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The Wild and the Innocent
movies, Western

1959 | 4:3 | Color | Quality: Excellent

Audie Murphy

Sandra Dee

Gilbert Roland


In the Wyoming mountains, rugged trapper and backwoodsman Yancy Hawks (Audie Murphy) eeks out a meager living trading his furs. But too often he finds the fellow mountain folk have no money or even resources to barter with - such is the case with a cruel farmer he encounters who tries to trade his daughter, Rosalie Stocker (Sandra Dee), for furs. Yancey has no interest in engaging in human trafficking and refuses, but during this exchange Rosalie sees what may very well be the first glimpse of kindness and compassion she has ever seen, and shows up later that night at Yancey's camp and informs a reluctant Yancey she wants to run away with him. Yancey has decided to travel out of the mountains to the big city for the first time in his life in the hopes he can get better returns on his furs. There he plans for himself and Rosalie to go their separate ways - but the two mountain youths both find they are totally unprepared for the dangers and realities of big city life and immediately find themselves in one troublesome situation after another. Rosalie, seemingly abandoned by Yancey, is discovered by the sleazy Sheriff Paul Bartell (Gilbert Roland) who also owns the town saloon. He has a harem of saloon girls working for him which he likes to "break in" himself and he wants Rosalie as his next recruit. Seeing few options, and flattered by the attention, she agrees but soon learns that the job of saloon girl entails more than is advertised. Yancey himself is in trouble in a few areas including falling in love with a floozy saloon girl (Joanna Dru) who is shunned by the town for her loose morals and has no desire to settle down. He tries to turn a blind eye to the plight Rosalie is in, but can't, which leads to a confrontation between the rugged mountain man and the big city sheriff...

This is an enjoyable atmospheric Western that I sometimes call "slice of life" Westerns, where we can see how people lived and enjoyed life in the Old West - much like the Western musicals such as Oklahoma. It's always fun watching people in those days shop for clothes in the one General Store, or entertain themselves in dances, etc. This film has a lot going for it, particularly in believable character motivation. True to life depicting the hard ship and the rewards of living on the frontier in the later stages of its development toward becoming more civilized. Murphy plays a character that is peaceful, has virtue and wants to do right and hurt no one and it works but we are also pleased to find out he has boundaries too. Murphy's character, who prides himself on his decency & book smarts, finds himself constantly undermined by drunk cowboys, dance hall ladies & even the sheriff Gilbert Roland who just makes your skin crawl with his predatory behavior towards then 17 year old Sandra Dee. Running a slim ninety minutes or so, this intriguing tale wins many points for taking its time carving out the episodic nature of this story as our hero gains wisdom & experience in the face of the casual barbarity of the town's denizens. One of Murphy's best. Also starring Jim Backus (Thurston Howell the 3rd from Gilligan's Island) who plays the general store owner who is at constant odds w/his wife. As usual, we get horses, mules, trappers, Indians, gun-play, good guys, bad guys and a love interest. Some tender scenes with some mild violence and of course a happy ending to make it all go down just right.

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