Lee Sholem | Rankings
| The Redhead from Wyoming
Cheyenne: Trial by Conscience | The Imposter
| Incident at Dawson Flats | The Greater Glory
Bronco: The Freeze-out
Lawman: The Bandit
Maverick: One of Our Trains Is Missing
Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors)
| Television Western Articles
Lee Sholem is an American film and television director.
Some common subjects in the films of Lee Sholem:
- Well-to-do villains with financially ambitious plans, smooth manners and clothes, and often political ambitions
(William Bishop's politician: The Redhead from Wyoming, rancher Wrangle: Wagon-Tongue North,
Jeff York's town boss: Trial by Conscience, Robert McQueeney's lawyer: The Imposter,
Gerald Mohr: Incident at Dawson Flats, Douglas Dick: The Freeze-out,
Mike Connors: School for Cowards)
- Rough cob Western rich men's men, sympathetic (Alexander Scourby: The Redhead from Wyoming,
Peter Whitney: The Imposter) related (Morris Ankrum: Incident at Dawson Flats)
- Mild looking leading men types who succeed (Alex Nichol: The Redhead from Wyoming,
James Drury: The Imposter, James Drury: The Freeze-out,
Gary Vinson: The Devil's Spawn,
newspaper publisher Jerome Courtland: The Race at Cherry Creek) or fail (Richard Garland: Trial by Conscience)
related (brother, boyfriend: Incident at Dawson Flats)
- Feisty women (Maureen O'Hara: The Redhead from Wyoming, widow: Wagon-Tongue North,
mothers: The Long Search,
Patricia Crowley: Trial by Conscience, heroine: Incident at Dawson Flats,
Mormon wife: The Greater Glory,
two mothers: School for Cowards, heroine: The Freeze-out, heroine, Matt's wife: The Bandit,
newspaper publisher's wife: The Race at Cherry Creek,
widow: Fighting Sky Pilot)
- Bad guys who reform (son Peter Brown: Ghost of the Cimarron,
cook: Wagon-Tongue North,
brother: Incident at Dawson Flats,
Ray Stricklyn: The Greater Glory,
military school commander: School for Cowards,
hero: The Badge,
robber hero: The Bandit)
- Young men with mixed Native American and white background (White Warrior, School for Cowards)
- Sympathetic, actively helpful Native Americans (Wagon-Tongue North, The Long Search, The Greater Glory,
mother: School for Cowards)
- Finales advocating racial brotherhood (The Long Search, School for Cowards)
- Anti-Klan parables (The Regulators: Blind Spot)
- Clever non-violent schemes of deception by hero to trip up the villains, often at finale
(fake town fight at end: The Redhead from Wyoming,
mystery: Trial by Conscience,
reports of killer on trail of Cheyenne: The Imposter)
- Non-Violence as issue (hero emphasizes Native American allies in final scheme are non-violent: Wagon-Tongue North,
villain turns from non-violence to violence: The Greater Glory,
debate over violence vs non-violence: The Devil's Spawn,
minister preaches non-violence based on "Turn the other cheek": Fighting Sky Pilot)
- Monopolies (cattle: The Redhead from Wyoming, water: Trial by Conscience)
related (Denver only has room for one newspaper: The Race at Cherry Creek,
neighbors refuse family water: The Devil's Spawn)
- Sympathetic depiction of religious people (Mormon wife: The Greater Glory,
nuns run ranch: Brand of Courage,
new minister vs Western town corruption: Fighting Sky Pilot)
Subjects and Imagery:
- Pregnant women who give birth (widow: Wagon-Tongue North, wife: The Greater Glory)
- Men distressed over being separated from their sons (Ghost of the Cimarron, The Long Search, The Imposter, The Devil's Spawn)
mothers (The Long Search, School for Cowards)
- Biological parents and adoptive parents (The Long Search, School for Cowards, The Devil's Spawn)
- Bodies buried in remote country graves under piles of small rocks (Trial by Conscience, The Imposter)
related (simple grave near wagon camp: Wagon-Tongue North, bodies in ice and snow: The Freeze-out)
- Problems of people trapped in mines or caves (The Long Search, The Imposter)
related (bad guys make avalanche to attack heroes: The Greater Glory, characters in past trapped by glacier: The Freeze-out)
- Big Western group fights, near food (cattle camp and food table: The Redhead from Wyoming,
comic fight in saloon dining room at start: The Imposter)
- Sick men being nursed in bed (young boyfriend: The Redhead from Wyoming,
title character: Ghost of the Cimarron, Cheyenne: The Imposter, husband, Native American,
heroine, kid brother, Marshal: The Bandit, Bronco treated after being wounded: The Devil's Spawn)
- Missing men who it turns out are traveling under assumed names
(drunken boyfriend: Trial by Conscience, heir: The Imposter)
related (Kiowa Kid shows up under new identity: Ghost of the Cimarron,
surprise identity of passerby: The Greater Glory)
- Hero takes on new identity (Cheyenne: Wagon-Tongue North, Cheyenne: The Imposter)
suspects with new identities (four suspects: The Freeze-out)
- Hero conceals status (Bronco conceals he's a marshal: The Devil's Spawn)
- Plot moves through multiple stages, with major changes in situation (Ghost of the Cimarron,
Trial by Conscience, The Imposter)
- Non-standard mystery situations and plots (Trial by Conscience, The Imposter)
Here are ratings for various films directed by Lee Sholem. Everything at least **1/2 is recommended.
- The Redhead from Wyoming **1/2
- White Warrior **1/2
- Ghost of the Cimarron **1/2
- Wagon-Tongue North **1/2
- The Long Search **1/2
- Trial by Conscience ***
- The Imposter ***
- Incident at Dawson Flats **
- The Return of Mr. Grimm **1/2
- The Greater Glory **1/2
- Last Wire from Stop Gap **1/2
- One of Our Trains Is Missing **
- The Freeze-out *1/2
- School for Cowards **1/2
- The Devil's Spawn **
Death Valley Days:
- The Badge **1/2
- The Bandit ***
- The Wayfarer *1/2
- The Race at Cherry Creek **
- Fighting Sky Pilot **1/2
The Redhead from Wyoming
The Redhead from Wyoming (1953) is a Western.
The Redhead from Wyoming is unusual in that it centers on a glamorous woman,
a saloon keeper (Maureen O'Hara). It preserves much of O'Hara's screen persona: feisty, independent,
a fighter, a woman who wants to get married, a Christian woman (she refers to preachers, and later to Christmas).
She also fits in with the Lee Sholem heroines: gutsy, feisty, fiery and determined.
Other characters also relate to Lee Sholem character types. Rich cattle king Alexander Scourby
is an interesting "man's man" type. His house is a fascinating piece of set decoration,
showing a purely male environment, as the dialogue points out. He relates to Peter Whitney's
Western rich man in The Imposter, an even rougher cob. Both are self-made men.
Both are ultimately sympathetic.
Villain William Bishop wants to be Governor, like the villainous town boss in
Trial by Conscience. Like other Sholem villains, he is smooth, well dressed, and full
of financial schemes. William Bishop specialized in well-tailored menaces, so this is right up his alley.
Hero Alex Nichol is the "mild-looking leading man" sometimes found in Sholem. Nichol is
not especially macho. But he is interestingly wiry, and determined. He also seems intelligent
and penetrating. He makes a "different" and pleasing hero. Like James Drury in The Imposter,
he is a sensitive man with a sad history he recounts of family tragedy.
Links to Metropolis
The characters and situations in The Redhead from Wyoming resemble a bit those in
Metropolis (1927). This might be a coincidence: after all, it is not clear that
people who made Hollywood Westerns in the 1950's, were watching German silent films.
Still, there is a resemblance:
The parallels are not exact: the Master of Metropolis is the leader of the rich; villain
William Bishop is not a member of the rich cattleman, but rather an opportunistic politician.
The poor in Metropolis work for the rich; the poor in The Redhead from Wyoming
are homesteaders, working for themselves.
- Both films center on conflict between the rich, and a multitude of working class poor people.
- Villain William Bishop wants to stir up trouble between the rich and poor, leading to violence,
which he will exploit - rather like the Master of Metropolis.
- Sheriff Alex Nichol is a sensitive, mild looking leading man type,
who can see both sides of the conflict, and who wants to negotiate a non-violent solution:
like the Mediator young hero of Metropolis.
- Maureen O'Hara is a beautiful heroine with a working class background, like
Maria in Metropolis.
The Hero's Scheme - and Non-Violence
Alex Nichol comes up with a scheme at the end, to defeat the bad guys. He is one of several
Lee Sholem heroes who devise such schemes. The schemes tend to be clever, ingenious -
and based on deceit: see Trial by Conscience and The Imposter.
The schemes tend to require the cooperation of a lot of people, as in Trial by Conscience.
Nichol's scheme in The Redhead from Wyoming also serves as a "non-violent solution" to trouble.
Eventually, there is a final gun battle, though - although it comes when the bad guys turn down
his offer of peaceful surrender. Many of the schemes in Lee Sholem movies have such non-violent aspects.
But the non-violence is most pronounced in The Redhead from Wyoming. It explicitly
involves both peace making, and an alternative to violence.
Cheyenne: Trial by Conscience
Trial by Conscience (1959) is a Western. It also incorporates crime and mystery elements.
Like a number of Westerns, such as My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946), it has a subplot
about a troupe of Shakespearean actors, and includes scenes of Shakespeare performance.
These characters and scenes are highly vivid.
Trial by Conscience, like The Imposter, has a well-constructed story, and is
an absorbing experience on that level. I have no idea if Lee Sholem deserves credit,
or whether he just happened to get a good script. The same is true of The Imposter.
The writers, Alan Lipscott and Bob Fisher, mainly wrote comedy for television.
Trial by Conscience is not a comedy, despite occasional welcome
touches of humor. It thus seems atypical of their work.
Glenn Strange, the bartender at Miss Kitty's saloon on Gunsmoke, has a
small role. He has a vivid presence, and his actions have a lingering effect on the plot.
Cheyenne: The Imposter
The Imposter (1959) is a clever episode of Cheyenne,
in which the hero's encounter with an imposter is mixed in with many other story elements.
The Imposter and Trial by Conscience both are complex, detailed stories.
Both have plots that move through several stages, in the lives of their characters.
Some of the multi-stage structure of The Imposter is apparent, in that the title imposter
does not emerge till half way through the film.
Both films are also mystery stories. But not of a conventional "a murder occurs,
a detective figures out who done it" structure. Instead, The Imposter has a series of mysterious events
throughout, which are only gradually explained to the viewer.
The Imposter shares story elements with Trial by Conscience:
- Missing men who it turns out are traveling under assumed names.
- Well-to-do villains with financially ambitious plans.
- Clever schemes of deception by hero Cheyenne to trip up the villains.
- Bodies buried in remote country graves under piles of small rocks.
A 25-year-old James Drury gives a good performance, as a mystery man. Drury was three years away
from stardom as hero of the Western television series The Virginian in 1962.
At this stage of his career, Drury was guest starring in many TV series, one of a large number
of young hopefuls in Hollywood. Despite his youth, he is playing a ranch foreman, just as he will on
The Virginian. He is also wearing a leather vest and hat, but they are not black,
unlike those he will wear on The Virginian.
James Drury in The Imposter fits in with Sholem's "mild looking leading man types".
He is young looking, and seems small and and a bit frail when standing next to giant Clint Walker.
On The Virginian he will look more grown-up, and a bit tougher.
Walker and Drury have good scenes of male bonding. They try to reach out to each other, despite
a maze of plot complications that "should" keep them apart.
Cheyenne: Incident at Dawson Flats
Incident at Dawson Flats (1961) is a Western that combines elements of the Thriller.
It is somewhat middling in quality: there is plenty of plot that keeps rolling along,
but it is also a grim tale. If you're in the right mood, this can be an absorbing story,
but it also lacks real originality or strong positive virtues.
The villain has sinister schemes that involve creating illusion: like the bad guy in
The Imposter. Or like the good guy's schemes in Trial by Conscience and The Imposter.
The characters seem like variants on Sholem types:
- Villain Gerald Mohr is smooth, well-tailored and full of diabolical schemes, like
other Sholem bad guys. He is not rich however like other Sholem villains,
although he is scheming to marry into a wealthy ranch family.
- Rancher Morris Ankrum is not quite as sympathetic as other Sholem rich rough cob types.
- Brother Jasper and the boyfriend Johnny can be seen as Sholem mild-mannered looking leading man types.
The brother has a dark side which he is struggling to overcome, not typical of such men in other Sholem films.
- The sister is the gutsy Sholem heroine.
There is not a "clever non-violent scheme" by the hero at the end, unlike some other Sholem films.
But there is a rejection of violence. SPOILER. Apparently no-good brother Jasper unexpectedly reforms,
rejecting both violence and his father's conceptions of violence equaling manhood.
Such a reform is atypical of Westerns: usually such no-good sons trying to measure up to
their father's macho ideals come to a bad end - see The Man from Laramie
or Gunman's Walk. The unexpected mercifulness of the story is heartening.
It suggests that people can improve themselves, and follow good ideas instead of bad ones.
Cheyenne: The Greater Glory
The Greater Glory (1961) is a Western with religious themes.
Partly The Greater Glory is a fairy story, about Divine Providence looking out for its
faith-filled heroine. Even hero Cheyenne seems skeptical and amazed about what happens.
It is not plausible, but you just have to accept it and enjoy it, to appreciate the story.
It is good that hero Cheyenne is made the skeptic about all this. He shows that one can be
a morally committed person - and still have serious doubts about the idea that God is directly
intervening on a daily basis in people's lives. This is a controversial idea,
both promoted and dismissed by many major religions and philosophers.
Parts of The Greater Glory have resonance beyond the fantastic, however.
The way the heroine's nobility inspires Stricklyn's character to reform, actually recalls
the way the peace-loving monk causes a war-mongering war lord to reform in
The Flowers of St. Francis) (Roberto Rossellini, 1950).
In both cases, there is something inspiring about goodness causing other people to
bring out their better natures. Goodness can accomplish astonishing this in life,
and it is important that films show this.
Similarly, the way the good guys reach out to the Native Americans offers real life lessons in
racial brotherhood, too. As well as the way that good deeds can resonate and have positive consequences.
The heroine is definitely one of Sholem's courageous, feisty women. But it is harder to link up
the others in the cast to Sholem character types. Ray Stricklyn's young man might be one
of Sholem's "mild looking, young leading man" types. His appearance suggests this -
but his personality is far more aggressive. He is another Sholem "bad guy who reforms".
Oddly, it is one of the bad guys who is originally a believer in non-violence, trying to seize the heroine's property
illegally, but without bloodshed. But eventually his crookedness and greed lead him into full scale violence.
This whole progression is not one I recall seeing elsewhere.
Bronco: The Freeze-out
The Freeze-out (1958) is the third of sixteen episodes Lee Sholem directed of Bronco.
The Freeze-out is grim, and not fun to watch. It has a nightmarish quality.
It takes place in a ghost town, and people are camped out in the ruins. The whole effect is weird and creepy.
It is a painfully minimalistic way to live.
Although Bronco is a Western series, it is not clear that The Freeze-out is a Western,
strictly speaking. It takes place in Alaska, and the plot revolves around a glacier.
The characters show variations on Sholem traits:
One of the new identities a suspect takes on is "James Jones".
In 1958, this was also the same of a famous US novelist.
- The bad guy is financially ambitious, slick looking and smooth talking.
However, he doesn't have public or political ambitions, unlike other Lee Sholem villains.
While well-dressed and occasionally ostentatiously polite in a phony way,
he is not as extreme in this as other Sholem bad guys.
- James Drury is perhaps another Sholem "mild-mannered good guy who succeeds".
However, he doesn't push this mild-manneredness to extremes.
- The hero does not take on a new identity: but four of the suspects do.
- The heroine is feisty, like other Sholem heroines.
While Bronco is nominally the hero, he does remarkably little. Aside
from occasionally protecting the heroine, he is passive. In some ways, one could argue
that James Drury's suspect is the real hero of this story, with Bronco a supporting character.
SPOILER. Drury gets the girl, and succeeds at his plot goal:
two characteristics of the hero in much film history.
A whiny note: Ty Hardin, who plays the lead Bronco, is often hard to understand. He has poor diction,
seems to mumble, and buries his dialogue under a thick accent, supposedly Texan.
This is unusual for his era: virtually all the other stars and guest stars of Warner Brothers TV series
had superb diction, and were always easy to understand and follow.
The theme song for Bronco asserts that every woman who meets Bronco wants to marry him.
Frankly, the performance of Ty Hardin as Bronco doesn't live up to this. He is lacking in charisma
in a way that is surprising in a TV star.
Both Hardin and the suspects wear some of the cruddiest looking clothes I've seen in any
Warner Brothers TV show. By contrast, the heroes of Cheyenne and Maverick
were typically well-dressed in sharp costumes.
A character is briefly injured and needs a tiny bit of looking after.
Instead of Lee Sholem's traditional "bodies in rocky graves", at the end we have
bodies buried in snow and ice.
Lawman: The Bandit
The Bandit (1959) is the best of three episodes Sholem directed of Lawman.
The simple but involving plot combines two Sholem subjects:
The two women characters are also quite feisty and determined, in the Sholem tradition.
- A bad guy who reforms.
- Taking care of the sick.
The Bandit is notable for its visual beauty. The outdoor scenes are well composed.
Some objects, often unusual, add to the visual interest:
- The pulled-out drawers of a bank vault, arranged into a circle around a character's head.
- The cloth tents, used to concentrate sulfur around the patients' heads.
- The pump the widow in town keeps moving, in a painfully automatic gesture.
Maverick: One of Our Trains Is Missing
One of Our Trains Is Missing (1962) is the final episode of Maverick.
It is "just" another episode of the show: it does not try to tie any series plot lines together,
or show the ultimate fate of the Maverick family.