|The Sheepman (1958)
Run time: 85 min
Genres: Comedy | Western
Director: George Marshall
Writers: William Bowers, James Edward Grant
Stars: Glenn Ford, Shirley MacLaine, Leslie Nielsen
If there’s one word in Powder Valley’s cattle country that makes the locals’ jaws clench and trigger fingers twitch, it is sheep. But easy-going Jason Sweet (Ford) won a trainload of sheep in a poker game, and he aims to graze them in the perfect place: rolling, green Powder Valley. Great comic moments!
Release Date: 7 May 1958 (USA)
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This movie is played for laughs, particularly in the early scenes. The Fall scenery of the Colorado Rockies is gorgeous. The pretty title theme by composer Jeff Alexander reappears later in another Glenn Ford outing, "The Rounders". The strong cast includes Glenn Ford, Shirley McLaine, and Leslie Nielson. Edgar Buchanan is particularly good in a supporting role.
This movie is fun to watch. Ford is good as the sheepman and Shirley McLain does well with her role as the almost-wife of bad guy Leslie Nielson. The film is a little short on action, but the witty script more than makes up for it. Most of the action occurs at the end with Sheepman Ford shooting the bad guys.
I particularly enjoyed Shirley McLain’s performance. The script gives her a character with some potential and she makes the most of it. If she’s done another Western I can’t remember what it is.
Marshall’s "The Sheepman" (Shot in Montrose, California, and in the San Juan range of the Colorado Rockies), now ranks with many as the best Western comedy of all time
This is using the word ‘comedy’ in the classical, theatrical sensenot in terms of spoofy fun and games, but humor arising from character and situation
"The Sheepman," in fact, is a most exciting picture, solidly based on one of the fiercest Western issues, although it has received comparatively barely enough attention; the bitter animosity prevailing between cattlemen and sheepmen…
So furious was the long-standing quarrel that it often exploded into a malevolence that was an exposed piece on the name of ‘cowboy’involving the murder of sheep and shepherds alike Wyoming and Arizona both experienced the nastier manifestations
Sheep and cattle don’t mixthis is worked out to be an agricultural statement the truth of which is self-evidentand so when Glenn Ford arrives in cattle territory, cheerfully proclaiming that he’s bringing in sheep, all is set for a full-scale feuding…
But there’s something incongruous in the sight of sheep in the Western movie settingespecially when there’s a hard man in charge of them By the standards of cattlemen sheep-herding is unmanly, more unworthy even than sod-busting… And so the comedy element is built inthe disgust of the cattlemen at the mere sight of sheep, only equaled by disgust at the sight of Ford, taking care of them, entirely causing a great feeling of embarrassment
Marshall handles it all beautifully and is well served by first rate comedy talentFord (again the steel behind the smile, but an easier smile); Shirley Maclaine, many people’s favorite comedienne, in marvelous form; Edgar Buchanan, as a devious freewheeling old-timer; Mickey Shaughnessy, as Jumbo the toughest cowboy in the town; Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales, the much depressed-looking herdsman
It’s a great mixture, nicely stirrednot forgetting the ‘straight man’ cattle baron, Leslie Nielsen
Glenn Ford comes to town after winning a herd of sheep in a poker game and wants to settle down. Unfortunately it's in the middle of cattle country and we western fans know sheep and cattle don't mix. The whole town is against him. Leading the fight against Ford is Leslie Nielson in one of his earliest screen roles. Ford and Nielson have a common past together and Ford knows he's using an alias in the town.
It sounds like a serious range war film is opening. But actually it is one of the funniest westerns ever done. Glenn Ford is perfectly cast as the would be sheep rancher and his deadpan delivery is just wonderful to hear. Credit must go to Director George Marshall. Marshall had worked with Ford in one other film before in Ford's early Hollywood days, Texas. After the success of The Sheepman, the two of them collaborated on a whole slew of films. Marshall was one of the best comedy directors ever in Hollywood.
Shirley MacLaine has a good Calamity Jane like part and makes the most of it with her special brand of quirkiness. Edgar Buchanan who was in just about every other Glenn Ford film does fine as the livery stable owner with few scruples, but a surprising sense of integrity.
However in the supporting cast I have to mention Mickey Shaughnessy as Nielson's chief henchman. Shaughnessy specialized in playing slow witted oafs on the screen who usually were good for a few laughs. His scenes with Ford are something to behold as Ford is constantly getting the better of him in a battle of wits and/or fists. I think this film was Mickey Shaughnessy's finest screen hour.
Good comedy and enough action for the fans of traditional western fare.
MGM's THE SHEEPMAN (1958 – aka "Stranger With A Gun") is a hugely enjoyable light hearted western that is fondly remembered by western fans! Beautifully photographed in Cinemascope and Metrocolor by Robert Bronner its Acadamy Award nominated script by William Bowers and James Edward Grant could at times be quite amusing. The fine Edmund Grainger production was brightly directed by George Marshall.
Glenn Ford Is Jason Sweet (a name that elicits guffaws from leading lady Shirley Maclaine in one scene) who arrives into a town of a predominately cattle rearing district to start raising – of all things – SHEEP! The locals are incensed and under the tutelage of big cattle rancher Colonel Stephen Bedford (a very young Leslie Neilson in his dramatic Pre Frank Drebin days) they make a stand against him. But it comes to light Jason and the Colonel are old enemies and eventually must face each other. In the meantime, after many attempts to rid the town of Jason and his woolly merchandise the Colonel sends for three hired gunmen led by Chockdaw Neal (the impressive Pernell Roberts) to take Jason down. They first ride roughshod over the sheep camp killing the hands and later, in an exciting set piece, Jason confronts Chockdaw in the town's Main Street for a one to one fast draw shootout before riding out to the Colonel's ranch for the final showdown.
Ford is excellent in what is one of his most likable roles! Combining the comedic talent he displayed in such films as "Teahouse Of The August Moon" (1956) and "Imitation General" (1958) together with his dramatic tough persona in westerns like "Jubal" (1955), "The Violent Men" (1956) and "3.10 To Yuma" (1957) his Jason Sweet is an altogether engaging and winning character. Giving great support and adding to the fun is Ford's long time friend and co-star from many movies Edgar Buchanan as the town's nosey parker, Mickey Shaughnessy as the Colonel's lame brained foreman, Pernell Roberts as the fearsome and violent gunman and Shirley MacLaine looking very pretty as the girl who secretly admires the Sheepman. Also notable and adding to the fun is the fine music score by MGM staff composer Jeff Alexander whose finest work and best known score is "Escape From Fort Bravo" (1953). For THE SHEEPMAN he invented some marvellous comical cues for the movie's amusing initial scenes. There are also some exciting dramatic cues and a lovely lingering main theme heard in its broadest rendition over the titles.
THE SHEEPMAN is an entertaining and much rewarding romp and is worth repeated viewings. The good news is that it has just had its first Region 1 release from Warner Home Video on their new Warner Archive series. It is a lovely 2.35 widescreen transfer! The bad news is there are no extras – only the bare bones – not even a trailer! For the outrageous price Warner's are charging for this disc could they not have stretched to a measly trailer? HUH!