I’ve never been a big fan of westerns. I can take them or leave them although there have been some great westerns like “Shane”, “High Noon”, “The Searchers”, “True Grit” (both versions) and “The Unforgiven” (both versions). The one I saw yesterday, “The Fastest Gun Alive” fits somewhere among those classics.
George Kelby Jr. (Glen Ford) is hiding from the reputation of his fast drawing Sheriff father. He and his wife move into the town of Cross Creek under the name of Temple, where George sets up a general store. One day, while drunk, he is so fed up with his meek identity; he shows off to the entire town how good he is with a gun. Word gets to an outlaw gunfighter (Broderick Crawford) who considers himself the fastest gun alive rides into town with his outlaw gang to shoot it out with George.
This appears to be a standard and overused western plot but it rises to the top because of the morale dilemma of George and the town people themselves, who back up George’s desire to remain unknown. The unity of the people of old western towns is legendary. It was the town folk of Northfield, Minnesota who defeated the outlaw gang of Jesse James – Cole Younger and it was the citizens of Coffeyville, Kansas who shot the Dalton-Doolin Gang to pieces. The citizens of Hadleyville play a big part in the classic, “High Noon” but in this case it was their unwillingness to back Marshall Kane, which was the turning point of the story. In a world where most people don’t even know the name of their neighbors, we see in “The Fastest Gun Alive” a town unified to help their fellow citizens.