Ride Lonesome (1959): Budd Boetticher’s CinemaScope Western, Starring Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, and James Coburn in Acting Debut

Budd Boetticher directed Ride Lonesome, a well mounted CinemaScope Western, starring Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Lee Van Cleef, and James Coburn in his screen debut.

Credit: B+ (***1/2* out of *****)

Ride Lonesome
Ride Lonesome 1959 Poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

One of Boetticher’s “Ranown cycle” of westerns, Ride Lonesome was a collaborative effort of star Scott, producer Harry Joe Brown and screenwriter Burt Kennedy.

Scott plays bounty hunter Ben Brigade, who upon finding killer Billy John (James Best) hiding, plans to take him to Santa Cruz, where he’s wanted for murder.

Billy then instructs Charlie, one of his gang, to notify his brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef), a notorious outlaw, that he has been apprehended by Brigade. Charlie and the rest of the gang ride off, and Brigade takes Billy prisoner, heading to Santa Cruz.

Along the trail, they come upon an eerily deserted stagecoach way station. After a voice from inside the station orders Brigade to drop his gun, outlaw Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) greets Brigade. Carrie Lane (Karen Steele), the absent station master’s wife, orders the men to leave at a gun point.

Brigade suspects that Boone and partner Wid (James Coburn) have come to rob the coach.  The stage then careens out of control and crashes, as the driver and passengers have all been massacred by Indians.

After burying the dead, Brigade waits for the Indians to attack. When Carrie voices her concern about him, Brigade snorts that her husband was foolish to leave her. Boone then tells Brigade that his and Wid’s goal was to capture Billy, in order to be granted amnesty for past crimes.

Boone has already bought a ranch for his new, rightful life. In the morning, they saddle up and Brigade orders Carrie to ride with them to pick up her husband.

Brigade explains that the Indian chief wants Carrie for his squaw and has offered to trade a horse for her. Brigade escorts Carrie to the chief, but when he offers a horse in trade, she recognizes the horse as belonging to her husband and screams, prompting the Indians to turn ride off.

Brigade gives the order to ride for cover at an adobe shack over the rise.  They try to hold off the Indians, and when the chief comes for Carrie, she shoots him with her gun.

Meanwhile, Frank and his gang reach the way station and, finding it deserted, follow Brigade’s tracks.  As Brigade nurses a traumatized horse, Carrie comments that he does not seem like “someone who would hurt a man for money.”

Boone offers to pay Brigade the price on Billy’s head if he hands over the outlaw, but Brigade refuses. Brigade then confides to Carrie that he is not interested in taking Billy, but in catching Frank.  When Brigade was sheriff of Santa Cruz, he arrested Frank for murder. Once Frank was released from jail, he kidnapped Brigade’s wife and hanged her.

After killing Frank, Brigade shoots Billy down from the tree while Boone and Wid chase off the rest of the gang. As Boone prepares to draw his gun against Brigade, Brigade turns Billy over to him and warns Boone to keep his promise about “going straight.”  As the others ride off toward Santa Cruz, Brigade sets the tree on fire.

DVD Release

In 2008 a DVD box set of five Budd Boetticher films starring Randolph Scott was released. Along with Ride Lonesome, the set includes Buchanan Rides Alone, Decision at Sundown, Comanche Station, and The Tall T.

In 2018, a Region Free Blu-ray set of the same films, some restored, was released by Powerhouse films on the ‘Indicator’ label. The title was Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960.


Randolph Scott as Ben Brigade
Karen Steele as Mrs. Carrie Lane
Pernell Roberts as Sam Boone
James Best as Billy John
Lee Van Cleef as Frank
James Coburn as Whit


Produced, directed by Budd Boetticher
Written by Burt Kennedy
Cinematography Charles Lawton Jr.
Edited by Jerome Thoms
Music by Heinz Roemheld
Color process Eastman Color

Production company: Ranown Pictures Corp.

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: February 15, 1959 (USA)

Running time: 73 minutes