The Maverick Queen (1955)

This film was viewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. To view the project’s progress and find links to reviews of other Stanwyck films, visit my Listography page.

Lucy Lee (Mary Murphy) is a ranch owner living in Wyoming. She’s headed to Rock Springs, where she plans to sell her cattle. A man named Jeff Younger (Barry Sullivan) joins her camp, looking for a meal and a few hours of shuteye, ensuring her that he’s not a member of the Wild Bunch, who she fears will come to steal her cattle.

(Image via iphotoscrap.com)
(Image via iphotoscrap.com)

That night, Lucy’s worst fear comes true. Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch shows up. Cassidy’s right-hand man, Sundance (Scott Brady), tries to force himself on Lucy during the raid, but she’s saved by a gun-slinging Jeff who scares the gang off.

Thankful for his help, Lucy allows Jeff to stay with her for the rest of the trip to Rock Springs. Upon arrival in the town, the group decides to relax at Kit Banion’s (Barbara Stanwyck) hotel/saloon, The Maverick Queen. But little do they know, Kit’s secretly a companion of Cassidy’s gang and has a romantic history with Sundance, who will soon accuse her of planting Jeff in Lucy’s camp to throw off the Wild Bunch’s plans.

The Maverick Queen was directed by Joseph Kane for Republic Pictures. It is based on the eponymous novel by Zane Grey, who was reportedly one of Stanwyck’s favorite writers.

I taped this film way back in December of 2012 (!!!), when TCM ran a handful of Stanwyck films. This was the film’s premiere screening on our beloved movie channel. I’d saved the Westerns for last in my viewing after taping them all, because I had not yet begun my journey to appreciate the genre. I finally gave The Maverick Queen a watch in January, over a year after recording it. Robert Osborne said in his introduction to this film that Stanwyck loved making Westerns because it allowed her to spend time outdoors rather than feeling trapped on a sound stage.

As if I haven’t kicked myself enough for discounting a whole genre of films, I’m not proud that I waited so long to finally give The Maverick Queen a watch. I ended up enjoying this film a lot.

There’s lots of eye and ear candy to be had from this film. The color palette is made up of heavily saturated shades which look beautiful on screen. There are a couple of silly songs with lyrics about the life of the “Queen,” but the film also has a great score that perfectly enhances its moods, from melodramatic to action-packed.

(Image via Not the Baseball Pitcher)
(Image via Not the Baseball Pitcher)

Speaking of that mix of moods, it stems from a story that has two sides. A somewhat soapy, not-very-lovey “love triangle” between Kit, Sundance and Jeff is accompanied by a fast-paced tale of heists and cattle rustling. (It’s less a true love triangle and more Kit dealing with her jealous ex, Sundance.) The action and personal dramas balance each other quite well, and the film never lags.

The film is certainly bolstered by Stanwyck’s involvement. Her character is a very strong and outspoken woman — the perfect character for Stanwyck to take on. Her performance is fantastic, as usual. There are a couple of truly striking scenes, including a big argument between Kit and Sundance early on in the film.

The Maverick Queenis a good watch. I wouldn’t count it among my very-top favorites of the Westerns I’ve discovered, nor one of my very-top films from Stanwyck’s filmography, but it’s a solid picture. The score: 3.8/5

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