns her that Steve will not remember her because he was a young boy when he was taken years ago. McCabe is also promised a large reward by the wealthy stepfather of another boy.McCabe bargains with Chief Quanah Parker (Henry Brandon) and finds four white captives. Two refuse to go back with him. One is a young woman who is married to a Comanche and has children. The other is an old woman who is believed to be dead and regards herself as being as good as dead. There is also a young man named Running Wolf, who McCabe hopes is the lost son of the wealthy family. The fourth is a Mexican woman, Elena de la Madriaga (Linda Cristal). However, she is the wife of Stone Calf (Woody Strode), a militant rival of Parker. As they leave the camp, Stone Calf tries to take back his woman and is killed by McCabe, much to Quanah Parker's satisfaction.Running Wolf makes it very clear that he hates white people and the rich man refuses to accept him. However, a woman is convinced that Running Wolf is her lost son and claims him. Later, when she tries to cut his hair, he kills her. The settlers decide to lynch the murderer, despite Lieutenant Gary's attempt to stop them. As they drag him away, Running Wolf knocks over Marty's music box. He hears it play and recognizes the melody. Marty cannot save him and is forced to accept that nothing could have been done to bring back the brother she remembered. She accepts Gary's proposal of marriage.Meanwhile, Elena finds herself ostracized by white society as a woman who degraded herself by submitting to a savage rather than killing herself. She decides to try her luck in California. When McCabe was reported dead, Belle quickly hired a new marshal, causing him to complain, "I didn't get a chance to vote for myself - not even once." However, he has fallen in love with Elena, so he decides to go to California with her.