Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Gunfighter (1950)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Gunfighter (1950)

In director Henry King's under-rated film known as a seminal "psychological" western, semi-Greek tragedy, and noirish character study. This film was a glamorized account of a real-life, infamous historical gunfighter known as Johnny Ringo who probably shot unarmed men and was presumed to have committed suicide. In the movie version of the character, Ringo only killed in self-defense:

  • the film's opening title card: "In the Southwest of the 1880's, the difference between death and glory was often but a fraction of a second. This was the speed that made champions of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, and Wild Bill Hickok. But the fastest man with a gun who ever lived, by many contemporary accounts, was a long, lean Texan named Ringo"
  • the title character was a cursed, notorious gunfighting outlaw with a bloody past who was continually mythologized, looked at contemptuously, or targeted by many young upstart gunslingers who wanted to challenge his reputation as the "fastest man with a gun who ever lived"
  • in the film's opening set in the 1880s, reformed, legendary but weary 35 year-old Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) with a violent past (and an impressive mustache) arrived one night in The Gem Saloon (Cantina) in a small SW town; cocky and arrogant gunman Eddie (Richard Jaeckel), where a young bully thought to himself: "Just two hands like anybody else"; Eddie approached and kept insulting Ringo, who responded: "Why don't you button up your britches and go home?...How come I've gotta run into a squirt like you nearly every place I go these days? What are ya trying to do? Show off in front of your friends?"

Gunfighter Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck)

Young Bully Eddie (Richard Jaeckel)

Eddie Shot Dead By Ringo After Taunting Him and Drawing His Gun
  • after self-defensively killing Eddie in the barroom, his 12th murder in similar circumstances, further forces were brought down upon Ringo; subsequently, Ringo could not escape from Eddie's three vengeful murderous brothers who pursued him to the outskirts of town; there, he wounded one brother (David Clarke) who drew his gun, and disarmed the other two (Alan Hale, Jr, and John Pickard) before chasing off their horses; they faced a 3-hour walk to Santa Fe, NM
  • in the nearby town of Cayenne, NM in the early morning, Ringo entered an empty saloon, the Palace Bar, owned by bartender Mac (Karl Malden), who knew of Ringo and treated him with extreme deference; Ringo's old friend and ex-outlaw, now the town's reformed Marshal Mark Strett (Millard Mitchell), was alerted to the gunfighter's presence; the Marshal urged Ringo to leave town immediately to avoid further trouble ("I'm afraid I'm gonna have to ask you to move on....I just want you out of town anyway. And pronto")
  • while in town, Ringo hopefully awaited a reunion with his estranged wife (of eight years) - local schoolteacher Peggy Walsh (Helen Westcott) and son Jimmie, Jr. (B.G. Norman) whom he had never met; according to the Marshal, she had kept her identity and son's identity a secret on purpose: ("Nobody here knows who she is, Jimmie. She never even told the boy about you. They've got another name now and another life, and it looks to me like that's the way she wants it to stay")
  • Ringo found himself restricted, sequestered (and trapped) in the corner of the Palace Bar while he waited to speak to Peggy; at first, she refused to meet with Ringo when the Marshal asked her if she was interested in seeing him
  • across the street in an upper level hotel room, aggrieved and vengeful elderly father Jerry Marlowe (Cliff Clark) with a shotgun by the window mistakenly believed that Ringo had killed his son Roy, and was ready to take a shot; later in the film, Ringo confronted the man at gunpoint in the room, and tried to convince him he was innocent: ("I never killed any Roy Marlowe. I never even heard of him"), before leading him to the Marshal's office to lock him up and prevent him from doing harm
  • after speaking to waitress-singer Molly Harris (Jean Parker), a recently-widowed saloon girl once married to Bucky Harris, one of Ringo's friends and gang members, she was able to convince Peggy to speak to him
  • throughout Ringo's short stay in town, hot-shot, two-bit gunfighter and "loud-mouthed, barroom loafer" Hunt Bromley (Skip Homeier) had been lurking around Cayenne to confront him; Molly had earlier told Ringo that Bromley attempted to romance Peggy, but she had told him off; Bromley marched into the Palace Bar to purposely instigate a fight with Ringo, who cautioned the cocky young man to quit bothering him: ("Looks to me like there's a squirt like you in every town in the West. Now get away from here"); Ringo insulted Bromley ("I heard about you. I heard you're a cheap, no-good barroom loafer"), and then held a gun on Bromley under the table pointed at his belly, to force him to leave the bar room; it was revealed that Ringo had bluffed Bromley and thoroughly humiliated him
The First Confrontation Between Hunt Bromley and Ringo

Hunt Bromley (Skip Homeier)

Ringo: "Looks to me like there's a squirt like you in every town in the West. Now get away from here"

Ringo With A Gun Under the Table
  • at the same time, Eddie's three murderous brothers had acquired horses and guns and were on their way to town to seek vengeance
  • in the Marshal's office after leading angry citizen Jerry Marlowe there to lock him up in a jail cell, a group of stodgy, local townswomen entered, led by Mrs. August Pennyfeather (Verna Felton) who misidentified Ringo as the Marshal; she denounced Ringo's violent history: ("This is not Deadwood or Tombstone. This is a law-abiding community. And we want no murderers running wild through our streets, shooting and killing our women and children"). Ringo tried to defend his own murderous past, claiming the killer (because of "misunderstandings") had only murdered about 15 individuals rather than 50; when Ringo suggested: "He ought to be arrested or run out of town, or something," a second woman Mrs. Devlin (Ellen Corby) advocated: "He ought to be hung"; soon after, the actual Marshal arrived as Ringo reasonably agreed that the "notorious murderer" sitting in the saloon should be shot "down like a dog" if he didn't leave town within an hour or so; when the Marshal addressed the man they had been speaking to as "Mr. Ringo" - the horrified ladies quickly exited
  • in the Palace Bar, Ringo told the Marshal about his predicament in life: "It's a fine life, ain't it? Just tryin' to stay alive. Not really livin', not enjoyin' anything, not gettin' anywhere. Just tryin' to keep from gettin' killed....Just waitin' to get knocked off by some tough kid. Like the kind of kid I was"
  • during Ringo's long-awaited, delayed meeting with Peg before he had to leave town, he told her about his desire to set aside his past reputation and move westward to California or the Northwest to start a new life on a ranch - with her and Jimmie: ("We could be safe out there the rest of our lives"). She balked at the idea: ("It's a wonderful idea, Jim. It's wonderful, but it's no use....It's too late"), but if in a year's time, he had reformed and changed his ways, she promised to seriously reconsider his invitation again; their conversation ended with Ringo's hopeful words: "We can make it, honey. We can make it. You just wait and see"; then at the last minute, Ringo insisted on seeing his kid, alone
  • Ringo met with his son Jimmie, Jr., who idolized him as a famous gunslinger like Wyatt Earp, but Ringo avowed: "Draw on an unarmed man? I never did that in my life"; Ringo didn't divulge that he had fathered the boy, and complimented Peggy on raising him: "You got a good boy, Mrs. Walsh"
  • as he was about to finally leave town on horseback in the film's conclusion, later than he had expected, the Marshal's deputy apprehended two of the three brothers who were about to ambush Ringo from the top of a barn
  • however, Ringo was tragically felled (shot in the back) with multiple shots fired by Hunt Bromley; while dying, Ringo decided to tarnish the legend surrounding his life. He instructed Marshal Strett to tell the public that he drew first on Bromley, and was shot in self-defense. (If he didn't claim he drew first, Hunt would be hanged for murder, and his cursed legend would persist.)
Ringo's Dying Words to the Marshal and to Bromley
  • the 'gunfighter' wanted to curse Bromley by teaching him what life would be like as a notorious 'fast-draw' gunslinger - he would forever be a shooting target ("I don't want you to get off that light. I want you to go on being a big, tough gunny. I want you to see what it means to have to live like a big, tough gunny")
  • Marshal Strett manhandled "yellow-belly" Bromley, took him into a barn and beat him up. Before ordering him to leave the territory, he warned him that many other gunslingers would now want to challenge him: ("Ringo's fixed you good. You're gonna get it exactly like you give it to him. Because there's a thousand cheap, dirty, crooked little squirts like you waiting right now for the chance to kill the man that killed Jimmie Ringo")
  • Ringo's funeral was attended by Peggy who openly revealed her marital association as Mrs. Ringo (with Ringo's son), thereby forgiving him and reconciling with him in death
  • the final shot was a silhouetted view of "Ringo" (although dead and buried) riding off into the sunset

Mustachioed Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck)

Palace Owner-Bartender Mac (Karl Malden)

Marshal Mark Strett (Millard Mitchell)

Young Boys at the Palace Bar Window Hoping to Get a Glimpse of the Legendary Gunfighter

Peggy Walsh (Helen Westcott)

Vengeful Jerry Marlowe (Cliff Clark) Across the Street in a Hotel Room With a Shotgun

Palace Bar Girl Molly (Jean Parker)

Ringo Trapped in Town - Seated in Corner of Saloon

Townsladies Confronting Ringo in Marshal's Office

Ringo with Peggy For Talk Before Leaving

Ringo's First Glance at His Son Jimmie, Jr.

Ringo's Funeral: Peggy Identified Herself at Mrs. Jimmie Ringo

Last Image: A Silhouetted Rider


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