Western RoundUp: Hidden Gems, Vol. 4

Western RoundUp: Hidden Gems, Vol. 4

This month I’ll be sharing another round of what I like to call “Hidden Gems,” Westerns which are lesser-known yet entertaining films worth seeking out.

Below are brief sketches of a trio of worthwhile movies from the latter half of the ’50s. Happily, all are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray.

I’d love comments from others who have enjoyed any of these films, and I hope viewers who are unfamiliar with them might seek them out in the New Year.


Stranger at My Door (William Witney, 1956)

Stranger At My Door Poster

Stranger at My Door, a personal favorite of director William Witney, is a “psychological Western” with some powerful moments. The story concerns a bank robber, Clay (Skip Homeier), who takes refuge at the home of a minister (Macdonald Carey) after his horse goes lame. The minister quickly realizes Clay’s true identity but — despite the danger to his little boy (Stephen Wootton) and his new wife Peg (Patricia Medina) — attempts to break through to Clay with Christian kindness. Things go awry when the sheriff (Louis Jean Heydt) arrives at the farm and realizes Clay’s identity.

Stranger A tMy Door Macdonald Carey Patricia Medina
Macdonald Carey and Patricia Medina, Stranger at My Door

The screenplay by Barry Shipman goes much deeper than this bare bones description sounds, raising interesting questions along the way. There’s a memorable set piece in which a wild horse tears up the farm; the horse is clearly a metaphorical reference to Clay. Peg attempts to shoot the horse but can’t bring herself to do it, symbolizing her own conflicted feelings regarding the stranger in their midst. Like many good movies, Stranger at My Door leaves viewers pondering its themes long after “The End” comes on the screen, though my one quibble about the film is I would have liked to have a few more of my questions answered!

Stranger At My Door Skip Homeier Stephen Wootton
Skip Homeier and Stephen Wootton

Stranger at My Door is compellingly directed by Witney, who specialized in Westerns over the course of his decades-long career in films and television. For those wondering about the horse sequence, the animal was very extensively trained by one of the great stuntmen in the business, Joe Yrigoyen. The movie was filmed in black and white by Bud Thackery.

Stranger at My Door is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.


The Quiet Gun (William F. Claxton, 1957)

Quiet Gun Poster

The Quiet Gun is a strong film directed by William F. Claxton, best known for his longtime work on TV Westerns such as The High Chaparral and Bonanza. It was written by Eric Norden, adapted by Norden and Earle Lyon from the novel Law Man by Lauran Paine.

In a film which has echoes of High Noon (1952), Forrest Tucker is superb as Sheriff Carl Brandon, a world-weary yet honorable man who won’t ever back down from doing the right thing. Trouble arrives in town in the form of nasty troublemaker Sadler (Lee Van Cleef); more problems arrive on the stagecoach with Teresa (Kathleen Crowley), whose estranged husband (Jim Davis) has stirred up local outrage keeping company with an Indian girl (Mara Corday). The Sheriff’s unspoken feelings for Teresa further complicate matters.

Quiet Gun Forrest Tucker Lee Van Cleef
Forrest Tucker and Lee Van Cleef, The Quiet Gun

Tucker gives a nuanced performance, much of which is communicated nonverbally; there’s a great moment I love where he goes in a saloon and stares down Van Cleef. Tucker has excellent support from a fine cast which also includes Hank Worden, Vince Barnett, and Tom Brown.

Quiet Gun Van Cleef Forrest Tucker
Van Cleef and Tucker

The movie was beautifully filmed in widescreen black and white Regalscope by John Mescall. The film’s Southern California locations included Corriganville, which I wrote about here at Classic Movie Hub earlier this year.

The Quiet Gun is a special movie which I recommend.

The Quiet Gun is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.


Gunsmoke in Tucson (Thomas Carr, 1958)

Gunsmoke in Tucson Poster

Mark Stevens might not readily come to mind as a Western star, but he was a compelling presence in a handful of ’50s Westerns, including Jack Slade (1953) and Gunsight Ridge (1957).

My favorite of Stevens’ Westerns might be Gunsmoke in Tucson, in which he plays one-time outlaw Chip Coburn, who’s spent eight years in jail thanks to his brother, Marshal John Brazos (Forrest Tucker). Upon his release Chip intends to turn over a new leaf and ranch, and he patiently avoids numerous confrontations arranged by Bodeen (Vaughn Taylor), who’d like to see him back in jail, or worse. But when an innocent farmer (Kevin Hagen) is targeted by one of Bodeen’s men, Chip finally goes into action, backed by his friend Slick (John Ward).

Gunsmoke in Tucson Mark Stevens
Mark Stevens, Gunsmoke in Tucson

Stevens wasn’t conventionally handsome by this point in his career, yet his performance demands viewer attention. What he lacks in size and good looks he makes up for with attitude and charisma. Ward, an actor who was previously unfamiliar to me, is also terrific as Slick. It’s a great deal of fun watching them deal with the bad guys while Chip also resolves his conflicted relationship with his brother.

Gunsmoke in Tucson Mark Stevens Forrest Tucker
Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker

Gunsmoke in Tucson was nicely filmed in Deluxe color and CinemaScope by William P. Whitley; the film’s locations included Old Tucson. The screenplay was by Robert Joseph and Paul Leslie Peil, based on Peil’s story.

Gunsmoke in Tucson is available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive Collection.

For previous “Hidden Gems” recommendations, please visit Volume 1 (January 2020), Volume 2 (November 2020), and Volume 3 (May 2021).

Best wishes to all my readers for a very happy 2022!


– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Laura’s Western RoundUp columns here.

Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns.  She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals.  Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.

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5 Responses to Western RoundUp: Hidden Gems, Vol. 4

  1. Vienna says:

    Call myself a western fan ( especially the 50s) and I dont know any of these. Thanks, Laura, I’ll be catching up with the trio.

  2. Laura Grieve says:

    Vienna, I hope you enjoy these! I’d love to know your thoughts.

    It makes me very happy to know people like you might try one or all of these films after reading about them here.

    Best wishes,

  3. Jerry Entract says:

    As you know, Laura, I love these ‘semi-A’ westerns and you have picked another three interesting examples.
    The one I know the least is “STRANGER AT MY DOOR’ as I still only have a rather scrappy copy. I really need to get around to picking up the Olive Films DVD.
    “GUNSMOKE IN TUCSON” is very enjoyable, directed by experienced western director, Thomas Carr. But “THE QUIET GUN” is something else again; a small yet superbly-made and acted quite powerful film. Forrest Tucker gives a terrific understated performance. I had picked up a pan and scan disc somewhere yet enjoyed the film so much that when Olive Films put it out in its proper Regalscope I bought it immediately.

    Thanks for continuing with this very enjoyable theme. Not just interesting but very helpful (you have already piqued Vienna’s interest in these three).

  4. Walter says:

    Laura, you picked some good Western Movies and I enjoyed your good write-up. You really can’t go wrong viewing a William Witney directed Western and STRANGER AT MY DOOR(filmed 1955, released 1956) is a dandy. I first viewed it on the WREC Channel 3 Memphis EARLY MOVIE in 1966. I would get off the school bus, go into the house, and turn on the RCA tv to see what was on the EARLY MOVIE. I saw a lot of Republic Pictures in those days. I’d like to recommend two other Republic Pictures Westerns that Witney directed: THE OUTCAST(filmed 1953, released 1954) and SANTA FE PASSAGE(filmed 1954, released 1955). Witney liked actor Slim Pickens and he was in all three of these movies.

    I’ve always liked Forrest Tucker, especially in Westerns. I first recall viewing GUNSMOKE IN TUCSON(filmed 1957, released 1958) on the WHBQ Channel 13 Memphis DIALING FOR DOLLARS MOVIE in 1970.

    THE QUIET GUN(filmed 1956, released 1957) is one that I don’t recall ever viewing, so because of your write-up, I’ll seek it out.

    I agree with Jerry in that I love these “semi-A” Westerns. They are right up my lane and I never get tired of viewing them.

    I look forward to your next write-up. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  5. Thanks, Laura.

    I find that Mark Stevens became a more interesting actor as he matured. I can’t wait to put these three under my belt. Stranger at My Door has started to ring a few bells but obviously, I won’t really know anything until I watch it.

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