Directed By: Raoul Walsh
Starring: Teresa Wright, Robert Mitchum, Judith Anderson
Trivia: This was the movie Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, watched the night he died
Pursued is a complex psychological western starring Robert Mitchum, who plays a man searching for answers, and not finding them anywhere.
Jeb Rand (Mitchum) is a war hero whose childhood was marred by tragedy. The only survivor of a massacre that claimed the lives of his family, Jeb’s lone memory of the ordeal is that of a mysterious man in spurs. Raised by the kindly Ma Callum (Judith Anderson), Jeb became a step-brother to her children, Thorley (Teresa Wright) and Adam (John Rodney). Once adults, Jeb and Thorley fall in love with one another, and it looks as if Jeb has finally found the inner peace he's been searching for his whole life. But a one-armed stranger named Grant (Dean Jagger) soon rolls into town, intent on making sure Jeb never forgets his tumultuous past.
Mitchum has portrayed his share of tormented men, many of whom end up on the wrong side of the law. He was just about perfect as the murderous preacher in Charles Laughton’s 1955 classic, The Night of the Hunter, and set the screen ablaze as the ex-con out for revenge in 1962’s Cape Fear. In Pursued, the actor is given a chance to play a more sympathetic character, yet that doesn't make him any less disturbed. What's more, his Jeb has absolutely no idea why the past is haunting him so. He vividly remembers the man in spurs, as well as a few bright flashes of light, but can't piece anything together to determine what it all means. Where Mitchum's Jeb is looking to solve the puzzle that is his life, Grant seems to have all the pieces, making several references to Jeb's real family and saying anyone bearing the name Rand is unfit to live. It’s only a matter of time, Grant tells Ma Callum, before Jeb meets the same fate as the rest of his family, and Jeb wants to know why.
“I always liked a picture that had some roughness and toughness to it”, director Raoul Walsh once said. “I figured it woke the audience up”. Well, Pursued, which has all the rugged intensity of an old-time western, definitely kept me awake. But it was the mystery surrounding its central character that really grabbed my attention.