Apache Trail (1942)
Directed by Richard Thorpe, this Western features Lloyd Nolan as the man in black, William Lundigan as his incorruptible brother, Donna Reed, Anne Ayars, Connie Gilchrist, and Chill Wills as supporting players in the cast of this Ernest Haycox (story) & Maurice Geraghty treatment.
The film begins with hanging Judge Keeley (George Watts) literally riding through town on the stagecoach to pass sentence on whomever the Marshal happens to have in the jail. It turns out the only man is Tom Folliard (Lundigan) who, after briefly hearing the charges and circumstances, the Judge releases for time served. Tom wasn’t really involved in the stagecoach robbery his brother Trigger (Nolan) committed, but Trigger has yet to be caught. Not able to get his old job riding shotgun on the stagecoach, even though he’s the fastest draw in these parts, Tom settles for a job as "the law" in a remote outpost that’s constantly under attack from the Indians. Emory Parnell appears uncredited as Mr. Walters, the man who gives Tom the second chance.
Tom arrives to find that former friends, SeZora Martinez (Gilchrist) and her almost 18 year old daughter Rosalia (Reed), are leaving the dangerous town, but convinces them to stay. He is assisted by other deputies (Grant Withers, Ray Teal, Fuzzy Knight, Trevor Bardette?) and also hires a local Mexican Cochee (Tito Renaldo) as a helper. Tom rides out to meet the stagecoach, which then arrives with several passengers who unload to rest their feet, and eat the Martinez’s food, before they plan to continue on. The widow Constance Seldon (Ayars) turns everyone’s head with her beauty, even Tom’s who is watched by the jealous Rosalia and her mother, who love to make a match for her daughter. A sickly artist James Thorne (Miles Mander) and his wife (Gloria Holden) are also passengers. Just then, a cavalry officer Major Lowden (Frank Thomas) arrives to inform Tom of an Indian uprising; he’s on his way to the fort to get help. Shortly thereafter, Trigger comes to the gate and is allowed by his brother Tom to enter as long as he gives up his guns, given the stagecoach’s lock box. Tom stores Trigger’s guns in the "safe" with the lock box.
Tom then decides to go and see if he can figure out the cause of the Indian’s agitation. While he’s away, there are various discussions between Trigger, whom everyone distrusts, and the others including Ms. Seldon. Based upon a conversation between Constance and the Major at dinner, Trigger correctly surmises that Seldon’s husband was not killed in action, but committed suicide. He then uses the artist’s guns and suitcase tray to capture the other men and their guns. Meanwhile, Tom is rescuing ‘Pike’ Skelton (Wills) from the Indians. Trigger gets the lockbox and plans to take Constance as his hostage, willing or otherwise, before Tom arrives to foil his plan. The injured Skelton provides enough information for the men to determine that the stolen peace pipe Trigger had been flaunting is the reason for the Indians being on the warpath. Will the Major make it through to the fort in time for reinforcements, or will the Indians’ subsequent raid on the small outpost prove fatal for all of its occupants? A great battle will determine the outcome, but not before there’s a crucial vote to determine Trigger’s fate.