Screen version of the best-selling book [by Walter Van Tilburg Clark] depends too much on the hanging theme, developing this into a brutal closeup of a Nevada necktie party. Hardly a gruesome detail is omitted. Where the pleading by the three innocent victims doubtlessly was exciting on the printed page, it becomes too raw-blooded for the screen. Chief fault is that the picture over-emphasizes the single hanging incident of the novel, and there’s not enough other action.
Western opus follows the escapades of two cowboys, played by Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan, in town after a winter on the range. They are tossed into the turmoil of the usually quiet western community which is aroused by the report of a cattleman’s slaying by rustlers. A buddy of the supposedly slain rancher stirs the pot-boiling, and a posse is formed to get the culprits and handle them ‘western style’. Remainder of story concerns efforts of the few law-abiding gentry to halt the lynching.
Fonda measures up to star rating, as one of the few level-headed cowhands. His brief scene with Mary Beth Hughes, the flashy belle of the village, following her sudden marriage, is topflight. He helps hold together the loose ends of the rather patent plot.
1943: Nomination: Best Picture