Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by William D. Coates
Screenplay by Paul Leslie Peil & Robert Joseph
Story by Paul Leslie Peil
Director Of Photography: William Whitley, ASC
Film Editor: George White
Music Composed by Sid Cutner
CAST: Mark Stevens (Chip Coburn), Forrest Tucker (John Brazos), Gail Robbins (Lou Crenshaw), Vaughn Taylor (Ben Bodeen), John Ward (Slick Kirby), Kevin Hagen (Clem Haney), John Cliff (Sheriff Cass), Gail Kobe (Katy Porter), George Keymas (Hondo), Richard Reeves (Notches Pole), Bill Henry (Sheriff Blane).
As the titles roll, we’re looking up into a large tree. Once “Directed by Thomas Carr” dissolves away, a noose is tossed over a branch of the tree, and the camera pans down for an establishing shot of a lynching, all in CinemaScope and nicely-preserved DeLuxe Color. It’s a stylish way to open Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958), an Allied Artists Western that really delivers—and maintains that visual flair and creativity throughout its running time.
Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker are brothers on opposite sides of the law. Stevens is Chip Coburn, who wants to put his outlaw ways behind him and settle on a ranch of his own. Tucker is John Brazos, a marshal who doubts his brother will stay on the straight and narrow. Chip winds up in the middle of a rancher-farmer dispute and his forced to pick up his guns again.
Story-wise, it’s nothing new, but the writers—Paul Leslie Peil and Robert Joseph—manage to keep things fresh. As we all know, Westerns work well when they use one of the genre’s standard plots (or plots, in this case) as a springboard. Mark Stevens is really good at the intense, brooding, tortured tough guy, whether in Westerns like this one and Jack Slade (1953) or noir stuff like the excellent Cry Vengeance (1954), which he also directed. Of course, Forrest Tucker is always terrific. His 50s Western filmography is second to none. Gale Robbins is good as Lou, Chip’s saloon girl girlfriend. Gail Kobe’s part, as the good girl who’s loved Chip all along, doesn’t give her much to do. And Kevin Hagan, who plays farmer Clem Haney, is known the world over as Doc Baker on Little House On The Prairie. He does a good job, even though he’s forced to wear a lousy fake beard.
The bond, or conflict, between brothers was a common theme in 50s Westerns. It can be found in pictures like Horizons West (1952), Rage At Dawn (1955), The True Story Of Jesse James (1957), Night Passage (1957), Fury At Showdown (1957) and Face Of A Fugitive (1959, though Fred MacMurray’s brother doesn’t make it past the first reel). Forrest Tucker does a good job in Gunsmoke In Tucson, striking just the right tone in his brother-or-duty scenes and keeping the dialogue from coming off hokey.
Old Tucson was a busy place in 1958 and ’59. Buchanan Rides Alone. Rio Bravo. The Badlanders. The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold. The location adds tons of production value to this low-budget film, with director of photography William Whitley wisely letting us see the landscape surrounding the street set. The bridge that’s featured so prominently in Buchanan and Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) gets some screen time as well. (I watch for that bridge like a favorite character actor.)
One of the things that really strikes me about Gunsmoke In Tucson, something that was mentioned in its reviews back in ’58, is William P. Whitley’s camerawork. Whitley worked for Sam Katzman at Columbia in the early 50s (Jungle Jim, serials, etc.), then got into television—The Adventures Of Superman, The Lone Ranger (the fifth, color season) and eventually Bonanza. He shot over 75 episodes of Bonanza before retiring. He did three pictures for Allied Artists, all released in 1958: Quantrill’s Raiders, Queen Of Outer Space and Gunsmoke In Tucson. All are in Scope and look terrific. Whitley seems to have enjoyed the chance to shoot for the wide screen–his shots are well-composed and inventive throughout Gunsmoke In Tucson. And he made sure Gale Robbins’ red hair popped in scene after scene.
We wouldn’t be appreciating Mr. Whitley’s work if it wasn’t so well presented by Warner Archive. It’s a bit soft, perhaps, but the color is really nice and the audio’s got plenty of punch. This is a really tough, solid little movie—the kind of forgotten treasures this genre, and decade, are full of. Recommended.