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The Gunfighter

Henry King

Quite simply one of the finest and most underrated Westerns of all time, The Gunfighter defies almost every expectation of the genre. The film is anchored by an astonishing performance by Gregory Peck as Jimmy Ringo, a notorious gunfighter who has grown old and tired of every young gun taking a shot at him. Set almost entirely inside a saloon where Ringo hopes to reconnect with the wife and child he abandoned, director Henry King masterfully ratchets up the tension, and refuses to waste a second of film’s admirably tight running-time. But he, Peck and writers William Bowers and William Sellers also manage to give Ringo’s story a genuine tragic weight.

Terse, tough and powerfully unsentimental, The Gunfighter is often seen as the forerunner to the other great claustrophobic Westerns of the 50s: High Noon, 3:10 to Yuma and Rio Bravo. In hindsight, however, it may be the best of the bunch.