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The Rare Breed is a 1966 American western film starring James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara, Brian Keith, Juliet Mills and Ben Johnson and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. Loosely based on the life of rancher Col. John William Burgess, the film follows Martha Price's (O'Hara) quest to fulfill her deceased husband's dream of introducing Hereford cattle to the American West. The film was one of the early major productions to be scored by John Williams, who was billed as "Johnny Williams" in the opening credits.

The Rare Breed
Directed byAndrew V. McLaglen
Produced byWilliam Alland
Written byRic Hardman
StarringJames Stewart
Maureen O'Hara
Brian Keith
Juliet Mills
Don Galloway
Jack Elam
Ben Johnson
Harry Carey, Jr.
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyWilliam H. Clothier
Edited byRussell F. Schoengarth
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • February 2, 1966 (1966-02-02)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]


English women Martha Price (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter Hilary (Juliet Mills) come to the US via boat with Hereford stock pursuing the dream of Martha's husband, who accidentally died on board, to bring Hereford to the West. They're now left with Hilary's bull, a result of years of European breeding, named Vindicator. Vindicator exhibits all the gentility of breeding, including an odd willingness to follow Hilary merely at the whistle of "God Save the Queen".

At auction, he results in a bidding war and is ultimately won by Charles Ellsworth (David Brian), who has come to purchase stock for the wealthy Texas rancher Alexander Bowen (Brian Keith). Sam Burnett (James Stewart), a local wrangler known for being able to take down bulls just by looking at them, is hired to transport the bull to Bowen's ranch. Ellsworth has bought the bull primarily to woo Martha, and when she is confronted by him when trying to claim her payment for the bull she decides to ensure Vindicator's delivery by accompanying him en route.

Martha Price is told by daughter Hilary about a conversation she overheard between Burnett and two men working for competing rancher John Taylor (Alan Caillou). Burnett has made a deal with Taylor to steal the bull. Hilary doesn't yet know that Burnett has made the deal mostly to ensure another wrangler doublecrossed by Taylor would receive some money to take care of himself after an injury. One of Taylor's men, Deke Simons (Jack Elam), gets into a fight with Burnett in the saloon over terms. Price, witnessing the brawl, comes to trust Burnett. Despite Burnett's objections, he accepts responsibility for the Price women through the train ride to the west and the following wagon trail.

One night while Price and Burnett have finished brewing coffee over the campfire, a shot knocks the coffee pot of Burnett's hand. Burnett knows this is a signal from Taylor's men. Just before dawn, Hilary catches Burnett as he is about to hand over the bull. He denies her accusations, waking her mother to prove he was innocent. Once again, Price gives Burnett the benefit of the doubt.

Taylor's men find a fence which has been hacked through to make way for Price's wagon. They conclude that Burnett must have double-crossed them. Simons, determined to catch up with Burnett, shoots a companion and rides on after the wagon.

In a canyon, Burnett runs into Jamie Bowen (Don Galloway), Alexander's son, who has stolen a herd of his father's longhorn cattle and is running away to start his own ranch. Simons catches up and shoots a cowhand, setting off a stampede. Jamie tries to escape but falls in the path of the charging cattle.

Battered and unconscious, Jamie is carried by Burnett back to the wagon. Simons is there holding Price and her daughter hostage. Simons demands the money that Burnett was paid by Taylor for the bull. Simons also demands Price's money, but while distracted, Burnett is able to take his rifle. Simons mounts and gallops away. Burnett follows. As horses collide, Simons falls onto a sharp rock and is killed instantly.

Burnett returns with the money, but Price berates him for his dishonesty and the trouble he has caused. After a few days of travelling with Bowen's son in tow, they reach their destination, his father's ranch.

At the ranch they're introduced to Jamie's father, Bowen, a Scottish soldier turned cattle rancher at a fort also populated by local families of Mexican heritage. While Hilary nurses Jamie back to health, Martha begins teaching the local children in school. Though Bowen and Burnett insist the Price women should leave for the East again before they're snowed in, they refuse until Jamie is well and they've taught the men to properly care for Vindicator.

Bowen continues to insist that Hereford cattle can't make it through the tough conditions on the range and thus make them a bad match. Martha and Hilary insist, and slowly, Burnett is coming over to their side. Martha, upon witnessing the wildness of the longhorn cattle, realizes that until Vindicator proves himself, they'll never have the men on their side. Hilary races back to the fort, and releases Vindicator into the wild.

With Vindicator now in the wild to fend for himself and Jamie on the mend, the Price women announce it is time for them to go, but Jamie insists he's in love with Hilary, who returns the proclamation and Martha, upon seeing them, realizes she needs to stay as well. This suits both Bowen, who's realized he's in love with Martha, and Burnett, who's known he loved Martha since they met.

It is a particularly brutal winter and Burnett insists on finding Vindicator and bringing him back to shelter him all winter. Through repeated outings, he can't find the bull and while he's away, Bowen cleans himself up, begins serving tea and showing Martha his gentlemanly side in an attempt to woo her.

Burnett is reported missing and the men finally find him, almost frozen. Bowen insists that he can have any calves that result from Vindicator, but surely the bull is dead. Burnett refuses to give up hope, even though Hilary and Martha have come to accept this as truth.

When the spring finally breaks, Burnett begins searching for Vindicator again, hoping for calves and begins building a new kind of farm, where the animals are treated better and Herefords can not only subsist but thrive. He finally discovers Vindicator, long dead under a snowdrift. He still insists that calves may be coming.

Martha, out of reluctance for anything else, agrees to marry Bowen, but only after there is no chance of calves from Vindicator. In one of the last scenes, Burnett finally finds a Hereford calf, and brings him back to the fort. Bowen and Burnett fight over Martha, and Burnett declares his love for Martha, and Bowen steps aside.

At the end, we're shown an entire field of Herefords, with Martha and Burnett musing that they're glad they kept a "few LongHorn, to remember the way it used to be". Hilary and Jamie approach, now married, and Hilary whistles in the hopes that one of the cattle will respond, and claims, "sometimes, I see a glimmer of him in one of them".



Portions of the film were shot in the Coachella Valley, California. Train scenes were filmed in the Red Hills area near Jamestown, Tuolumne County, California, utilizing the Sierra Railway's famous Number 3 locomotive. [2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
  2. ^ Palm Springs Visitors Center. "Coachella Valley Feature Film Production 1920–2011". Filming in Palm Springs. Palm Springs, CA. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)Download[permanent dead link] (Downloadable PDF file)

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