Trademark of John Ford’s direction is clearly stamped on the film with its shadowy lights, softly contrasted moods and measured pace, but a tendency is discernible towards stylization for stylization’s sake. At several points, the pic comes to a dead stop to let Ford go gunning for some arty effect.
Major boost to the film is given by the simple, sincere performance of Henry Fonda. Script doesn’t afford him many chances for dramatic action, but Fonda, as a boomtown marshal, pulls the reins taut on his part charging the role and the pic with more excitement than it really has. Playing counterpoint to Fonda, Victor Mature registers nicely as a Boston aristocrat turned gambler and killer.
Femme lead is held down by Linda Darnell although Cathy Downs plays the title role. As a Mexican firebrand and dancehall belle, Darnell handles herself creditably while the camera work does the rest in highlighting her looks. Downs, in the relatively minor role of Clementine, a cultured Bostonian gal who is in love with Mature, is sweet and winning.
Story opens with the killing of Fonda’s brother while they are en route to California on a cattle-herding job. Fonda is offered, and takes, the post of sheriff in a bad man’s town in an effort to track down the killers. Crossing paths with Mature in a saloon, Fonda suspects him at first but both become very chummy as Mature is revealed to be a talented surgeon who escaped to a dangerous life because he suffered from consumption.