This rousing Western, filmed in splendid color, features well-known actors John Drew Barrymore, Chill Wills, Jack Elam, and Lois Butler. Filmed in Big Bend County, Texas, the open spread is captured brilliantly in its cinematography. Adding to the film’s charm is the grand, sweeping music of Rudolph Schrager’s musical score, and the direction of Alan LeMay, who also wrote the screenplay.
The story opens with a simple family, Pa, Abby, and Meagan, hearing of a young man (Barrymore) who was caught stealing food. The reason? He’s hungry. He’s been on the run and is soon the main suspect in a case of murder. Did he actually murder a man? And, if he did kill the man, was it self-defense? The entire movie focuses on whether or not this young man can be trusted.
In the meantime, Pa is willing to give the boy every chance while a man named Frank throws a rope around him, and drags him for a long distance, attempting to get the “truth” out of him. Abby’s fiancé, Pat, also doesn’t trust the young man. The young man is called “Cooncat,” and he slowly begins to capture the trust of Abby and Meagan, who also takes a liking to him. In one nicely done scene, Cooncat places some flowers in Abby’s bedroom, in thanks for her kindness. She sees him come out of the bedroom and accuses him of being up to no good. When she sees what he left in her bedroom, she chastises herself for her mistrust.
In the course of the story we learn of an ongoing feud between Pa’s family and the Jessups, and what the family doesn’t realize is that Bob Jessup (Elam) has returned with vengeance in his heart. The film features some imaginative dialog. In the opening sequence we hear a narrator mentioning the high, lonesome. And he says they called it that because it was “high, and lonesome.”
In one scene Pa is reading from the family Bible and speaking of the passage from Matthew chapter 6:28, with Jesus saying, “Consider the lilies…” and how that God provides for His own. In a funny moment, a man named Bellows yells from outside as he approaches the front door, disturbing the scripture reading. Pa becomes agitated and says, “Consider that fat head, Bellows!”
A barn-warming takes place and Cooncat accompanies the family. A lot of dancing and music are featured. But every time Cooncat and Meagan get closer or he shares a family moment someone, like Pat, doubts his motives. In one scene Abby gives Cooncat a hat of his own, which had belonged to her, a cowboy hat, so he can own one.
The movie is a nice balance of Western action, gunplay, a few fist fights, some levity, and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. Other than a few comments like “Old FooL” or “Holy Cow”, there is no language, and there are no bloody scenes with the shootings. And Cooncat winds up being involved in a big way in the movie’s conclusion, which we won’t spoil. The film has earned our Dove seal for Ages 12+.
The Dove Take
Here is an exciting western which features a bit of everything, and its cinematography is breathtaking!