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Western films, from silent to today

Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958)

Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958) posterThis is more the story of Kit Caswell (James Best) than Cole Younger (Frank Lovejoy), and there’s little hope you’ll learn anything historically correct about Younger by watching the film. Here’s the plot:

Kit Caswell (James Best) is a young man coming of age during the reconstruction period. He and best friend Frank Wittrock (Jan Merlin) tire of being hounded by the “blue bellies,” pushed around and beaten at every turn.

So they lash out and wind up on the run. That’s when they encounter Cole Younger (Frank Lovejoy). It marks the end of their friendship. Frank wants to turn Younger in for the reward on his head and pulls a gun on him while he’s sleeping. Kit saves Younger and winds up befriending the gunmen.

Later in the film, Kit tracks down two “blue bellies” responsible for his father’s death, but can’t pull the trigger. Frank can, then tries to pin the killings on Kit, in part to win over Kit’s lady love (Abby Dalton as Lucy).

Frank nearly succeeds in his treachery. But as Kit is on trial for murder, guess who shows up as a surprise witness? But will a jury listen to a wanted man?

Rating 1 out of 6Review:

In spite of the film’s title, this is more about James Best’s character, Kit Caswell, than it is the story of Cole Younger. Not that there’s much about the film that’s historically accurate anyway.

In fact, it’s mostly silly, contrived fluff, with a head-scratching ending. But not the worst of Springsteen’s efforts.

Abby Dalton, the lady lead, did most of her acting on TV but would show up on the big screen in one other Western. She played the role of Calamity Jane in “The Plainsman,” a 1966 remake of the classic that starred Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.

Abby Dalton as Lucy Antrium and James Best as Kit Caswell in Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958)Directed by:
R.G. Springsteen

Frank Lovejoy … Cole Younger
James Best … Kit Caswell
Abby Dalton … Lucy Antrium
Jan Merlin … Frank Wittrock
Ainslie Pryor … Capt. Follyard
Myron Healey … Phil & Charlie Bennett
Douglas Spencer … Marshal Fred Woodruff
Frank Ferguson … Sheriff Ralph Wittrock
George Keymas … Sgt. Price
Dan Sheridan … Phelps
John Mitchum … Randy City bartender

Runtime: 78 min.

Memorable lines:

Cole to Kit, giving him a gift of a six-shooter: “Bad pistols are like bad friends. They let you down when you need them most.”

Cole to Kit, on the possibility that a rancher who hired them could instead turn them in for a reward: “He’s short-handed, so if he starts thinking about rewards, it won’t be until we get to Abilene. There, he’ll find himself out of luck. The marshal and I know the same dead people.”

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