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With: Gary Cooper, Phyllis Thaxter, Lon Chaney Jr., David Brian, Paul Kelly, Philip Carey, James Millican, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Alan Hale Jr., Martin Milner, Wilton Graff
Written by: Frank Davis, Charles Marquis Warren, based on a story by Sloan Nibley
Directed by: Andre de Toth
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 93
Date: 10/22/1952

Springfield Rifle (1952)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Running and Gunning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Apparently, producers tried to convince director Andre de Toth not to hire Gary Cooper for Springfield Rifle (1952) because the lead character is a man posing as a spy during the Civil War; Cooper's untarnished image could not hold up to the ambiguous scrutiny of such a role. (Apparently audiences and critics did not think so either.) But he does, and beautifully. This solidly constructed Western is a tense and exciting drama, revealing one surprise after another. Cooper plays Major Kearney, who attempts to deliver a much-needed herd of horses to Union soldiers, but backs down when the Confederate bad guys show their faces. He faces a court-martial and winds up joining the enemy, but his real aim is to find the Union spy that has been selling information to the other side. A master action director, De Toth (perhaps best known today for his one horror film, House of Wax) shoots in bright Technicolor, but also making startling use of deep shadow. His experience as a "B" movie director gives the film a brisk pace, finishing on just the right note at only 92 minutes. Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man) co-stars, and fans will want to see the knockdown, drag-out brawl between the two icons.

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