Lone Star (1952): Vincent Sherman’s Western Melodrama, Starring Gable and Ava Gardner

Vincent Sherman directed Lone Star, a black-and-white Western melodrama, set in Texas just before statehood.

It stars Clark Gable and Ava Gardner in yet another teaming, though not as successful as their previous one, in John Ford’s Mogambo.

Lionel Barrymore, in his final screen role, plays President Andrew Jackson. Gable plays Devereaux (Dev) Burke, who gets a personal request from former President Jackson to facilitate the annexation of Texas into the U.S.  It’s mistakenly believed that Texas pioneer Sam Houston opposes statehood.

When the opposition leader, the wealthy rancher Thomas Craden (Broderick Crawford), is ambushed by Comanches, Dev comes to his rescue. Dev and Craden travel to Austin, where they meet Martha Ronda (Gardner), a beautiful woman who runs the local newspaper.

Craden invites Dev to a dinner planned for senators at his home. When the senators oppose to vote against annexation, Craden doesn’t permit them to leave. Dev is allowed to leave, but soon returns with armed men to rescue the senators and reveal his support for annexation.

The senators inform Dev that Sam Houston is on the other side of the Pecos River, negotiating peace treaty with the Apache. Dev gets a signed letter from Houston telling of his actual position, but the ink smears when he falls into a river while fleeing from Craden.

Though initially doubtful, after confirming the facts with Craden, Martha publishes the correct story about Houston’s position.  When the folks of Austin read he story, they rally in support of annexation.

Unfazed Craden aims to stop the Texas Congress from voting on annexation, and Dev is called on to organize the defense.

Craden attacks the fort-like congress building with armed men, but in the end, loses the battle.  Houston arrives with the Apache to end the battle before any senators are killed.

After a mano-a mano fight Craden concedes, annexation succeeds, and Dev earns Martha’s love and respect.

Devoid of any real action, Lone Star is too verbose in its exposition of the ideologies of the two camps, though craftsman Sherman directs with assured hand.

The movie was profitable at the box-office, probably due to its star power and the chemistry between Gable and Gardner in their romantic scenes.

Ava Gardner sings a song in Spanish, and then upon Gable’s request, sings it in English.

The film marks the first (uncredited) screen appearance by George Hamilton, then age 13, as Jackson’s servant.