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Western films, from silent to today

Springfield Rifle (1952)

Springfield Rifle (1952) poster Gary Cooper is Maj. Lex Kearney, ab officer who left his home state of Virginia to take a command with the Union out West. His job: Get horses to a way station so they can be shipped back East to assist in the war effort.

Unfortunately, rustlers working for the South seem to know the herd’s every move. They steal the herd; outnumbered, Maj. Kearney decides to retreat.

Back at the fort, his retreat is taken for cowardice. He’s court-martialed and drummed out of the service.

With no where else to turn, he falls in with the rustlers, quickly gaining the trust of their leader, local racher Austin McCool (David Brian), and his top henchman, Pete Elm (Lon Chaney Jr.).

But it turns out it’s all part of a Union effort to match the Confederate espionage effort, even without official authorization to do so.

Problem is, only a handful of people are allowed to kno Kearney’s real mission. And they don’t include his wife (Phyllis Thaxter) or his son, who drops out of school in shame.

Should Kearney fail, the Union has one last hope in its effort to get mounts to the troops. A new Springfield rifle is being developed that will allow each man to have the firepower of five armed with muzzle-loading rifles.


Cooper starred in this film the same year “High Noon” was released. This certainly isn’t as good as that film, but there are enough truly surprising twists and well-filmed action sequences to keep things interesting.

In fact, it isn’t until 42 minutes in the film that we learn about Kearney’s real role in this game of traitors, spies and double crosses.

Philip Carey has a key role as Capt. Tennick, the Union officere who becomes Kearney’s arch enemy, even if it’s all for show.

And Fess Parker plays a Southern raiders in one of his very first films (this role was uncredited). Of course, he’d go on to stardom as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett in Disney films.

Richard Lightner as Lt. Johnson, Guinn Williams as Sgt. Snow and Gary Cooper as Maj. Lex Kearney in Springfield Rifle (1952)Directed by:
Andre De Toth

Gary Cooper … Maj. Lex Kearney
Phylilis Thaxter … Erin Kearney
David Brian … Austin McCool
Paul Kelly … Lt. Col. John Hudson
Lon Chaney Jr. … Pete Elm
Philip Carey … Capt. Tennick
James Millican … Matthew Quint
Guinn Williams … Sgt. Snow
Alan Hale Jr. …. Mizzell
Fess Parker … Jim Randolph
Martin Milner …Olie Larsen
Wilton Graf … Col. George Sharpe
James Brown … Pvt. Ferguson
William Fawcett … Cpl. Ramsey

Runtime: 93 min.

Phyllis Thaxter as Erin Kearney with Gary Cooper as Maj. Lex Kearney in Springfield Rifle (1952)Memorable lines:

Austin McCool, when Kearney unexpected shows up at the renegades’ hideout after breaking out of the fort prison: “How come?”
Kearney: “We shared the same cell. We were going to share the same appointment (to hang) in the morning. So we shared the same breakout.”

McCool: “Kind of use to giving orders, aren’t ya?”
Kearney: “What’s worse, I’m used to being obeyed.”

Kearney, after twice slashing Pete Elm’s behind following a fistfight in which he pulled a knife: “Now you won’t ride my horse. Or any other horse for a while.”

Col. George Sharpe, during a meeting of the men trying to uncover those responsible for stealing Union horse herds:” Just before I left Washington, Halleck gave me the latest high command opinion on organizing a group like ours. They laughed at the general. Said the word ‘counterespionage’ wasn’t even in the dictionary. It seemed ridiculous to try to create something that couldn’t even be defined. Well, we’re defining it for him and in great big capital letters.”

Lt. Col. John Hudson to Erin Kearney: “People don’t always act the way you expect them to. It doesn’t mean they aren’t fond of you. Or don’t love you. It simply means they may have a star to follow that’s stronger than any personal tie.”

Sgt. Snow: “Never exactly doubted you, sir, and that raw deal they gave you at your court-martial gave us a pain in the collar.”
Kearney: “Where do you suppose it gave me a pain?”

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