The Cimarron Kid Audie Murphy comes into his own as a Western star in this story. Wrongly accused by crooked railroad officials of aiding a train heist by his old friends the Daltons, he joins their gang and becomes an active participant in other robberies. Betrayed by a fellow gang member, Murphy becomes a fugitive in the end. Seeking refuge at the ranch of a reformed gang member, he hopes to flee with the man’s daughter to South America, but he’s captured in the end and led off to jail. The girl promises to wait.
THE CIMARRON KID (Budd Boetticher, 1952) **1/2
This emerges as a pretty good example of the typical Audie Murphy Western vehicle – though of lesser quality to the only one I had previously watched, NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959) and, being Budd Boetticher’s first Western, clearly a minor effort in his canon. Many films of this era treated (in a heavily romanticized manner) the exploits of famous outlaws of the Old West: Murphy appears as Bill Doolin and, at one point, he is told by the leader of The Dalton Gang that “They’ll be writing ballads about us” and, sure enough, their exploits were later immortalized in music by the Country Rock band Eagles in “Doolin-Dalton”, a song off of their second album “Desperado” (1973). Typically, Murphy is seen forced into a life of crime by circumstances or, more precisely, the persecution of a law-enforcement officer (while another, played by Leif Erickson, is more sympathetic to his plight). As ever, the gang is an eclectic assortment of characters: affable Noah Beery Jr. is their leader, Hugh O’Brian the red-headed hot-tempered challenger, James Best the ladies’ man, Frank Silvera the half-breed, etc.; interestingly, we get a couple of romances going on (Murphy with the daughter of a man who shelters them and Best with a fiery Mexican girl) and the female characters are surprisingly strong for this type of film. Reassembling themselves in the wake of a bank hold-up gone awry (the film’s best action sequence, climaxing in Beery’s memorable come-uppance with the spilling coins a graphic substitution for blood), the gang is subsequently betrayed by the ‘inside man’ in a train robbery they try to pull off. Murphy is eventually persuaded to give himself up, with Erickson promising him a fair trial this time around. Shot in pleasant Technicolor, the generically-titled THE CIMARRON KID serves up compact, pacy and unpretentious entertainment – perfect viewing after a hard day’s work.