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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Raoul Walsh|
|Produced by||Milton Sperling|
|Screenplay by||Niven Busch|
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Cinematography||James Wong Howe|
|Edited by||Christian Nyby|
United States Pictures
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Budget||£610,000 or $1,678,000|
|Box office||$2.9 million (US rentals) or $3,711,000|
Pursued is a 1947 film that combines western film noir and psychological melodrama. The picture was directed by Raoul Walsh and features Teresa Wright, Robert Mitchum, Judith Anderson and Dean Jagger.
Set in New Mexico around the turn of the 20th century and told in flashback, the film tells the story of Jeb Rand (Mitchum), whose entire family was slaughtered when he was a child. In the aftermath of the massacre Jeb is found by Mrs Callum, a widow, who raises him in her family. Traumatised by the killings, Jeb does not recall anything of that night, except for vague images that he sees in a frequent nightmare. Mrs Callum raises him as her own son, together with her daughter Thor and her son Adam. Years later Jeb is shot at while riding a colt, but the shooter misses him; although Mrs Callum blames the incident on deer hunters she knows that it was an attempted murder by her brother-in-law Grant. She confronts Grant and it is revealed that there has been a long-standing feud between the Rands and the Callums. Jeb's father, with whom Mrs Callum was having an affair, took the life of her husband (Grant's brother) and, in an act of revenge, Grant killed Jeb's family. The night of the massacre, Grant's arm is so severely injured he eventually loses it. Mrs Callum pleads with her brother-in-law to leave Jeb alone, reasoning that he is not a threat to anyone. Grant agrees to let Jeb live, at least until he grows up, in order to prove to Mrs Callum that one day Jeb will turn on her.
Years later Jeb, Adam and Thor are adults and one day law officials arrive to recruit volunteers to join the US Army to fight the Spaniards. Jeb and Adam are told that one of them must join and, after agreeing on a coin toss, Jeb loses and signs up. He is injured in battle and, while recuperating in hospital, experiences again the flashbacks to the night of his family's murder. Due to his injuries he is honourably discharged from the army, sent home and awarded the Medal of Honor.
Although adoptive brother and sister, Jeb and Thor have long been in love and, after his homecoming celebration, Jeb tries to convince Thor to run away with him and get married as soon as possible as he suspects that someone, or something, is following him. Thor refuses, saying that she wants to get married on her own terms and not out of fear. Jeb goes for a long horse ride in order to clear his head and stumbles upon an abandoned ranch which he suspects he has seen before. When he returns home, his mother confirms that the ranch he came across is indeed where he and his real parents lived when Jeb was a child and where the murders occurred. As Jeb prepares to leave to gamble at the casino in town, Adam shows him the money that had been set aside for him while he was in the army, and the profits he is entitled to according to their mother's wish that everything be split between the three. However, Adam calls Jeb's share the 'Rand share' and expresses resentment that there should be any money given to Jeb at all. The two agree that the ranch is not big enough for both of them and again agree to a coin toss to determine who will leave. Jeb loses; Adam relishes throwing him out and they end up in a fistfight. Jeb declares he will return the next day for Thor and promises that, if Adam tries to stop him, he will kill him.
With only the coin with which to start betting Jeb has a big win at the casino and the owner, Jake Dingle, offers him a partnership. Meanwhile, having earlier researched Jeb's past and not wanting his sister to marry him, Adam ambushes Jeb on his way back from the casino, but is killed by Jeb, in self-defence. Jeb is acquitted of the murder in court but is shunned by Thor and Mrs Callum, who states that Jeb is dead to him. With no family, job or home of his own, Jeb accepts Jake Dingle's offer and becomes part-owner of the casino. Months later at the town dance Jeb discovers that Thor is engaged to a man named Prentice. Grant alerts Prentice to what Jeb did to Thor's brother and convinces him to make an attempt on Jeb's life. Jake Dingle warns Jeb that Prentice is coming for him. Jeb steps out the back door into the alley in an attempt to avoid the situation but Prentice is coming down the street. The two engage in a gun battle and Jeb is once again forced to kill in self-defence.
Some time later Thor and Mrs Callum hatch a plan to gain revenge on Jeb for the pain he has caused them. Thor pretends to forgive Jeb and agrees to marry him, planning to murder him on their wedding night. When the moment arrives, Jeb reveals to her that he knows her plan; she cannot bring herself to carry out the murder and reconciles with him, somehow knowing in her heart that he is innocent and that he truly loves her. Tired of waiting, Grant rounds up a gang and they chase Jeb across the desert, intending to finish the job begun all those years ago. Jeb clearly recalls the night of his parent's murder, realizing it was Grant who killed them and that Mrs Callum was there too. Thor finally learns the story of her mother having had an affair with Jeb's father, and that when Mrs Callum's husband discovered it, he attempted to murder Rand, but himself was killed, resulting in Grant slaughtering Jeb's entire family to avenge his brother's death. On learning that Jeb survived the slaughter Mrs Callum adopted him, out of guilt. Thor pleads with her mother not to allow Jeb to be hanged, stating there is still time to make up for her actions. As Grant is about to hang Jeb, Mrs Callum shoots him dead. She asks for and receives forgiveness from Jeb and Thor, and advises them to look to the future and enjoy their lives together.
Film critic Bosley Crowther wrote a mixed review, "... the strange and angry actions which occur through the tortuous wanderings of this drama seem decidedly bewildering and absurd. What's so significant about a fellow—even though he may be a foster-child—finding life slightly oppressive on a primitive New Mexican ranch? ... As we say, without the revelation which comes rather patly at the end, the urgency of these weighty questions is hard to grasp as the picture drones along. And it is likewise hard to work up any sympathy for the hero, who seems bored by all his woes. That may be because Robert Mitchum, who plays the latter, is a very rigid gent and gives off no more animation than a Frigidaire turned to 'Defrost.'"
Variety magazine, on the other hand, praised the film. The Variety staff wrote, "Pursued is potent frontier days western film fare. Standout in picture is suspense generated by the original script and Raoul Walsh's direction. It builds the western gunman's death walk to high moments of thrill and action. Strong casting also is a decided factor in selling the action wares. Production makes use of natural outdoor backgrounds supplied by New Mexico scenery, lending air of authenticity that is fully captured by the camera."
According to Warner Bros records the film earned $2,536,000 domestically and $1,175,000 foreign.