Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Ronald Reagan and Barbara Stanwyck
CATTLE QUEEN OF MONTANA (1954). Director: Allan Dwan. 

Sierra Nevada Jones (Barbara Stanwyck), her father, "Pop" (Morris Ankrum), and their friend Nat (Chubby Johnson) are about to stake their claim to the land when a stampede sends all of their cattle running amok, killing the old man and nearly killing the others. A loathsome polecat named McCord (Gene Evans) is in cahoots with an Indian named Natchakoa (Anthony Caruso), who started the stampede. Natchakoa hopes to take control of a tribe of Blackfoot Indians away from his father Red Lance and hated brother, Colorados (Lance Fuller), who is too sympathetic to whites, including Sierra, whom he tries to help. Then there's the mysterious Farrell (Ronald Reagan), who works for McCord but seems to be looking out for Sierra. Rounding out the cast of characters is Starfire (Yvette Duquay), an Indian maiden who is jealous of Colorados' attentions to Sierra. Naturally nothing good can come of all this. 

Stanwyck, Lance Fuller, Chubby Johnson
Barbara Stanwyck was in the final stages of her career when she made this film, essentially a B western with a certified B movie cast, including Ronald Reagan as her sort-of leading man (although Lance Fuller gets more screen time). Stanwyck had done other westerns before and after this one -- and of course did several seasons of The Big Valley on TV -- but Cattle Queen is far below the level of, say, Anthony Mann's The Furies. The cliches don't matter so much because they're almost part of the genre, and Cattle Queen has a workable story, but the movie never really comes alive the way it ought to, and after awhile you just sit there and wait impatiently for it to finally be over. Stanwyck is fine, Reagan is Reagan, the others are all professional, including Myron Healey as an associate of McCord's who gets in a tussle with her, but this is just plain mediocre. It's very odd to see Stanwyck interacting with so many B movie stalwarts, including -- at this point -- Reagan, who would be hosting Death Valley Days in about a decade. Louis Forbes has contributed an arresting score and John Alton's technicolor cinematography is often striking. 

Verdict: Babs in the saddle -- sore. **1/4. 


angelman66 said...

Have only heard of this film as a Reagan and Stanwyck struggled in their mid-life career crises...making a lot of what were basically B movies. But looking at them all these years later, sometimes they are very entertaining indeed and often I enjoy seeing performers in their mature years even more than the height of their stardom! My favorite Stanwyck is actually as Victoria Barkley in Big Valley!!

William said...

You're not alone -- that show ran for years. I agree with you that sometimes the later-day films of big stars can be entertaining and showcase all they've learned about acting over the years. Alas "Cattle Queen" is not the best example of this, LOL!