Angel and the Badman [1947]

How can you go wrong with a movie featuring the great Harry Carey as a philosophical lawman named Wistful McClintock? Well sir (or ma'am), you can't, and this first production from John Wayne's personal unit at Republic is simply one of the loveliest Westerns anybody ever made. The producer-star plays gunslinger Quirt Evans who, wounded by his archrival Laredo Stevens (Bruce Cabot), is taken in and sheltered by a Quaker family--in particular, by the daughter of the household, a dark-eyed angel (Gail Russell) who could entice Satan himself to the path of virtue. Not that these good people get pushy about converting "Brother Evans." For his part, Marshal McClintock, who's amiably looked forward to hanging Quirt someday, keeps dropping by to see which happens first--Quirt's reformation, or Laredo's return to finish the job he started. Entrusting the direction to screenwriter James Edward Grant, Wayne bolstered Grant's debut by tapping Yakima Canutt to handle the hard-riding second-unit stuff. The Duke also stole a few moves from a little project he'd been working on with Howard Hawks, Red River. Such larceny may have been superfluous. Grant wrote far and away the best script Wayne had ever had at Republic, creating a gallery of memorable characters (including comparative bystanders) and developing some very entertaining business for them--especially for such juicy character actors as Paul Hurst (the Quakers' mean-spirited neighbor), Olin Howlin (a braggadocious telegraph operator), and Hank Worden. The result was a minor classic deftly blending humor, romance, authentic sweetness, and just enough leathery menace to keep things on the generic up-and-up. This one's a real treat. --Richard T. Jameson

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