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Rock Hudson as “John Wesley Harding”

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Rock Hudson as a Western gunslinger?  I did not know that he made Western movies.   I guess that I always associated Hudson with Doris Day and some of those fun movies from the 1960’s.    

It turns out that he made a few of these adventure movies in the 1950’s.    

“The lawless breed” was released in 1952:   

In 1896, John Wesley Hardin is released from a Texas prison after serving sixteen years of his sentence. His first act as a free man is to bring the manuscript of his life story to local publisher Henry Johnson.

As Johnson reads the book, the story of Wes’s life unfolds: At the end of the Civil War, Wes, a young gambler and sharpshooter, rebels against the abuse of his rigid preacher father, J. G. Hardin.

Although Wes’s sweetheart, Jane Brown, who is also being reared by J. G., urges him to be patient, Wes is anxious to make enough money to buy a cattle ranch. He leaves to make his fortune, starting out at the local saloon, where barmaid Rosie McCoy tries to engage his interest. Wes joins a poker game, but when he correctly accuses player Gus Hanley of cheating, Gus draws a gun and Wes shoots him in self-defense. Realizing that the Hanley brothers, Ike, Dirk and Ben, will soon be after him, Wes flees to his uncle John Clinton’s house. John takes Wes along on as he herds cattle to Abilene, but Wes is recognized along the way and the Hanley brothers set chase. Before they can catch up to him, however, Wes reaches Abilene and wins a fast horse in a poker game.

Determined to buy a wedding dress for Jane, he refuses to leave until he has won the money for the dress, even though everyone, including local marshal Wild Bill Hickok, insists that he leave town. With only seconds to spare before Hickok jails him, Wes wins the dress money and races away. When he arrives home, his father demands that he stand trial for Gus’s murder.

Although Wes is suspicious, J. G. promises to secure an excellent lawyer and marry him to Jane as soon as his name is cleared. Soon after, however, Ike pays local sheriff Charlie Webb to shoot Wes and claim that he resisted arrest. Charlie pulls his gun and shoots Wes in the shoulder, but Wes kills him. He runs home again but this time, neither J. G. nor Jane believes that he killed in self-defense. A posse gathers outside, and when Wes flees out the back door, Jane is killed as she runs after him. Wes is shot but escapes when John hides him under some brush.

Later, Rosie and John return for him and nurse him back to health. Six years later, Wes is still on the run and being blamed for murders throughout Texas. The reactivated Texas Rangers have made tracking him down their top priority. Wes and Rosie flee the Rangers to a small farm in Alabama, where they assume the name of Swain. Rosie is unhappy there, worried that she can change but Wes never will, and that he will grow bored with her and farm life.

To convince her of his devotion, Wes brings home a parson and marries Rosie. Soon after, she becomes pregnant and writes to J. G., who is secretly pleased at the thought of a grandson. Rosie admits to Wes that she was wrong about his ability to change, and that she feels safe with him. That day, however, Wes is caught in town by the Rangers.

In Austin, he is found guilty of murdering Webb and sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor. As he bids goodbye to his father, wife and new son, Wes continues to insist that he is not a murderer. In the present, Wes returns to the ranch, where Rosie, who has waited for him faithfully, embraces him joyously and sends him to the barn to meet his son, John.

As John proudly spins his father’s gun, horrific scenes of his own outlaw background flash before Wes’s eyes. Like his own father, Wes snaps and hits his son, who runs off. Despondent, Wes explains to Rosie that he cannot let his son follow in his footsteps. He finds John in a saloon, about to enter a gunfight with a man who is insulting Wes. Wes discourages his son from shooting and escorts him to the door, but as they leave, the other man shoots Wes in the back. John holds Wes and promises his father he will not become a criminal. Later, Rosie and John take a recovered Wes home to his ranch.

The story is based on Harding’s autobiography.    

Frankly, it is entertaining and good.    It’s worth watching it.


Written by scantojr

May 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Hollywood movies

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