After winning a gun in a shooting contest, a cowboy is dismayed to learn of its disappearance. After learning that it was his half-brother who stole it, he sets out to find it, following the gun as it moves from person to person. Eventually he traces it and becomes involved in one final shoot-out to win it back.
The first of Anthony Mann's series of Western masterpieces with James Stewart, this is the marvellously-scripted story of a man and a gun. Stewart wins a fantastically accurate rifle in a shooting contest, but it is stolen by his no-good half-brother Stephen McNally. Jimmy, with resolute vindictiveness, sets out to track down the varmint, and the gun is passed from hand to hand around the West until it returns to its rightful owner for a final shoot-out in inhospitable rockery.
Will Geer is fun as a folksy Wyatt Earp, whose reputation impresses even Stewart, and Winters is surprisingly comfortable in Western gear as a pioneer wife left to the Indians by her rotten fiancé. Present are all the great Mann-Stewart ingredients: hostile landscape, complex history, family revenge, bursts of violence and obsessive brooding.
With such a strong cast, the film almost turns into an ensemble film instead of a star vehicle for Stewart in his first of many collaborations with Mann. An Archetypal Western with the required cowboys, gunfights and damsels in distress, it has become an all time favourite.