Face of a Fugitive

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Face of a Fugitive
original film poster
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Produced by David Heilweil
Charles H. Schneer
Written by David T. Chantler
Daniel B. Ullman
Peter Dawson (story)
Starring Fred MacMurray
Dorothy Green
James Coburn
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Wilfred M. Cline
Release date
  • May 1959 (1959-05)
Running time
81 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Face of a Fugitive is a 1959 Western film directed by Paul Wendkos. It stars Fred MacMurray, Lin McCarthy and Dorothy Green and was based on the short story "Long Gone" by Peter Dawson, the nom de plume of Jonathan H. Glidden (older brother of Luke Short). Dawson was the author of 120 Western short stories and novelettes as well as 15 book length Western serials.[1][2] The working title was Justice Ends with a Gun.[3]


Bank robber Jim Larsen (MacMurray) is handcuffed to Deputy Marshal George Allison (Francis De Sales) on his way to begin a 5–to-10-year prison sentence. Without animosity, Larsen says he will use his time in prison to plan more robberies. Larsen feels he was only caught by using a partner; the next time will be singlehanded. Boarding the train, Larsen overpowers the deputy, takes his pistol and handcuffs him to the rear car of the train. Larsen's younger brother Danny (Ron Hayes) comes to free Larsen, who chides Danny that he does not need help from anyone.

Danny has brought Jim a horse and they flee. The deputy produces a hidden derringer from an ankle holster, aiming at them. He mortally wounds Danny, who kills the deputy. The two board another train by hiding in the baggage car. Jim explains his escape plans to Danny en route, but Danny dies. Jim places his brother's corpse in a mail sack, throws it off a bridge passing over a river and vows to be alone in the future.

The train's first stop is the Enterprize Mine where Jim changes into his father's business suit which Danny brought, and Jim reboards the train as a passenger. The only vacant seat is next to Alice (Gina Gillespie) a six-year-old girl who has been visiting her grandfather, an employee at the Enterprise mine. The talkative Alice guesses that as she does not recognise Jim, he must be a visiting mining inspector. Using the name Ray Kincaid, Larsen plays along with her guess and gathers information on the next town, Tangle Blue, Wyoming.

Mark Riley (McCarthy), an earnest but inexperienced sheriff who is young Alice's uncle, and a group of deputies stop the train to search for the deputy's murderer, but they are satisfied with "Ray Kincaid the mining inspector" due to his travelling with Alice. The deputies say that the wanted poster depicting the deputy's murderer with Jim Larsen's face will be arriving on the next day's train and everyone will be checked entering or leaving the town.

Larsen/Kincaid arrives in town, meeting Alice's mother, the widow Ellen Bailey (Green). Uncle Mark is having problems with rich landowner Reed Williams (Alan Baxter) fencing off what he thinks is his land but which the government declares open range.

Larsen/Kincaid uses his remaining money to have a shave then buy a horse and tack, a set of work clothes, and a pistol, belt and ammunition to replace the pistol he threw away during the search on the train. Larsen/Kincaid finds all the roads away from Tangle Blue are guarded by deputies who are preventing anyone leave the town until the wanted posters come in. Returning to town and desperate for cash, he decides to earn some money as being a deputy for Mark.

Larsen/Kincaid attends a dance with Ellen who wants to leave Tangle Blue. He proves his worth by stopping a showdown between Williams' gang and Mark. Escorting her and Alice home, they pass some deputies who have discovered Danny's unidentified body in the sack that the river has brought to town. Though Larsen/Kincaid tries to avoid getting involved with Ellen, they fall in love.

As part of his duties in enforcing the law, Mark cuts down Williams' barbed wire fences, that Williams' gang of toughs re-construct. Sheriff Mark reminds Larsen/Kincaid of Danny, and Mark is being menaced by Williams and his gang who threaten to kill Mark if he cuts down their fence one more time. Returning to town to drink, Williams and his gang menace Larsen/Kincaid who responds by beating up Williams, but Larsen/Kincaid is soon worked over by Williams' gang.

The next day Larsen/Kincaid is the only deputy willing to go with Mark to cut down Williams' fence. Mark cuts down the fence then returns to town to meet the train arriving with the posters depicting the face of the fugitive leaving Larsen/Kincaid to watch the fence. Though having the chance to escape, he notices one of Williams' toughs Purdy (James Coburn) repairing the fence. Larsen re-cuts the barbed wire by shooting the strands with his Winchester rifle that sets the strands to wrap around Purdy. He singlehandedly takes on Williams and his gang.



The film was shot at the Bell Moving Picture Ranch,[4] Corriganville (the ghost town)[5] and on the Sierra Railroad.[6] It also features an early film score by the prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tuska, Jon. The Western Story: A Chronological Treasury, University of Nebraska Press, 1999, p. xxi.
  2. ^ http://www.allmovie.com/work/face-of-a-fugitive-90829
  3. ^ Notes at Turner Classic Movies
  4. ^ p.98 England, Jerry Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas 2008 Lulu.com
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052794/locations
  6. ^ http://www.sierrarailroad.com/dinnertrain/aboutus-inthemovies.html
  7. ^ Clemmensen, Christian. Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) tribute at Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 2011-04-14.

External links[edit]