Man without a Star

Overview

In this deceptively titled and paced Western, Kirk Douglas shines in the hyper-macho role of Dempsey Rae, a good-natured drifter with a mysterious past up from Texas, a top hand with a gun, a horse, or a herd, who can even play the banjo and sing. He rides into a Wyoming town in a freight car, in the company of much younger drifter Jeff Jimson William Campbell, who knows even less about the West than he does about life. Dempsey gets Jeff out of a few scrapes with the law, and both get hired by the foreman Jay C. ...
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Overview

In this deceptively titled and paced Western, Kirk Douglas shines in the hyper-macho role of Dempsey Rae, a good-natured drifter with a mysterious past up from Texas, a top hand with a gun, a horse, or a herd, who can even play the banjo and sing. He rides into a Wyoming town in a freight car, in the company of much younger drifter Jeff Jimson William Campbell, who knows even less about the West than he does about life. Dempsey gets Jeff out of a few scrapes with the law, and both get hired by the foreman Jay C. Flippen of the Triangle Ranch. With 8,000 head, the Triangle is already the largest spread in the territory, but the new owner from back east, Miss Reed Bowman Jeanne Crain, arrives with plans to move in another 22,000 head onto the open range, threatening to squeeze out the smaller ranches completely. Meanwhile, the other ranchers plan on saving some of the grass for winter feed and fence it off with barbed wire. When Bowman discovers that she can't hold onto Dempsey as either a man or a foreman, she seduces Jeff -- who's too quick to become a man -- to run interference on him, and hires a crew of gunmen led by Steve Miles Richard Boone to tear down the wire. A range war is about to break out, and Dempsey, who wants no part of barbed wire and carries the scars to show why, plans on pulling out. But then Miles and his men overplay their hand, and Dempsey throws in with the smaller ranchers. The body count suddenly starts going against Miles, who digs in for a final fight, and now it's Jeff and Bowman who find themselves caught between two unstoppable forces that they've helped unleash.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
The title of this Western, along with its pacing, is extremely deceptive, referring not to the badge of a lawman as one might expect in this genre, but to the star that a man might follow in navigating unknown territory -- it refers to Kirk Douglas' Dempsey Rae, a laconic, good-natured (but lusty and two-fisted) cowpoke who's wandered a long way from his former home in Texas. It takes audiences a little while to figure out what Rae is about, just as they might find themselves wondering exactly what this Western -- based on a story co-authored by oater-veteran Borden Chase (whose actor son Frank Chase appears here, as Little Waco) -- is about. That's mostly because it's divided into three distinct "acts," each with its own texture and feel but all interlocked. The first act is the most genial, introducing Rae and Jeff Jimson (William Campbell, in one of his best performances), a tenderfoot drifter that Rae takes under his wing, through a string of scrapes with the law, with even some comic relief injected into the proceedings. Dempsey's character suddenly darkens, showing a dangerous, self-destructive side, almost exactly 30 minutes into the movie, when one character introduces the subject of barbed wire. That opens up the second act, in which Dempsey is tempted by the lusty Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain, playing a more appealing version of a character that Barbara Stanwyck might have also portrayed), whose motivations, mixing carnality and greed, help to break up the friendship between Dempsey and Jeff. And Dempsey is confronted by Steve Miles (Richard Boone), a Texas gunman with whom Rae obviously has some history, at the wrong end of a gun. And the third act shows Rae's redemption, of his self-respect and manhood. There's enough violence either threatened or shown to satisfy genre fans, and also a surprisingly complex array of characters set within a realistic dramatic framework, which gives this movie an appeal beyond the boundaries of the Western. Director King Vidor allows Douglas to carry his portrayal almost -- but not quite -- over the top, and gets from Crain a convincingly lusty and libidinous performance as his would-be romantic foil; their scenes together push the limits of 1950s film proprieties in ways that are far more believable than much of the overheated action in the earlier, Vidor-credited Duel in the Sun.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/1/1992
  • UPC: 096898014434
  • Original Release: 1955
  • Rating:

  • Source: Universal Studios
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Kirk Douglas Dempsey Rae, Dempsey Tae
Jeanne Crain Reed Bowman
William Campbell Jeff Jimson
Claire Trevor Idonee
Richard Boone Steve Miles
Mara Corday Moccasin Mary
Jay C. Flippen Strap Davis
Myrna Hansen Tess Cassidy
Eddy Waller Tom Cassidy
Sheb Wooley Latigo
George Wallace Tom Carter
Frank Chase Little Waco
Paul Birch Mark Tolliver
Roy Barcroft Sheriff Olson
Malcolm Atterbury
William Challee
Jack Elam Drifter
Mark Hanna
Jim Hayward
Myron Healey Mogollon
Jack Ingram Jessup
Casey MacGregor Hammer
Ewing Mitchell Johnson
Millicent Patrick Box Car Alice
William "Bill" Phillips Cookie
Lee Roberts
Technical Credits
King Vidor Director
John P. Austin Set Decoration/Design
Daniel D. Beauchamp Screenwriter
Leslie I. Carey Sound/Sound Designer
Borden Chase Screenwriter
Russell A. Gausman Set Decoration/Design
Joseph E. Gershenson Score Composer, Musical Direction/Supervision
Alexander Golitzen Art Director
Joe Lapis Sound/Sound Designer
Russell Metty Cinematographer
Rosemary Odell Costumes/Costume Designer
Richard H. Riedel Art Director
Aaron Rosenberg Producer
Hans Salter Score Composer
Frank Shaw Asst. Director
Herman Stein Score Composer
Virgil Vogel Editor
Bud Westmore Makeup
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