Ride Lonesome

Ride Lonesome is a 1959 American CinemaScope Western film directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, and James Coburn in his film debut.[1] This Eastmancolor film is one of Boetticher's so-called "Ranown cycle" of westerns, made with Randolph Scott, executive producer Harry Joe Brown and screenwriter Burt Kennedy, beginning with Seven Men from Now.[2][3]

Ride Lonesome
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBudd Boetticher
Produced byBudd Boetticher
Written byBurt Kennedy
Music byHeinz Roemheld
CinematographyCharles Lawton Jr.
Edited byJerome Thoms
Ranown Pictures Corp.
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • February 15, 1959 (1959-02-15) (USA)
Running time
73 minutes
CountryUnited States


When bounty hunter Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) finds killer Billy John (James Best) hiding in some rocks along a ridge, he prepares to take Billy to the town of Santa Cruz, where he is wanted for murder. From the hills above, Charlie, one of Billy’s gang, fires at Brigade, prompting the bounty hunter to warn that he will kill Billy unless Charlie desists. Billy then instructs Charlie to notify his brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef), a notorious outlaw, that he has been apprehended by Brigade. After Charlie and the rest of the gang ride off, Brigade takes Billy prisoner and heads for Santa Cruz.

Along the trail, they come upon an eerily deserted stagecoach way station. After a voice from inside the station orders Brigade to drop his gun, outlaw Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) comes to the door and greets Brigade. Carrie Lane (Karen Steele), the absent station master’s wife, then emerges from the doorway holding a shotgun and orders the men to leave. As a stagecoach approaches in the distance, Brigade suspects that Boone and his impressionable partner Wid (James Coburn) have come to rob the coach. His train of thought is interrupted when the stage careens out of control and crashes into the corral, revealing that the driver and passengers have been massacred by Indians.

After burying the dead, Brigade and the others hole up at the station, waiting for the Indians to attack. When Carrie, whose husband left to round up some horses scattered by the Indians, voices her concern about him, Brigade snorts that he was a fool to leave her. Boone then tells Brigade that his and Wid’s goal was not to rob the stage, but to capture Billy, because whomever turns Billy in will be granted amnesty for all past crimes. Boone explains that he has already bought a ranch in preparation for his new life on the right side of the law. In the morning, they saddle up and Brigade orders Carrie to ride with them to pick up her husband. Just then, a band of Indians appears on the horizon and Brigade rides out to meet the chief. Upon returning to the station, Brigade explains that the chief wants Carrie for his squaw and has offered to trade a horse for her. Insisting that they play along with the Indians, Brigade escorts Carrie to the chief, but when he offers a horse in trade, she recognizes the horse as belonging to her husband and screams, prompting the Indians to turn away and ride off.

After the group heads out, the Indians appear in the distance, and Brigade gives the order to ride for cover at an adobe shack over the rise. Upon reaching the hut, they try to hold off the Indians, and when the chief comes for Carrie, she blasts him with her shotgun, sending the others scurrying. Meanwhile, Frank and his gang reach the way station and, finding it deserted, follow Brigade’s tracks. After Brigade declares that they will spend the night at the shack, Boone begins to believe that the bounty hunter wants Frank to catch up to them. Nervous about an armed confrontation with Frank, Wid suggests ceding Billy to Brigade and riding off, but Boone, whose longing for amnesty outweighs his fear of Frank, insists on staying. As Brigade nurses a traumatized horse, Carrie comments that he does not seem like “someone who would hurt a man for money.” In the morning, Billy, who, the night before, had filched a rifle from Boone’s saddlebags, shoves the weapon into Brigade’s belly. Boone then informs Billy that the weapon is empty and threatens to shoot him unless he drops it. Once Billy relinquishes the weapon, Boone picks it up and fires. After the traumatized horse recovers, the group heads for Santa Cruz.

When Boone offers to pay Brigade the price on Billy’s head if he will hand over the outlaw, Brigade refuses, prompting Boone to warn that violence will result from his decision because he is bent on taking Billy in to win amnesty. Upon reaching the shack, Frank is puzzled that Brigade has not bothered to conceal his tracks and finally realizes that Brigade wants Frank to catch up to him so that he can avenge a past offense.

As Brigade and the others pass a hanging tree, Brigade becomes irritable and orders them to camp at a nearby riverbed. Knowing that they are a day’s ride from Santa Cruz, Boone tells Carrie that he will look out for her and warns her that Brigade will never reach town alive. While Brigade stares at the hanging tree, Carrie voices her disgust over killing for money. Brigade then confides that he is not interested in taking Billy in but in catching Frank. Brigade explains that when he was sheriff of Santa Cruz, he arrested Frank for murder. Once Frank was released from jail, he kidnapped Brigade’s wife and hanged her from the tree.

Soon after, dust kicked up along the trail signals Frank’s imminent arrival. Having overheard Brigade tell the story of his wife’s murder, Boone offers to cover Brigade in his confrontation with Frank. After ordering Billy to mount his horse, Brigade slips a noose around Billy’s neck and leads him to the hanging tree. When Frank arrives, Brigade challenges him to stop the hanging. Frank charges Brigade, guns blazing, causing Billy’s horse to bolt and leave Billy swinging from the tree. After killing Frank, Brigade shoots Billy down from the tree while Boone and Wid chase off the rest of the gang. Brigade then pushes Billy toward Boone and challenges him to “come and get him.” As Boone prepares to draw his gun against Brigade, Brigade turns Billy over to him and warns Boone to keep his promise about “going straight.” After the others ride off toward Santa Cruz, Brigade sets the tree on fire.


DVD release

In 2008 a DVD box set of five Budd Boetticher films starring Randolph Scott was released. Along with Ride Lonesome the set includes Buchanan Rides Alone, Decision at Sundown, Comanche Station, and The Tall T.

In The Middleman episode "The Cursed Tuba Contingency", the Middleman goes to see Ride Lonesome and is followed there by Lacey Thornfield, a photogenic young artist. The Middleman, solver of exotic problems, tells her that he's seen the first act of the movie 16 times. And, true to form, he is again called away before he can see the end.

See also


  1. Miller, Ron (1995-01-22). "Coburn's Comfort Zone at Home in Western with Heston and Berenger Supporting". San Jose Mercury News: p. 6.
  2. Wilmington, Michael (1992-11-29). "Tall in the Director's Chair Budd Boetticher made some of the best-remembered Westerns of '50s and '60s; they don't make 'em like that (or him) anymore". Los Angeles Times. p. 4.
  3. "Randolph Scott is dead at 89; Laconic cowboy-film actor". The New York Times. 1987-03-03.
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