Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Ride Lonesome (1959)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Ride Lonesome (1959)

In another of director Budd Boetticher's collaborations with actor Randolph Scott (one of seven from 1956 to 1960 - and arguably their best), a B-grade western (in CinemaScope) about revenge (similar to High Noon (1952)), filmed on location at the foot of the High Sierra Mountains (in the Alabama Hills and around Lone Pine, California), and entirely filmed outdoors (without a single interior shot):

  • the hero: taciturn bounty hunter Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) - the aging ex-sheriff of Santa Cruz - in the opening scene, he came upon no-good, renegade drifter Billy John (James Best) amongst some rocks; the fugitive was wanted for shooting a man "from behind" in Santa Cruz, Arizona; the determined Brigade's intention was to escort his captive to the Santa Cruz County jail to seek justice; Billy John objected: ("If I was to ride south with you, there's them that'd see me hang"), and then taunted and sneered at Brigade: "I don't know how much they're payin' you to bring me in, but it ain't enough. Not near enough"; Brigade replied: "I'd hunt you [for] free. Let's go!"
Bounty Hunter Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott)
Capture of Billy John
  • during a stand-off, Billy John yelled out to his four partners hiding in the rocks - to alert his brother Frank to come and rescue him, and then they rode off
  • the scene at a deserted stagecoach way station at Wells Junction (a three day's ride from Santa Cruz) where Brigade met up with a pair of two-bit, lawless outlaws - cocky Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and his gangly companion Whit (or Wid) (James Coburn in his screen debut) wearing red underwear; Boone relayed what had happened to the absent station manager: "Had some of his animals loose-herded up on that flat. Went out this mornin' to gather 'em before the Eastbound come through, but they beat 'em to it...He went to find 'em" - he was referring to maurading Mescalero Indians
  • the manager's wife made a memorable entrance - shapely blonde Mrs. Carrie Lane (Karen Steele), whose husband was still missing after he left her alone at the station, in order to search for the scattered horses
  • the Westbound stage unexpectedly arrived as it crashed into the corral - with the stagecoach driver (and passenger) victims of the Mescalero Indian attack; the dead driver had an Indian war lance through his chest; Brigade's plan was to hold up in the station overnight and then escape from the warring Indians - and hoping that Carrie's husband would return in the meantime
  • that evening, Boone told Brigade that he was tempted by the bounty on Billy John's head (knowing that amnesty was offered to anyone who brought in Billy John): "Claims the territory'll grant amnesty to anybody that brings Billy in....It means the law's willin' to drop any and all charges it's got against a man. All he's gotta do is turn the key on Billy"; Boone explained why he and Whit would accompany Brigade on his trek to Santa Cruz - hoping to receive amnesty: "Now I know that ain't the reason you rode 'im down, but, well, that's why me and Whit's gonna sorta tag along with ya. You see, we figured that when Billy's brother Frank hears that you were ridin' him in to hang, he's gonna come killin'"
  • the next day as they prepared to leave the station to proceed to Santa Cruz (via Dry Fork), an Indian chief rode up and bargained with Brigade - his proposal was to make Mrs. Lane his "squaw" in exchange for a horse: "He's got a horse. Wants to make a trade....He wants to take you for his squaw"; Brigade suggested that they cooperate: "Play along with 'em....If we don't, we're apt to stir up every buck in the country....He'll offer his trade. I'll turn him down....With any luck, they'll ride off"; he warned Mrs. Lane as they approached the chief: "No matter what happens, don't break down in front of 'em. If you do, they'll take it wrong. Shame 'em"
  • after they decided to play along with the bargain, Carrie screamed, turned away and covered her face - the horse-for-trade belonged to her husband (he had presumably been massacred by the Indians); the Indians rode off; later as the group kept going, Boone noted to Brigade about the strange single-horse exchange: "I can't get over the way them Indians wanted to trade her for a horse. If it'd be me, I'd give a whole herd. I guess she's about the best all over good-lookin' woman I ever seen"
The Proposed Horse-Trade for Mrs. Lane to Become the Chief's "Squaw
  • the exciting sequence of the group outracing a group of disgruntled Mescalero Indians to the ruins of deserted Dobe Corral, where from behind a low wall, they fired upon the natives circling them on horseback; after the Indians retreated, Boone commented: "Sure beats all, don't it? What a man'll put himself through to get his hands on a woman. I can't blame 'im though"
  • [Note: as the story progressed, Brigade's strategy was slowly revealed - he was deliberately and vengefully using Billy John as bait to capture Billy John's sadistic older outlaw brother Frank John (Lee Van Cleef).] Boone confirmed his suspicions to Whit about their slow progress toward Santa Cruz: "I know it sounds crazy, but I think maybe he wants Frank to catch up...The way he's been stickin' to open country. Staying to the flat instead of the ridges. Seemin' not to care whether or not he's bein' followed or not"
  • the short conversation that same evening between a concerned Mrs. Lane and a very resolute Brigade about his steadfast objective to bring Billy John to justice: "They told me why you're taking the boy to Santa Cruz....They'll hang him, won't they?...He's so young...It doesn't bother you? Bringing him in, I mean....You just don't seem like the kind that would hunt a man for money"; Brigade brusquely replied: "I am"
  • the next morning's sequence of well-endowed Mrs. Lane standing with a prominent side profile while combing her hair - she became the subject of conversation between Boone and Whit who gazed at her from afar; Boone was starstruck by her - now widowed after a year of marriage: "Can you imagine having her around all that time? All them days. Nights. Just thinking on it gives me a way down shiver"; he wondered about her future as a widow without a man and predicted she wouldn't remain single for very long: "Ain't the kind. Not her. Some are. Some can get along without. Not her. She's the kind that's got a need. Deep lonely need only a man can get at....I've seen it in her eyes, Whit. (long pause) In her eyes"
  • as they got closer to Santa Cruz, the scene of Boone expressing to Brigade his motive in acquiring the bounty money (and amnesty) - to reform himself, end robberies and killings, and start his life "clean over": ("A man gets half way, he oughta have somethin' of his own, somethin' to belong to, be proud of....I got me a place. Gonna run beef, work the ground, be able to walk down the street like anybody. All I need is Billy....Well, I just wanted you to know how it was. Way I look at it, ain't near as hard for a man if he knows why he's gonna die")
  • during their pursuit, even Frank realized Brigade was stalling and was clearly after him: "Brigade knows we're after him. But he's still takin' his time, movin' in the clear, not coverin' his tracks. It's been plain from the first. So plain I couldn't see it....It ain't Billy he wants. It's me....It ain't the money Brigade wants. Not the money at all. I did him a hurt once. Long ago. So long I almost forgot. And all the time I was thinkin' that was why he was takin' Billy in to hang. To get even. That isn't it. He knew I'd come after him. He wants me to catch up"
  • throughout the film, the image of the 'Hang Tree' was a defining metaphor for death - when Brigade's group rode up to the dead tree, Boone spoke about the tree's deadly reputation: "You can be glad it ain't long ago, Billy Boy. It was, like as not, Brigade here to hang you over that jury limb and have it over. Gone dead now, but in its time, more than one danced their last one there. Ain't that right, Brigade?...Come to think of it, you strung a few there yourself"
  • the night conversation of Boone cozying up to Mrs. Lane with compliments about her strength as a woman - and his romantic interest in her - to "look after her": "The first I saw you at the junction, I said to Whit: 'There's a woman who can take care of herself.' I saw it in your face. The way you hold your head. The way you walk. All over proud of bein' a woman. Not afraid to let a man look at ya. Think what he wants. Burn inside to put his arms around ya. Not like some I know. Always actin' like it's Sunday. Thinkin' every man who looks at 'em wants 'em. No sir. A man had you, Mrs. Lane, he'd never know a black, lonesome night"
  • with the 'Hang Tree' as a backdrop, Brigade described to Mrs. Lane his real motivations - not to hang Billy, but to fulfill his obsessive quest to avenge Frank's murder of his wife (his real motive was not the bounty money, but revenge) - Frank had kidnapped Brigade's wife years earlier when he was the Sheriff of Santa Cruz, and murdered her by hanging at the site of a hanging tree (a day's ride outside Santa Cruz): "Long ago back, I was the Sheriff of Santa Cruz. I rode Billy's brother Frank in for murder. The jury found him part guilty, sent him to Yuma. He swore he got out he'd get even. He was young, wild. I had a wife. Looked a lot like you, Mrs. Lane. She wanted me to turn and run. Keep running. Pleaded with me. I-I couldn't do it. Word came that Frank was out. I waited for him in the street. He didn't come. When I got home, my-my wife had gone. Frank had been there. Taken her. Brought her here....He hung her"
  • the next morning, Boone offered Whit, his companion of five years - to his utter surprise - a chance to partner with him at his 'dream' ranch (north of Socorro): "So you ain't gonna be workin' for me. You're gonna be a partner...Right down the middle....'Cause I like you, Whit"
  • the film's most-quoted line was next delivered by the resolute Boone to Mrs. Lane; when she bitterly commented about their future together if Boone eliminated Brigade: ("I could help you bury Brigade and live happy ever after, is that it?"), he responded about his destiny: "There's some things a man just can't ride around"
  • in the film's concluding moments set at the hang tree, Billy John's brother Frank rode up to challenge Brigade to give up his brother who was about to be hanged on the tree ("Cut him loose!...It's me you're after, Brigade. You got no quarrel with Billy"); with his guns blazing, Frank charged on his horse toward the hanging tree and at Brigade where Billy John was tied up on horseback and had a noose around his neck; Brigade shot and killed Frank, then shot at the noose that Billy John was swinging from, to save him
The Confrontation at the Hang Tree
  • unpredictably, Brigade surrendered Billy John to Boone and Whit (and the young widow Mrs. Lane) - with a simple statement: "Come and get him (pause) Better get Whit to catch up Billy's horse, unless you want him to walk to Santa Cruz...Take him. I got no more use for him"; Boone was shocked: "You mean I can have him?...Funny ain't it? How a thing can seem one way, and then turn out altogether somethin' else." Brigade responded - warning Boone to keep his promise to reform himself: "Boone, you said you wanted to start over. I hope so. 'Cause you don't, I'll be the one comes lookin' to find ya")
  • in the film's final moments, Brigade decided not to proceed with the group to Santa Cruz; he stood isolated and alone at the hanging tree (the site of his wife's death); the threesome then proceeded onward for the bounty, leaving Brigade to again 'ride lonesome'; as the group looked back, they saw dark black smoke in the direction of the tree and Boone noted (the film's last line): "Well, that figures"; Brigade had set the tree on fire; the camera rose up with the smoke and flames - the haunting symbol of his vengeful quest was now destroyed

Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts)

Whit (or Wid) (James Coburn)

Mrs. Carrie Lane (Karen Steele)

West-Bound Stage Attacked by Indians

Defending Against an Indian Attack

Mrs. Lane - in Profile

Frank: "It ain't Billy he wants. It's me"

The First View of the Fateful, Cross-Shaped Hang Tree

Boone with Mrs. Lane

Brigade to Mrs. Lane - Explaining His Vengeful Motivations: "He [Frank] hung her"

Boone's Offer of Ranch Work to a Surprised Whit

Boone: "There's some things a man just can't ride around"

Unpredictable Conclusion - Boone's Surprise: "Funny ain't it? How a thing can seem one way, and then turn out altogether somethin' else"

Last Scene: Brigade Left Alone at the Hanging Tree (symbolically on fire)


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