A pleasant, amusing western starring Ford as a sheep rancher who runs into trouble while driving his herds through cattle territory. In Powder Valley he is met with opposition from an entire town run by cattle baron Nielsen, whose will is enforced by gunslinger Shaughnessy. Fearing that
Ford's sheep will ruin the grazing land for the cattle, Nielsen dispatches Shaughnessy and his men to raid Ford's camp. In the battle, several of Ford's men are killed, and the enraged sheep rancher sets out to destroy Nielsen. Ford learns that Nielsen has concealed his past as an infamous
gunslinger known as Johnny Bledsoe, and he enlists town windbag Buchanan to help him expose the cattle baron. While in town, Ford also learns that the spunky MacLaine is engaged to marry Nielsen, but she has second thoughts after meeting the noble Ford. Continuing his campaign against Nielsen,
Ford confronts the hulking Shaughnessy in a bar, and after ordering a glass of milk for himself, humiliates the gunslinger and proves him to be a coward. There follows a showdown between Ford and Nielsen, despite MacLaine's attempts to point out the absurdity of the situation. Now in love with
Ford, MacLaine gets the drop on the extra shooters that Nielsen brought along for help, thus allowing for a fair showdown. To no one's surprise, Ford wins the battle and MacLaine. Though most viewers familiar with the western have seen all this before, THE SHEEPMAN is successful because it pokes
fun at the age-old cattlemen vs. sheepherders rivalry that has been dramatized in everything from Charles Starrett oaters to George Stevens' SHANE (1953). Under the skillful helm of veteran director Marshall, THE SHEEPMAN offers up a charming spoof of the genre, while remaining honest and
respectful of its roots. The film doesn't make fun of westerns as Mel Brooks did in BLAZING SADDLES (1974), but instead has fun with them. MacLaine is relaxed, refreshing, and funny in this early phase of her career, as is veteran actor Ford, but it is Buchanan who steals the show as the
mischievous loudmouth. The screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Solid family entertainment.
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