December 23, 1950 (1950-12-23) (San Francisco)
LADD as you like him in an Action-Packed Adventure!
Branded is a 1950 Technicolor western film starring Alan Ladd, Mona Freeman, Charles Bickford, and Robert Keith. It was adapted from the novel Montana Rides by Max Brand under pen name Evan Evans. A gunfighter on the run from the law is talked into posing as the long-lost son of a wealthy rancher.
Choya (Alan Ladd), a gunfighter on the run, is tracked down by cowboys Leffingwell (Robert Keith) and "Tattoo" (John Berkes) in the mountains. They make him a part of a scheme to bilk a rich rancher named Lavery (Charles Bickford). The plan requires a tattoo on Choya's shoulder, but as soon as "Tattoo" creates one, Leffingwell shoots him in the back.
Choya rides to Lavery's Bar M ranch and asks foreman Ransome (Tom Tully) for a job, but doesn't get it. While they fight, Lavery and daughter Ruth (Mona Freeman) ride up. Lavery feels the ranch could use another good hand, so Choya is hired.
Ruth tells the new man how her 5-year-old brother was a kidnap victim many years ago, never seen again. One day, Lavery notices the tattoo and is amazed because his long-lost son had one just like it. Choya pretends it is a coincidence, but tells a story about a childhood memory that convinces Mr. and Mrs. Lavery that he is "Richard, Jr."
Leffingwell turns up and is hired at the ranch. His plot is to kill Lavery so that Choya can inherit the ranch. A guilt-ridden Choya offers him an alternative, stealing Lavery's stock on a cattle roundup.
Ruth rides along. Choya likes her so he double-crosses Leffingwell and has the cattle money deposited in the Lavery's account in an El Paso bank. He also learns that Leffingwell is the one who kidnapped the kid, only to have a Mexican bandit named Rubriz (Joseph Calleia) snatch the boy away. He confesses to Ruth and leaves the ranch.
Choya crosses the border and finds Lavery's son has been raised by Rubriz under the name Tonio. He persuades Tonio to return to his real home. Rubriz has raised the boy as his own son, and stung by his apparent betrayal, sends his men after them. Leffingwell also gives chase but is killed in a stampede. Choya and Tonio are trapped near the Rio Grande, but rescued just in time by Lavery and Ransome.
Rubriz comes to the ranch with his men to kill them but is disarmed by Choya. Choya convinces him that Tonio did not betray him. Lavery makes a pact with Rubriz that the boy is old enough to go anywhere he pleases. Choya plans to ride off for good, but Ruth tells him that if he is leaving, she is going with him..
The film was based on the 1933 novel Montana Rides. It was written by Max Brand as Evan Evans. (The year before RKO had released a Tom Keene Western called Montana Rides but the plot was different.
The novel concerned a gunman, Montana, aka Arizona Kid, aka Mexico Kid, who impersonates the missing son of cattle magnate Richard Lavery. It turns out the real son is raised by a local outlaw, Meteo Rubriz. The New York Times called it "an exceptionally absorbing an exciting tale." The Los Angeles Times called it a "swinging, lilting Western... written with incredibly quiet savagery."
The novel was so popular it led to a sequel, Montana Rides Again. In this, the Montana Kid is lured into Mexico by bandit Mateo Rubriz and Friar Pacaul, who decide to steal an emerald from the governor which had been looted from a church.
In March 1950 the film was retitled Branded.
ReferencesBranded (1950 film) Wikipedia
Branded (1950 film) IMDb Branded (1950 film) themoviedb.org