When Katie Elder passes away her four sons return to their hometown of Clearwater, Texas, to pay their last respects to the woman who bore them. The eldest is Wayne, a tough gunfighter whose reputation precedes him. Next in line is Martin, a roguish gambler, followed by Holliman, the quiet
one in the family, who no man has ever called yellow more than once. Finally there is Anderson, the only family member to attend college and the hope of the clan. It's learned that their father was a drunk and gambled away the family ranch on the night he was killed, leaving their mother broke.
The brothers begin to look into the killing despite warnings to lay off by sheriff Fix. Gregory and his son Hopper were the only witnesses to the father's murder and they decide to cover their tracks by murdering the sheriff, then throwing the blame on Wayne and his brothers. Slate, the deputy
sheriff, forms a posse, not knowing the men he enlists are allied with Gregory and Hopper. In an attempt to take the brothers to Laredo a gunfight breaks out, and Slate and Holliman are killed. Some of Gregory's hired guns escape, ride back to Clearwater, and claim that Wayne's "gang" staged an
ambush. Anderson had been wounded in the shooting and is now brought back to town by his siblings. They are greeted by an angry mob, who are held off by Wayne and Martin. Finally Wayne is able to let judge Allman know the truth, and the jurist agrees to bring in a US marshal. But while the older
brother is trying to fix things legally, Martin decides to fix things his own way. He kidnaps Hopper in an effort to get a confession. Gregory tries to save his son but mistakenly shoots Hopper instead. In a deathbed confession Hopper divulges that Gregory was the gunman behind the deaths of Fix,
Slate, and the father, and the judge overhears it all. Martin, also mortally wounded by Gregory, tells Wayne he is now responsible for Anderson. Wayne challenges Gregory in a final battle, killing the man who has caused his family all their troubles. His family and friends avenged, Wayne returns
to the rooming house run by Hyer, the late deputy's girl friend. She tells him Anderson will recover. Going indoors, her skirt grazes the old rocker of Wayne's mother, setting it in motion as though his mother were sitting in it. This was Wayne's first film after his battle with cancer, and one
would never guess he had undergone surgery shortly before this was made. Following surgery Wayne wanted to prove he was still physically fit, and his role here certainly goes to great lengths to show it. Wayne rides, shoots, and fights as though the worst that had happened to him was a touch of
the flu. Wayne was commended for his public acknowledgement of the disease and for becoming a larger than life example of the ability to come back after cancer surgery. Hathaway was also swayed by Wayne's stand and admitted for the first time that he, too, had undergone cancer surgery some 12
years before at the Mayo Clinic. The film was a big success with the public, proving to be one of Wayne's most popular films of the 1960s. Hyer married producer Wallis the following year.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: When Katie Elder passes away her four sons return to their hometown of Clearwater, Texas, to pay their last respects to the woman who bore them. The eldest is Wayne, a tough gunfighter whose reputation precedes him. Next in line is Martin, a roguish gamble… (more)