Cattle Drive—Joel McCrea, Dean Stockwell, Chill Wills, Howard Petrie, Leon Ames (1951; Dir: Kurt Neumann)
Neglected poor little rich boy Chester Graham, Jr., is the son of a railroad owner who never has time for him. In a western desert, spoiled young Chester (Dean Stockwell) manages to get left by a train at a watering stop, and he wanders until found by Dan Matthews (Joel McCrea), who’s chasing wild stallion Midnight while on a cattle drive to Santa Fe.
It’s a fairly conventional story in which Chet learns about people, responsibility, fairness and such while growing up a little bit on the trail. Color is lent by loquacious chuckwagon cook Dallas (Chill Wills) and responsibility by trail boss Cap (Howard Petrie) as well as Dan. Periodically, Dan and Chet pursue Midnight again, so Dan can start his own horse herd. They actually catch him once, but he gets away.
By trail’s end, not only has Chet grown up some, but father Chester Sr. (Leon Ames) is trying to turn over a new leaf as a parent, too. Father and son go off with Dan to pursue Midnight yet again. There’s not one female role, although Dan shows a picture of a girl he hopes to marry in Santa Fe (the photo is McCrea’s real life wife Frances Dee, who never shows up in person). Even the bad-ish guy Curry isn’t very bad, so much as contrary.
Shot In color, mostly in Death Valley. Pretty short at 77 minutes. Kind of like Cowboy, with an Easterner being taught western ways on the drive, and a lot like Captains Courageous, with a boy learning the ways of men. Not as complex as either, though. McCrea and Stockwell had worked together the previous year in Stars in My Crown.
For Joel McCrea in another cattle drive movie from later in the 1950s, see Cattle Empire. For Joel McCrea and wife Frances Dee actually together on screen, see the underrated Four Faces West. For cattle drive westerns generally, see our post Cattle Drive Westerns.