Decision at Sundown

This is a 1957 western directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Randolph Scott. Scott plays Bart Allison who arrives in the town of Sundown looking for revenge after three years of searching for a man named Tate Kimbrough. It’s not clear at first why exactly Bart wants revenge, though it’s hinted that it might have something to do with Bart’s deceased wife, Mary.

Kimbrough is getting married to local girl Lucy (Karen Steele) but Bart breaks up the wedding much to Lucy’s embarrassment. When Lucy suggests that Mary may have been a less than virtuous woman, she is left with more embarrassment to get over!

Scene starts at 46m 35s

Karen Steele’s first acting job was in the radio series Let George Do It (1946 – 54). In this detective comedy Bob Bailey played George Valentine, a World War II veteran returned from the war, who advertises his services as an odd job man.

Bob Bailey

The ad reads:

PERSONAL NOTICE: Do you have a crime that needs solving? Do you have a dog that needs walking? Do you have a wife that needs spanking? Let George do it. Danger’s my stock-in-trade. If the job’s too tough for you to handle, you’ve got a job for me, George Valentine. Write FULL Details.

Postwar wives

This reflects the reality of the post war period in the US when there was a recorded upsurge in “wife spankings” attributed to returning soldiers. Thanks to JS for sending me the newspaper scan.

5 thoughts on “Decision at Sundown”

  1. Interesting dynamic.

    I haven’t watched the whole thing, but it is pretty clear from the scene what is going on. Lucy goes alone to face Bart — this would have taken courage — and not just because he embarrassed her by breaking up the wedding. She goes to tell him that he shouldn’t kill Kimbrough just for having an affair with Mary, especially since there could have been no affair without Mary’s participation. She’s not insulting Mary but just stating the plain truth. Lucy conducts herself as an adult throughout this, but Bart responds by treating her as a naughty child.

    I suspect this would have been much more acceptable when the film was made — and I don’t regret the passing of that world at all.

    1. Lucy doesn’t insult Mary but she does give Bart an almighty whack around the chops!

      Bart is a bone-headed chauvinist who refuses to listen to women on principle but his response to Lucy’s loss of control is reasonable in my book. You could say he is infantalising her OR you could say he is remembering the old adage that there is only one place a gentleman can strike a lady and still remain a gentleman.

  2. Possibly the first movie spank that kind of offends me. It seems unjust. This “Mary” is the one who needs a good spanking, sounds like.

  3. It’s right that your sympathies should be with Lucy but I’ve seen plenty of abusive scenes that offend me a lot more than this.

    Mary committed suicide btw.

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