The Fastest Gun Alive
|The Fastest Gun Alive|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Russell Rouse|
|Produced by||Clarence Greene|
|Written by||Frank D. Gilroy
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Editing by||Harry V. Knapp
|Running time||89 minutes|
|Box office||$2.2 million (US)|
Notorious gunslinger George Kelby Jr. (Glenn Ford) and his wife Dora (Jeanne Crain) settle down in a peaceful little town of Cross Creek under assumed identities to avoid having to continually face men out to become famous for shooting down the "fastest gun alive". George becomes a mild-mannered teetotal shopkeeper little respected by the other townsfolk.
One day, the whole town hears the news that outlaw Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford) has gunned down Clint Fallon, reputedly the "fastest gun in the west", and he listens to the townsmen talk about Wyatt Earp, Wes Hardin, and other so-called "fast guns". They are also laughing at George, seeing him as nothing but a "ribbon clerk". HIs pride stung, he goes back to his store, retrieves his gun from hiding (he has told his wife how he tossed it into the river years ago), belts it on, and - over her desperate pleading not to destroy the peaceful life they have built - says "they have to know who I am" and goes to the bar. The men are astonished - and a little afraid - at seeing George wearing a gun, believing him to be drunk. He sets about destroying the myths these men have about gunmen, displaying a detailed knowledge of guns and gunmen they never suspected he had, and finally blurts out his secret that he is the fastest gun alive... "...faster than Earp, faster than Hardin, faster than Fallon, and faster than the man who killed him." When the citizens disbelieve him, he takes them into the street and gives them a demonstration of his skill. First, with only two shots, he hits two silver dollars tossed into the air on the count of three by two men. Following that, he shoots a beer glass full of beer dropped from a man's hand at twenty feet, hitting it almost immediately after it left the man's hand.
Meanwhile, while everyone is in the church where they have taken an oath not to tell George's secret, Harold has come to town and finds out about George's display of gun skill from a local boy. Even though he is on the run---and over the objections of his fellow bank robbers, Taylor Swope (John Dehner) and Dink Wells (Noah Beery, Jr.), who just want to escape the law---Harold decides to stay and face George. Vinnie finds out that the "fast gun" is in the church and sends Swope to the church to call him out so his boss can meet him. When the town refuses to send out "the man who shot two silver dollars at the same time", Harold sends Dink out to find some kerosene and pour it over all the building in town, and then orders Swope to deliver a message to the people in the church that if the fast gun doesn't come out in five minutes, Vinnie and his men will burn down the whole town unless George faces him.
The townspeople now "forget" their oath and try to force George into the street. George now has to tell the whole truth, explaining that he is no gunman, that he has never been in a real gunfight. The gun with the notches in the handle is actually his father's (a famous lawman shot down from ambush) and he is terrified at the prospect of actually facing a man in a gunfight.
Swope and Wells elect to abandon Vinnie. Dink stays for awhile, but rides off. Swope, who decides to take his share of the gang's loot, is told by Vinnie to either draw or ride out—but without any of the loot. Swope leaves, toys with the idea of drawing on Vinnie. He thinks better of it and leaves, just before George exits the church to face Vinnie.
But with no other choice, George forces down his fear and goes out into the street, where he outdraws and kills Harold. When a posse pursuing the outlaws shows up, the townspeople, who are attending the burial of Harold and Kelby, claim that Kelby and Harold shot each other dead. After the posse leaves, it's revealed that Kelby wasn't killed and that a coffin filled with stones, Kelby's gun, and Kelby's reputation as "the fastest gun alive," was buried. This allows George and Dora to resume their peaceful existence in Cross Creek.
- Glenn Ford as George Kelby Jr./George Temple
- Jeanne Crain as Dora
- Broderick Crawford as Vinnie Harold
- Russ Tamblyn as Eric Doolittle
- Allyn Joslyn as Harvey Maxwell
- Leif Erickson as Lou Glover
- John Dehner as Taylor Swope
- Noah Beery, Jr. as Dink Wells
- Christopher Olsen (Chris Olsen) as Bobby Tibbs
Roderick "Rodd" Redwing was Glenn Ford's gun coach and technical advisor for this film. Gun tricks were developed by Rodd Redwing with help from Jim Martin a 4 time California Fast Draw record holder.
Demonstrating his prowess with a gun, the Glenn Ford character asks a citizen to hold a glass of beer away from his body and, upon the count of three, let it drop. He shoots it before it hits the ground. The scene is shot from behind the glass of beer with Ford facing directly into the camera, but is actually the result of trick photography. (This scene later came back to haunt Ford when, while in the Service and on the pistol range, he was forced to prove his "fast draw" skill by an instructor who had seen the movie. Ford once recounted during a Tonight Show interview how he had to stand there for hours until he succeeded in drawing his pistol and hitting the target.)
Critical response 
When the film was first released, The New York Times fim critic, Bosley Crowther, praised the film and the actors, writing, "Although it is more concerned with mood and motivation than with gunplay, The Fastest Gun Alive, which crashed into the Globe yesterday, emerges as an engrossing and, on occasion, a comic and tricky adventure...Although it takes a mite too long to reveal the reasons for his actions, Glenn Ford's characterization of a man driven by fear and a desire for a peaceful life is both sensitive and forceful...John Dehner does a-professionally smooth and funny job as one of his callous sidekicks; Jeanne Crain adds a tender and compassionate stint as Mr. Ford's understanding wife, and Leif Erickson, Allyn Joslyn, Rhys Williams, J. M. Kerrigan, Chris Olsen, the child actor, and Russ Tamblyn, who contributes an acrobatic dance reminiscent of his chore in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, weigh in with competent performances as Cross Creek's leading lights."
Recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz praised the film, writing, "Though the story gets lost for too long in too much psychological explaining, it redeems itself with a fine action-packed tense ending. Rouse does a nice job keying in on the reactions of the townsmen, stages some fine action sequences and the performances are solid (especially by Ford and Crawford)."
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
- The Fastest Gun Alive at the Internet Movie Database
- JimMartin coltfrontiersixshooter
- Crowther, Bosley, The New York Times, film review, July 13, 1956. Last accessed: February 11, 2011.
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, June 26, 2005. Last accessed: February 11, 2011.
- The Fastest Gun Alive at the Internet Movie Database
- The Fastest Gun Alive at the TCM Movie Database
- The Fastest Gun Alive at DVD Beaver (includes images)
- The Fastest Gun Alive film trailer at Turner Classic Movies Media Room