Studio: 20th Century Fox
Running time: 85 minutes
Process: Black & White / mono
Director: Henry King
Stars: Gregory Peck as Jimmy Ringo
Karl Malden as Mac
Helen Westcott as Peggy Walsh
Millard Mitchell as Marshal Mark Strett
Ellen Corby as Mrs. Devlin
Originally released in 1950 and starring Gregory Peck in the title role as a tired gunfighter who can’t escape his reputation, The Gunfighter is a real gem! This landmark film is an early example of a new style known as the “psychological” western, in that all the tension and drama was derived from dialog and characterization rather than gunfights and horse chases. Peck plays Jimmy Ringo, who is considered to be one of the fastest draws alive. But in the one scene early in the film where he actually has to kill a young man who wants to make a reputation for himself by killing the legendary gunfighter, the camera never shows Peck draw his gun. No, the scene only shows the youngster draw, fire, and fall down, then the camera cuts to Peck with his smoking gun – a brilliant edit.
The film, while critically hailed as a masterpiece, was surprisingly a flop at the box office. The studio blamed the filmmakers for putting too much authenticity into the production. And as we all know, authenticity has no place in a Hollywood Western!
The filmmakers used historical photographs to pattern Peck’s look. The studio heads believed that the soup bowl haircut, long mustache, and large floppy hat obscured Peck’s handsomeness and caused the public’s rejection. Head of production Spyros P. Skouras is quoted saying to Peck, “That mustache cost us millions!”
The 1950s must have really been strait-laced, because personally, I think Gregory Peck never looked better!