Wagon Master (1950)

Wagon Master (1950), directed by John Ford.

Two amiable cowpokes guide a Mormon wagon train across the desert to their promised land. They face the usual romantic opportunities and wilderness hazards, including an especially debased clan of thieves and killers: the Cleggs.

One of Ford's personal favorites, made on a small budget and with no big names. Maybe that's why he liked it so much. Received almost without comment at the time, it has since been called a masterpiece and "a genuine Western film-poem".

Well, maybe. No doubt it's a satisfying story expertly executed.

Ben Johnson and Joanne Dru get top billing. She's mighty pretty with plenty of bad-girl character. His horsemanship is remarkable and I don't know of a more likeable character actor who worked so steadily without becoming a major star. He was a real cowboy.

I like it that although our heroes are working cowboys, not pretend gunfighters, they can strap on the guns and shoot two-footed snakes as needed.

Among the deadly but dim-witted Cleggs we have nonspeaking James Arness and especially deranged Hank Worden. He was on Twin Peaks decades later, looking much the same. 221 acting credits in the IMDB.

Much choral music by the Sons of the Pioneers.

How about a friendly game of "High-Low-Jick-Jack-Jenny-and-the-Bean-Gun"?