Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Silver Lode (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Silver Lode (1954)

In director Allan Dwan's taut and suspenseful, Technicolored psychological low-budget western - a 'guilt-by-suspicion' allegorical film masking as a criticism of the McCarthy era (and close in theme to High Noon (1952)):

  • set during a July 4th celebration in a frontier town of Silver Lode - the character of respected wealthy rancher/citizen and town sheriff Dan Ballard (John Payne) (a reformed, ex-outlaw), who had his Fourth of July wedding to wealthy and pretty fiancee Rose Evans (Lizabeth Scott) interrupted by the ominous arrival of four men from the town of Discovery, California; the group of deputies, led by accusatory and vengeful blonde Fred McCarty (Dan Duryea) (the name was a clear reference to Sen. Joseph McCarthy), claimed they were US marshals on a manhunt with a warrant to arrest him for the murder of Ned's brother and the robbery of $20,000 a few years earlier
  • the fickle townsfolk began to express disloyalty as wrongly-accused Ballard stalled the proceedings to track down evidence to clear his name and prove his innocence; the only two townspeople left that believed persecuted Ballard were Rose and his brazen ex-mistress/saloon dancer-singer Dolly (Dolores Moran) in a bright purple dress
  • the film's masterful tracking shot that followed Ballard running across town and down Main Street (ironically through 4th of July "Independence Day" decorations, and at one point along a white picket fence) to find sanctuary in the town's church
  • the tense scene in the telegraph office, after Dolly and Rose had persuaded telegrapher Paul Herbert (Frank Sully) to send a message to receive a verification and confirmation of McCarty's identity, although transmissions failed - it appeared to be down (deliberately cut by McCarty); then, Ballard's bride-to-be forced Herbert to forge a phony telegram response (due to sabotage of the wires) showing that McCarty's credentials had been falsified: ("McCarty not what he represents himself to be. Wanted for murder and cattle rustling. Dan Ballard innocent of charge") - to exonerate Ballard and proclaim his innocence
  • simultaneously, the climactic confrontational showdown scene high up in the church belltower - when the cornered, defenseless and wounded Ballard was hiding on one side of the 'liberty' bell, while evil, gun-shooting antagonist McCarty was firing at him from the other side; miraculously Ballard was saved ("an act of God") -- literally, when McCarty's own bullet ricocheted off the giant swinging church bell, and he was struck in the heart by his own deflected bullet
  • the concluding sequence - the reprieved and saved Ballard angrily told the townsfolk: "You're sorry. A moment ago, you wanted to kill me, and you forced me to kill, to defend myself, to save my own life. You wouldn't believe me. You wouldn't believe what I said. A man's life can hang in the balance on a piece of paper. And you're sorry!"
  • the epilogue: the eventual truthful clearing of Ballard's name and confirmation of innocence, with the receipt of a real telegram: ("Fred McCarty wanted. Murder and Rustling. US Marshal on way to Silver Lode"); Dolly exclaimed "Hallelujah!" and ran from the office with the news - seen in a stationary shot through the Telegraph Office's window as she raced far into the distance down Main Street


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