Sheepman, The (1958) - full review!
Directed by George Marshall, and written by William Bowers & James Edward Grant (who earned an Oscar nomination for their story & screenplay written directly for the screen), this above average Western comedy features Glenn Ford in the title role. Though three of the other leads are Shirley MacLaine, Leslie Nielsen & Mickey Shaughnessy, the rest of the cast is full of familiar faces (like Ford's) from this genre, though many have merely cameo roles (like Slim Pickens as the Marshal who goes fishing every time there's trouble). The first 20 minutes of the film are the funniest, as Ford's "stranger in town" character blows through so many of the "tried and true" Western cliches, spoofing them as he goes. The latter two thirds grow more serious as Ford and Nielsen battle each other for control of the town, and MacLaine. I'm not sure where this one was filmed, but the "purple mountains majesty" and the abundant yellow aspen trees made for a beautiful backdrop.
Jason Sweet (Ford) made quite an impression on the people of Powder Valley within the first few minutes of his arrival by train. After "insulting" the town's station master (Percy Helton, uncredited), a lady who's having trouble controlling her horse that turns out to be Dell Payton (MacLane), its wise guy Milt Masters (Edgar Buchanan; Roscoe Ates appears uncredited as another of its loafers), whom he later out horse trades, and its general store proprietor (Harry Harvey), he describes and then asks the town folk where their toughest hombre might be. Finding the aptly named Jumbo (Shaughnessy) in the Chinaman's (Lee Tung Foo, uncredited) restaurant, Sweet picks a fight, which he wins, and then states his intention to bring sheep to graze among the cattle on the area's public lands. On the way out, he has a brief conversation with Milt, whom he'd sized up a man without honor (e.g. willing to rat out anybody for $1), before checking into the town's only hotel.
Though Dell shows up to warn him that Powder Valley is now a peaceable place without the usual Western trouble, Sweet is greeted by Jumbo, who insists upon taking him to meet his boss, "the Colonel". Sweet then demonstrates that he's easily the quickest man (with a gun) in town and that, if the Colonel wants to see him, he should come to see Sweet. However, Jumbo and a couple of other toughs later persuade, at the point of a gun, Sweet to come with them. Upon being taken to the Colonel's, where Sweet learns that Dell is his fiancée, he comes face to face with the town's leading rancher (Nielsen). As it turns out, Sweet knows this "Colonel", who is really Johnny Bledsoe, a former gunslinger like Sweet who'd decided to go straight and settled in Powder Valley six years ago. The two decide not to resolve their conflict at this time, though it's clear neither will back down - Sweet is determined to raise sheep in the valley, Col. Stephen Bedford will figure out a way to drive Sweet out of "his" town.
The two men's methods are completely different - Sweet is straightforward, Bedford's are more underhanded. Though Sweet is able to use Dell and her carriage to surprise Jumbo and some other toughs, making them help his Mexican sheepherder Angelo (Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales) unload his sheep from the train, he is later manipulated by Dell himself. Her father (Willis Bouchey) and her fiancé convince her to invite Sweet to a party and then use her charm to distract him while Bedford's men round up Sweet's sheep and load them back on the train. During this time, Dell learned that Sweet once had a fiancée that was killed, and had settled down to raise sheep after winning them in a poker game. Jumbo, with pistol drawn, then "puts" Sweet, Angelo, and also Milt on the train, whose conductors are instructed to drive 200 miles before stopping to unlock it cars.
*** SPOILERS ***
However, Sweet is able to turn the tables on Bedford once again, and informs the rest of the town's people that Bedford had been using Milt to buy up all the area's public grazing lands for himself. After her father checks out Sweet's story, Dell breaks her engagement and later, with Milt, helps Sweet avoid an unfair fight with Chocktaw (Pernell Roberts), a former foe hired by Bedford to run off Sweet's sheep and kill his hired help. Once the odds are evened, Sweet easily wins the shootout with Chocktaw and Jumbo rides off to inform Bedford. Inevitably, this all leads to a showdown between Sweet and Bedford, who's naturally got more surprises up his sleeve. Whereas Bedford's trick, using a seemingly harmless (but actually armed) old pistol, enables him to wound Sweet, Sweet's shot kills Bedford. Having made his point, being too stubborn to let anyone tell him what to do, Sweet decides to have Jumbo corral his sheep to market where Milt will sell them. Naturally, Sweet then decides to become a cattle rancher and win Dell as his own.