James Stewart plays a frontier lawyer who gains a legendary reputation after gunning down a fearsome outlaw. That John Wayne only got second billing was a measure of Stewart's standing with both audiences and director John Ford, but it was destined to be a classic no matter where their names appeared in the credits. As for Lee Marvin and Lee Van Cleef, well, bad guys don't come badder. To cap it off, it's also the film in which the famous phrase 'When the legend becomes fact, print the legend' was heard for the first time.
John Ford's last tribute to the values that he found in the Old West and in America itself.
The fact that it was shot in black and white and that John Wayne (taking second billing - a real rarity and a sign of his affection for the director) looks, with his huge white Stetson, every inch the silent Western star, are only two of the signs indicating a nostalgic tribute to times past.
The film is beautifully structured - the key twist is cleverly concealed until the moment it happens - and the shoot-outs are thrillingly staged.
Hero James Stewart, a struggling lawyer, is stalked by bad guys Lee Marvin and Lee Van Cleef, both just before they became big box-office draws.
This, incidentally, is the film in which the famous phrase 'When the legend becomes fact, print the legend' was heard for the first time.