6 April 1960
Filmproducent / Distributie
Een oudere, wraakzuchtige vreemdeling rijdt met zijn paard een Texaans
stadje binnen en veroorzaakt heel wat deining en familieruzies met zijn
bewering dat Rachel, dochter van de Zachary's, in feite een ontvoerde
The Zacharys are a thriving and respected family on the Texas frontier.
Father Will Zachary was killed by Kiowa Indians, leaving his oldest son
Ben (Burt Lancaster) as the head of the family. Both Ben and his mother Mattilda (Lillian Gish) are very protective of the Zachary's adopted daughter, Rachel (Audrey Hepburn), while her other brothers, Cash (Audie Murphy) and Andy (Doug McClure), treat her as they would any sister. The family is supported by their closest neighbor, Zeb Rawlins (Charles Bickford), the patriarch of a racist family, whose shy son Charlie (Albert Salmi) wants to marry Rachel. Ben, long aware that she is not actually his sister, loves Rachel and is reluctant.
Ranchers from all around gather to prepare for a cattle drive to Wichita, Kansas. An old man believed to be crazy, Abe Kelsey (Joseph Wiseman), hides in the brush nearby after claiming that Rachel Zachary is an Indian. Ben and Cash, believing the story to be a vengeful lie, try to kill Kelsey. They manage to unhorse him but he soon steals a horse from them. A small group of Kiowa appears one night, led by Lost Bird, offering to trade horses to Ben in return for Rachel, claiming that he has been told by an old white man that she is actually his sister. Soon after, the Kiowa kill Charlie while he is returning to his ranch from courting Rachel, and in her grief Charlie's mother accuses Rachel of being a "dirty Injun." Ben leads the ranchers in tracking down Kelsey and bringing him back to the Rawlins ranch to be hanged as a horse thief.
With a noose around his neck, Kelsey tells the gathered ranchers that, on a retaliatory raid against the Kiowa led by himself and Will Zachary, he found a baby and was about to kill it when Will, sick of all the killing, intervened and took the baby for his own. Kelsey claims that his own son was captured by the Kiowa and demanded that Will return Rachel in exchange for his son, but was refused. Ben tells them that Kelsey's son was actually killed in the fighting, but that Kelsey refused to believe it, inventing the story as justification for vengeance against the Zacharys. Kelsey followed them from town to town, poisoning the minds of people wherever they moved. Mattilda reacts to Kelsey's rant by striking the horse Kelsey is on, causing him to be hanged. This convinces Zeb of the truthfulness of Kelsey's story, and he and all of the ranchers turn their backs on the Zacharys.
Back at their own homestead, Mattilda admits to her family that Will had taken the Kiowa baby and brought it to her to replace an infant daughter they had just lost. Cash, unable to deal with his sister being a "red-hide nigger," abandons the family. The Kiowa return in force, demanding Rachel, who tries to save her family by going over to the Kiowa. To stop her from doing so, Ben deliberately breaks the truce by killing a Kiowa to force a fight to the finish. Mattilda is killed during the fighting that follows. Just as the family, almost out of ammunition, is about to be overwhelmed, Cash returns and turns the tide. Rachel, protecting a wounded Andy and aware that Ben loves her, is confronted by her Kiowa brother but kills him, thus choosing sides once and for all.