No Name on the Bullet
No Name on the Bullet is a 1959 American CinemaScope Eastmancolor Western film directed by Jack Arnold starring Audie Murphy, Charles Drake and Joan Evans. It is one of a handful of pictures in that genre directed by Jack Arnold, better known for his science-fiction movies of the era. Although it is one of Universal Pictures modestly budgeted vehicles for World War II hero Audie Murphy, the top-billed actor is unusually, but very effectively, cast as the villain, a cold-blooded gun-for-hire.
|No Name on the Bullet|
DVD cover for the film
|Directed by||Jack Arnold|
|Produced by||Jack Arnold|
|Screenplay by||Gene L. Coon|
|Story by||Howard Amacker|
|Music by||Herman Stein|
|Edited by||Frank Gross|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
When infamous hired gunman John Gant (Audie Murphy) arrives in the small town of Lordsburg, Arizona, the locals are terrified by his reputation and surprised by how young he is. Although Sheriff Buck Hastings would like to arrest Gant, he points out to the townsmen that Gant always coerces his rivals to draw their gun first, allowing him to kill them legally in "self-defence." While the men in the town speculate anxiously about Gant's target, Luke Canfield (played by Charles Drake, an off-screen friend and frequent co-star with Murphy), the town blacksmith and doctor, greets Gant and is totally unaware of Gant's reputation as a hired gunman. During his first meeting with Gant at the smithy, Luke demonstrates his perfect aim with a maul.
Luke proudly takes Gant on a tour through town and agrees to join him later for a game of chess. At home, Luke's fiancée, Anne Benson, tends to her father, Judge Benson, who suffers from consumption. Luke's father Asa joins them for dinner, during which Buck arrives to warn Luke to stay away from Gant. Asa cautions Buck not to condemn Gant prematurely, but Buck is reluctant to accept his advice and reveals that he feels he will be powerless against Gant's superior gun skills. Later, mine owners Earl Stricker and Thad Pierce assume that their partner, Ben Chaffee, has hired Gant to kill them in order to take sole ownership of the mine. When they find Gant in the saloon and propose a counter-offer, however, Gant observes that no innocent man would be afraid, and turns them away.
Upon hearing that Stricker and Pierce were seen talking with Gant, Chaffee assumes that they want to kill him. He questions Luke about Gant, and after Luke fails to calm him, the physician walks through town, noting that the townsmen are all hiding behind guns and locked doors. While clerk Lou Fraden and his wife Roseanne discuss their certainty that her ex-husband has sent Gant to kill them, Luke confronts Gant, asking him why he has come. Impressed with Luke's bravery and integrity, Gant explains that he believes that Luke, who saves the lives of men "who deserve to die," is less ethical than he. While they talk, a panicked Pierce shoots himself in his office and dies later that night. After this, Luke accuses Gant of murder. When Buck tries to throw Gant out of town, Gant refuses to leave. When the sheriff pulls a gun on Gant, Gant shoots him in the hand and renders him useless. As to why Gant didn't kill him, the gunman explains it was because no one was paying him.
Later, Judge Benson advocates using vigilante law to throw out Gant, but after Luke protests, suggests sacrificing the one man Gant is after in order to save the rest of the town. Meanwhile, Fraden, emboldened by alcohol, confronts Gant, who calmly encourages him to draw his gun. At Luke's urging, Fraden flees, leaving Luke to demand fruitlessly that Gant leave town. Next, Stricker gathers the townsmen to challenge Gant, and although Luke disapproves, he agrees to lead them, hoping to minimize the possible violence. Gant, angered to see Luke backed by a mob, warns the men that if they shoot him he will still live long enough to kill Luke, Reeger, Asa, Stricker and several other town leaders. The men disband silently. Later, Luke confesses to Judge Benson that he likes Gant, and the judge warns him that Gant's viciousness is a progressive disease that he cannot cure.
In the store the next day, Gant approaches Anne and questions her about her home life, but will not reveal his target. At the same time, the judge speculates to Luke that if the hunted man refused to defend himself, Gant could be legally arrested for murder, but Luke declares that no man could die without fighting. Soon after, Chafee and his men begin a shootout with Stricker which results in the death of many men. Sickened by a situation that he can not deal with, Sheriff Hastings takes off his badge and drops it on the street. Anne, who has grown suspicious about her father the judge, reads a letter locked in his drawer that reveals a past crime. Realizing the likelihood that Gant has been hired to kill her father, she goes to Gant's room with a gun. Gant bluffs her that her gun is unloaded and then easily takes it away from her. Anne declares that the judge will not defend himself, prompting Gant to rip off a piece of the upper part of her dress. There is more than one way to make a man pick up a gun.
Gant goes to the judge's home and tells him that his "friends from back East send their respects". The old man admits his past guilt and tells Gant that he knows enough to send himself, the governor, and several other wealthy and powerful men to prison, but all they have to do is wait and nature will do Gant's job for him. Unfortunately, his old associates are impatient. Of course, the Judge refuses to fight. Gant then shows him the piece of Anne's dress and implies that he has raped her. The old judge is angered enough to grab a rifle and follow Gant outside. The old man has severe coughing and fires a wild shot before collapsing on the porch steps. Luke arrives and sees Gant with his gun drawn and assumes that Gant shot the old man. Luke starts to throw a hammer at him, but Gant shoots him in the right shoulder. As Gant is walking away toward his horse, Luke uses his left arm to throw a hammer. Just as Gant turns around, he is struck in the upper part of his gun arm and breaking it so that Gant can no longer shoot. As Gant laboriously mounts his horse, Asa tells Luke that the old man was not shot. Luke offers to tend to his arm, but Gant replies that "Everything comes to a finish" and rides away.
- Audie Murphy as John Gant
- Charles Drake as Luke Canfield
- Joan Evans as Anne Benson
- Virginia Grey as Roseanne Fraden
- Warren Stevens as Lou Fraden
- R.G. Armstrong as Asa Canfield
- Willis Bouchey as Sheriff Buck Hastings
- Edgar Stehli as Judge Benson
- Simon Scott as Reeger
- Karl Swenson as Stricker
- Whit Bissell as Pierce
- Charles Watts as Sid
- John Alderson as Ben Chaffee
- Jerry Paris as Harold Miller
- Russ Bender as Storekeeper
- James Hyland as Hugo Molt (as Jim Hyland)
The film has come to be regarded as one of Murphy's best movies, with its fans including director Joe Dante. Film writer Jeff Stafford stated that, "unlike most of Murphy's earlier Westerns, No Name on the Bullet has a philosophical edge which makes it closer in tone to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) than a six-gun oater like Destry (1954)".
The film's title was used for a 1989 biography of Audie Murphy by Don Graham.
- No Name on the Bullet at Audie Murphy Memorial Site
- No Name on the Bullet at Trailers From Hell
- Jeff Stafford, 'No Name on the Bullet', Turner Classic Movies accessed 4 June 2012