Twenty-five years ago the Lavery baby was kidnapped. Bad guy Leffingwell gets Choya to impersonate the son to gain the Lavery estate. When he finally fesses up to his “sister” Ruth she is furious. To redeem himself he sets out to find the real son.
Thanks to a strong story and some enthusiastic performances, “Branded” remains as one of Alan Ladd’s top westerns
The opening scenes set the tone of the film Ladd, an itinerant gunman known simply as Choya and with the aid of a tattooed birthmark, passes himself off as the lost son and is accepted wholeheartedly by the parents (Bickford and Royle) and Ruth (Freeman), the man’s sister
Ruth had responded to his arrival on the ranch as any pretty woman would respond to a mysterious, handsome stranger, but she rapidly sets right to the fact that he is a relative
As soon as he is welcomed as Richard Jr, however, something happens to Choya As a member of a loving family, Choya experiences feelings denied him by his own childhood and became increasingly sickened by his contribution in the tricking
Leading a cattle drive to El Paso, Choya decides to give up his charade revealing his true identity to Ruth, who turns on him with consternation and antagonism There remains only one way to redeem himself and make up for the distressing emotion he has caused the Lavery family: To find their real son
All the elements in “Branded” are taken directly from the straight-shooting school of Western movies Choya, despite his confession to Ruth that he is a “four-flushin’ thief,” is true-blue outlaw hero The smart Leffingwell has him classified correctly: “You won’t hit an older man. You ain’t the kind that’ll draw first, or shoot a man in the back.” Even with the rules thus outlined, Ladd still has a chance to present his standard beguiling bad guy early in the film, merely holding back a victorious smile as he pretends confusion over the elder Lavery’s excited reaction to his birthmark
Besides its other values, “Branded” is a visual delight In fact, the movie’s one drawback as a Western entertainment is a lack of big action highlights