A gunfighter returns after a long absence to save a town as well as his relationship with his son.
Stewart Granger plays a cowboy who returns to town after a long period away from family. He’s earned himself quite a reputation as a gambler and gunfighter, and once back home finds that his wife has died, and that his son resents him deeply. Granger and son agree to live together and develop the run down property into a real ranch. In town, Granger catches the interest of widow Rhonda Fleming who accepts his offer of a housekeeping job at the ranch. Baddie James Gregory arrives to announce to the townspeople that he plans to run 20,000 cattle through, waving off any mention of legal documents that exist to stop such an act. One of Gregory’s trio (doing his impersonation of Richard Widmark’s Kiss of Death snicker) challenges Granger to a gunfight and loses, which, as in many western plots and law-abiding towns, sets Granger up as a man to be feared, looked down upon, and in this case badly needed. The rest of the story concerns the Gregory gang’s crimes and bullying, including an ambush and final showdown that leads many characters to question their thinking on guns. Those events are woven in with the other story threads of Granger’s efforts to patch things up with his troubled son while developing a romance with Fleming.
This movie was enjoyable, anchored by Granger’s solid, genteel presence. He and Fleming have a nice, very proper and slow-building chemistry. It’s a welcome and comfortable approach for Fleming’s character after the creepy advances of the storekeeper (Jacques Aubuchon) who employed her since the death of her husband. Aubuchon so resents her attraction and defection to Granger, that he explodes in rage when she leaves the store and he spends almost every scene disparaging and denouncing Granger and his gunfighter ways. Chill Wills plays a Preacher, peacemaker and realist who respects Granger and tries to get the townsfolk to accept the reforming gunman, and also has a nice moment singing in church. Arch Johnson plays Gregory’s gun crazy and vengeful right hand who leers at Fleming and is obsessed with killing Granger. The weak link here is the actor playing Granger’s son, Steve Rowland, son of director Roy. Rowland struggles with most of the required emotions, and does best when he storms off and broods.
In his autobiography Sparks Fly Upward, Granger had little praise for the picture, the shooting experience or the title, and stated that producer Nicholas Nayfack, Roy Rowland, and his son Steve all owed their jobs to nepotism. But Granger said he wanted the money and so he went through the training needed to convince audiences he could be a fast gun. He had the tricks down with an empty firearm, but once the camera rolled on the shootout scenes, he suffered burns on his leg and a hand injury. He said he was happy to go back to swashbuckling after those mishaps. It seems his only praise was for the intelligent horse they got him, a gorgeous one named Sundown who has a special scene in the film demonstrating a talent for herding cattle. The movie had another big reward for Granger; he struck up a friendship with the man who supplied the massive herd of cattle needed for the movie, which led to Granger and his wife Jean Simmons buying a new ranch in Arizona. Granger may have written off Gun Glory as a zero, but I found it just fine mainly due to his presence, and overall a smooth, easygoing western with enough plot and charming or interesting actors to hold your interest.