Starring: Maureen O’Hara, Alex Nicol, William Bishop, Alexander Scourby
Director: Lee Sholem
Mood: If you want tons of exciting Western action and cattle-related drama and you also agree that Maureen O’Hara is flawless.
I was RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED when I discovered The Redhead from Wyoming. Why? Maureen F*cking O’Hara.
This legend was already a favourite of mine since childhood, because of a little movie called The Parent Trap – the original, not the Lindsay Lohan version. I like my oldschool Disney.
Anyway, when I saw her star opposite John Wayne in Rio Grande I wasn’t even slightly surprised that she makes an amazing Western lead. She’s confident, and captivating in a way that I can’t explain. It’s like her presence is so big that you forget to look at anything else in the scene.
You can probably already tell that I enjoyed this movie. But I’m going to continue the review anyway.
The Redhead from Wyoming obviously takes place in Wyoming Territory. The time would be near when the Maverick Law was passed, so in or after 1884.
Here’s why that matters:
- Settlers wanted to join the cattle business
- The best way was to round up ‘maverick’ (wild) cattle and brand them as your own
- The Maverick Law gave legal ownership of all unbranded cattle in a region to the local cattlemen’s association
- This made it so existing cattle barons could keep anyone new from establishing a business
- It led to range wars like the Johnson County War
- It’s the backbone of this movie’s plot
You’re introduced to a would-be politician named Jim Averill (William Bishop) promising to help the settlers get cattle rights. And you’ve got cattle baron Reece Duncan (Alexander Scourby) threatening to shoot anyone who comes onto his range to round up unbranded cows.
Then Kate Maxwell (O’Hara) arrives on a stagecoach, which technically makes her The Redhead Who Comes to Wyoming but that’s not quite so catchy. She’s been invited by Averill, who immediately starts acting shady by telling everyone that she’s got a legal brand and will buy their maverick cattle.
Tensions increase between the settlers and Mr. Duncan’s posse. Meanwhile, sexual tension is on the rise between Kate and the laconic sheriff Blaine (Alex Nicol). Blaine warns Kate of an impending range war, and that Averill tricked her into becoming a cattle rustler.
People start getting shot, and then it’s all action all the time as the two sides face off.
O’Hara knew how to make an entrance, and The Redhead from Wyoming sets her up perfectly to do exactly that. The moment she steps off that stage, she’s in control and you can tell she knows it.
Her portrayal of Kate is the ultimate femme tomboy. She carries herself with regal poise, but doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind, make cheeky comments, demand answers, wield a gun, or leap onto a horse and gallop away.
- Fun Fact: Maureen O’Hara did most of her own stunts throughout her career, because she grew up adept at fencing, horseback riding, and Judo. John Wayne famously dubbed her the only woman truly tough enough for him.
Alex Nicol is well-suited to his gig as the sheriff. He plays him just the right kind of manly. It’s not overblown and in-your-face – he’s quiet, but you can tell he can handle himself when the time comes.
I actually really liked Alexander Scourby as Duncan. Even when he was on ‘the other side’, Scourby had a warmth and sweetness that made the character read as ‘good guy’.
You also get to see Jack Kelly, who famously played Bart Maverick in the Maverick TV series. Here he’s mostly just surly and trigger-happy, but in one scene he says “hi Maverick” to the sheriff and I found that funny. You know, because he would go on to play a Maverick…
If you love your Westerns packed to the point of bursting with action, The Redhead from Wyoming is definitely for you.
There are a couple of epic brawls, I mean really f*cking well-choreographed fist fights that seem to last forever and involve every available person. There’s loads of excellent stunt riding, especially by the men who have to halt a stampede after one of the aforementioned brawls breaks out next to pens of longhorn.
Who starts throwing punches next to cattle, when your job is literally to round up and push cattle so you should understand their temperaments better than anyone and know not to do that? As someone who clocked many hours over the last couple of years working cows, I was shaking my head.
There are also plenty of shootouts, including a big one that involves so many people that you can’t tell who’s a settler and who’s a cattleman. That actually happened to me several times throughout the movie, but I didn’t mind.
And then – THEN – there’s this jaw-dropping move where a stunt person playing the sheriff leaps off a balcony and times it perfectly to yank someone off a horse! It was so perfectly executed that I had to pause and take still photos:
I have to admit that I had some trouble with The Redhead from Wyoming’s plot. Not because it was confusing, but because I was 100% on Duncan’s side. The settlers were legit sneaking onto his range and rounding up mavericks. Even if they’re unbranded, they’re still on HIS property.
So that made me slightly annoyed with Kate when she realized what was up but kept going along with it for a bit.
I think it’s supposed to be a commentary on a woman’s heart, still soft for a man who already did her wrong. But you only get brief mentions of Kate and Averill’s past (he left her in a bad situation in another town) and he’s obviously scheming from the get-go, so you can’t see any reason for her to tolerate his bullshit for even a second.
The outfits are also not quite era-authentic, and as is often the case, the men’s clothes are way too clean for anyone working cows in any way. O’Hara’s dresses aren’t quite Western, but I was still living because she looks so bloody stunning.
And then the ending – SPOILER ALERT. But not really, because did you think this was some period drama where everyone dies and the bad guys win?
In the final scene, that is exactly how you romance a gal. Or this gal, anyway. Give her a deep kiss, then hand her the reins to a gorgeous palomino and invite her to ride off on an adventure.
I will watch this movie again and again. Partly to feed my obsession with Maureen O’Hara, but honestly it’s mostly because the action was so damn good. Did you see those stunt photos?!