Law and Jake Wade, The (1958): John Sturges Western, Starring Robert Taylor in his Last Top-Lead Picture, Richard Widmark, Patricia Owens

From Our Vaults

John Sturges directed The Law and Jake Wade, a Western shot in Metrocolor CinemaScope, starring Robert Taylor in his last A-picture as the top-billed lead, Richard Widmark, and Patricia Owens.

Based on the 1956 novel by Marvin H. Albert, the movie was shot on location in California’s High Sierra Mountain range, Lone Pine, and Death Valley.

Grade: B- (*** out of *****)

The Law and Jake Wade
Lawandjakewade poster.jpg

Theatrical Poster

Taylor plays reformed criminal Jake Wade, who breaks his former partner, Clint Hollister, out of jail in the western town of Morganville. They have not seen each other since the bank robbery and murder that resulted in Wade’s arrest.

Wade refuses to tell Hollister the location of the $20,000 from the robbery, advising him to leave the territory. He then returns to Cold Stream, where he serves as marshal.

Hollister and his men catch up with Wade, kidnap his wife Peggy (Patricia Owens), and force Wade to take them to the buried money.

They begin a long trek into the desert, during which Peggy learns of her husband’s criminal background.

After several adventures, the group arrives at ghost town, where Wade reveals the hidden the money.

When Wade spots Indian scouts, the group takes shelter in a deserted saloon. Wade is tied to a chair while Hollister goes in search of the natives. As night falls, Wade tells the men they are surrounded by Indians.

After Hollister returns, the natives attack in a vicious fight, during which Peggy frees her husband and they attempt to escape, but Hollister catches them.

After burying the dead, Wade reveals the money is buried in the cemetery, inside a saddlebag. Wade digs, then surprises Hollister by pulling out a pistol from it.

Wade and Hollister confront each other, and Wade kills Hollister. Hearing the gunshots, Peggy returns for Wade.

Well cast, Widmark proves that he could be equally compelling as a hero and as a villain. However, despite the lucrative cast, the narrative is too conventional and the conflict too familiar.

As a result, the movie was not a success, earning $970,000 in the U.S. and $1,825,000 elsewhere, resulting in modest profit of $87,000.

Robert Taylor as Jake Wade
Richard Widmark as Clint Hollister
Patricia Owens as Peggy
Robert Middleton as Ortero
Henry Silva as Rennie
DeForest Kelley as Wexler (as De Forest Kelley)
Burt Douglas as Lieutenant
Eddie Firestone as Burke
Fred Coby as Deputy (uncredited)
Gene Coogan as Minor Role (uncredited)
Richard H. Cutting as Luke, Jake’s Deputy (uncredited)
Roy Engel as Avery (uncredited)
Al Ferguson as Minor Role (uncredited)
Rory Mallinson as Deputy (uncredited)
Reginald Simpson as Minor Role (uncredited)
Henry Wills as Cavalry Sergeant


Directed by John Sturges
Written by William Bowers, based on the novel by Marvin H. Albert

Produced by William Hawks
Cinematography Robert Surtees
Edited by Ferris Webster
Music by Fred Steiner
Distributed by MGM

Release date: June 6, 1958

Running time: 88 minutes
Budget $1,538,000
Box office $2,795,000