Man Without a Star (1955)
Not the strongest or most notable of Kirk Douglas‘s westerns, yet still holding my attention throughout Man Without a Star (1955). Okay the title is misleading, there is no power struggle between Dempsey Rae (Douglas) and the sheriff of the town. There’s more a mentor relationship between himself and a younger Jeff Jimson (William Campbell) who looks up to the lone man from Texas who is looking for a better life in Wyoming.
Beginning on as stowaway on train these two meet and stick together when Jimson’s life is in danger of being cut short by the threat of a hanging, until Rae speaks up to save his friends neck. Before they even step foot in the town, the two are threatened with leaving or getting a job. Before the begin to look for work we are introduced to an old flame and voice of reason in Rae’s life Idonee (Claire Trevor) who expects her man to stand-up for himself.
They eventually find work on the largest cattle ranch in the area, over open land, trouble is sure to be brewing with new owners on the way to inspect the land. Whilst the other ranchers want to protect their own from starvation. Introducing a new form of fencing that reshaped the landscape; barbed wire that can tear and rip the skin of man and beast, whilst protecting the land that was once free to roam and conquer without the use of such force. It seems trivial now to think about the introduction of wire fencing, something that had to come sooner or later to protect private interests. This is something that Rae has decided to avoid at all costs, deciding to quit his job and move on to the last of the open landscape.
The new ranch owner (complete with indoor plumbing in the ranch) Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain) who Rae fights for with the arrival of the new men from Texas that brought with them 5,000 more head of cattle led by Steve Miles (Richard Boone) who is aware of Rae’s past. It seems he has to fight everyone to stay on top.
Before he can leave he must deal with the killer he has helped make in the form of Jimson who has only just picked up a gun, having looked up to his role model who has since out-grown becoming more dangerous than he dare think. After a spell of weakness by the bottle he takes a job with Tom Cassidy (Eddy Waller) where he works to protect the weaker ranchers against the stronger Texans who have more muscle in the side arms than themselves.
A routine western that explores the closing in of the open landscape as it begins to modernize, a way of life is slowly coming to an end. Traditional ways of dealing with problems is also going away too. The power of the gun is weakening, however still having the allure of younger wannabe gun-fighters.
- A Day in the Life of a Kansas Rancher, part II (blackinkwithcab.com)
- Drought threatens ranchers livelihood (krqe.com)
- Cattle rusting a growing problem in Bexar County (kens5.com)