The Lawless Breed
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“I never killed a man who didn’t try to kill me first.” Rock Hudson portrays John Wesley Hardin in The Lawless Breed, an account of the outlaw’s life, published after his release from prison in 1896. Abused by his stern preacher father, Wes leaves home hoping to make his way in the world and marry his fiancée (Mary Castle). His efforts lead to a fight in a gambling establishment where he kills a man in self-defense and is forced run from the law. When a group of men murder his fiancée, Wes is led to marry a local showgirl instead (Julia Adams), in hopes of continuing his luckless quest for a normal life. When he is finally imprisoned, it will be sixteen years before he sees his newly-born son who may be following in his father’s footsteps.
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This is a TRUE STORY about a man named John Wesley Hardin (Rock Hudson), who only wanted to marry his childhood sweetheart, and have a farm of his own and a normal life! But John's fast draw of his gun, and his love of playing poker and gambling, got him into big trouble.
When his father(John McIntire) heard John shooting practice shots in the barn with his gun, his father beat John! John's father was a preacher, and was very strict in his beliefs, and felt John was heading for damnation! John ran away from home and ended up shooting a man, who tried to shoot him first, over a card game! The dead man's three brothers chased after John. John is then forced into the life of a outlaw on the run, (John never shot anybody unless they tried to kill him first.)
John gets help from his Uncle(also played by John McIntire)who is John's father's half-brother) and his cousins, while they go on a cattle drive together! John insists on going back home to marry his childhood sweetheart and evens buys her a $300 wedding dress, and wins and earns enough money for them to have their farm and get married! But trouble waits for John at home, and his life is changed again forever!
This is a very good true story written by the hand of John Wesley Hardin himself in his own words, and if you are a Rock Hudson fan, and love westerns, and romance, and cowboys, then you will love this movie!
In 1896 John Wesley Hardin was released from the Huntsville State Prison in Texas. He wrote his story and wants it published, it’s his story in his own words. He was born in 1853. His father raised soldiers for the South, he was a preacher and objected to John’s gambling. The Yankee military occupied Texas. John wants to market cattle. Then he’ll buy a farm and raise horses. There is a card game; the other man drew first but Wes is faster. The dead man’s brothers show up and plan revenge. Wes visits relatives, then joins them as they drive cows to Abiline. Wes wins at poker again! The Hundley brothers are looking for Wes, word gets around. One brother approaches from the front, the others circle around. Wes wins again. Marshal Hickok meets Wes and orders him out of town in one hour. Is he pushing his luck?
Wes wants that wedding dress ready in one hour; it is. Wes leaves. Wes wants to leave with Jane for a new land. The Yankees are leaving Texas. Can Wes get a fair trial? That takes a lot of money. There is a horse race, Wes wins on a fast horse. He plans to settle down. But a disagreement with a lawman leads to a shooting. Wes escapes, but is shot. Wes will leave Texas now. A posse arrives to get hm, can he get away? There is more shooting, Jane is hit. The posse follows. Wes learns Jane is dead, there’s no going back now. Wes is reported in other cities. The Texas Rangers are reactivated as a state police to catch Wes Hardin. Wes works as a gambler, hoping to win a pile. Texas Rangers are on his trail now, in Kansas. He escapes with Rosie.
Rosie talks about the life of farmers. Wes can win a $1,000 in one night, compared to a year farming. They have visitors, a parson and witnesses for a marriage. Texas still wants to hang Hardin. “Bring him in alive if you can.” The law intercepts a letter from Alabama to the Hardin family in Bonham Texas. Wes is caught and found guilty of shooting the Sheriff. He is given 25 years at hard labor. He says it was self-defense. After 16 years he got a pardon from a new Governor. Wes returns home to Rosie. [Neither looks a year older.] His son is almost a man now. He meets his son, who kept his pistol loaded. There is a disagreement. His son goes to a tavern where a man starts an argument and shoots Wes in the back! Wes recovers, and tells his son to leave guns alone. And so it ends.
How accurate is this story? The best Westerns were made during the 1930s and 1940s, usually in monochrome. Some movies have messages where current opinions are projected into the past. The association of drinking and gambling with fights and shootings is well known. Gun control has reduced violence in places where gambling is legal. The games are designed so the house profits, the more people play the more they lost.
Rock Hudson is the classical epitome of two generations in conflict (And somehow the initial seed of Rebel without a cause). And how the youngster refuses to follow the steps of his overly religious father. The fatality (a basic ingredient of the Noir) makes the state of things turns messy and then will come the long process of self redemption.
In this sense no one may deny it's not an original proposal; that's why it may result too talky.
Good entertainment; take it for sure.
If viewers can ignore all that, (which is quite difficult to do, and I found myself wishing I could give this kid a whipping, too), there is a large cast of extras and horses, riding, and scenery, with excellent cinematography. If you put the movie on mute, there's a good view.