Directed by Richard L. Bare
Produced by Richard Whorf
Written by John Tucker Battle and D.D. Beauchamp
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie, ASC
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editior: Clarence Kolster, ACE
CAST: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur “Will” Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Elam King), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).
Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) sticks out like a sore thumb in Randolph Scott’s filmography. It sits right in the middle of the Ranown cycle (coming between The Tall T and Decision At Sundown) — a cheap little black-and-white contract killer shot on the backlot in 19 days by a crew (and sometimes cast) more accustomed to TV than features. It’s known more today for the early work it gave Angie Dickinson and James Garner than for Scott’s participation.
James Garner: “The movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy or a drama, maybe because [director Richard L.] Bare had gotten his start directing the ‘Joe McDoakes’ comedy shorts in the 1940s.”
Bare made a name for himself in shorts like the McDoakes pictures, directed a few features, then really found his place in early TV. He directed episodes of both Cheyenne and Maverick (he discovered James Garner in a bar on Sunset), and would go on to direct everything from The Twilight Zone to Green Acres (over 150 episodes of that one).
Richard L. Bare: “I was glad to see that my few years in TV had not knocked me out of the box for feature assignments. It was a story of three ex-soldiers who dressed up like preachers to avenge the death of Scott’s brother.”
The soldiers are Scott, a pre-Maverick James Garner and Gordon Jones, and their journey takes to them to the rather lawless prairie town of Medicine Bend. Ep Clark (James Craig) runs the town and quickly winds up in Randy’s sites.
Richard L. Bare: “We were shooting a scene that called for the three of them [Scott, Garner, Gordon Jones] to swim in a lake [on the WB backlot] and come to shore. Scott said to me, ‘I’m not going in that water.’ I said, ‘Randy, the other guys are going to do it.’ He said, ‘Not me, not in that filth.’ So what I did was put Scott’s double in the water, and in the foreground I put Scott out of view behind a huge log, and when I called action, a prop man dumped fresh water on Scott, and Garner, Jones and Scott’s double swam to shore and ran to the log, and Scott’s double disappeared behind the log and Scott, all wet, popped up. And it worked just fine.”
It’s a bit convoluted and goofy, and often played for humor. The action scenes are well done, and the film has the look and feel of a longer-than-usual Warner Bros. TV Western, which works just fine. Garner’s inexperience shows (“…my acting still wasn’t very good”). He lacks that supreme cool that came later. Angie Dickinson was two years away from Rio Bravo (1959), and comparing the two films, it’s amazing how much she developed as an actress during that time. (How much of that was Hawks’ doing?) Randolph Scott is, of course, Randolph Scott, and he handles the lighter, humorous stuff with ease. As he masquerades as a Quaker, his delivery makes the most of each line of dialogue. It’s fun to be in on his ruse.
Warner Archive has given Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend a level of respect it’s probably never received before. It looks great, framed to the proper 1.85, with the contrast dialed-in just right. The audio’s got plenty of punch, letting Roy Webb’s score really shine. You might come to this one with high curiosity and low expectations. My advice: enjoy it for what it is. Recommended.
SOURCES: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur; Confessions Of A Hollywood Director by Richard L. Bare; Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott
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