Trailblazer Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn) is proud to be part of the railroad's westward expansion to Kansas after the Civil War, but is less impressed to find what a lawless place Dodge City has become in the few years he's spent driving cattle and running wagon trains. He delivers the young Miss Abby Irving (Olivia de Havilland) to her uncle Dr. Irving (Henry Travers) in Dodge City after her drunk, irresponsible brother is killed in a stampede along the trail. When he learns the town is now under the control of his old enemy and double-dealing crook Jeff Surrett, he decides to stick around. He ends up confronting Surrett to protect his trusty sidekick Rusty (Alan Hale), and is asked by the true citizenry of Dodge City to take over the position of sheriff, a role he is reluctant to take on until a young boy ends up dying during crossfire in the streets. Sheriff Hatton quickly goes about making the whole town quiet and civilized and taxed into submission, drawing hordes of new settlers. And Wade begins to focus on wooing the headstrong Abby, now a newspaperwoman, and ends up having to protect her as his sole witness in his court case against Surrett. The whole thing comes to a head when Surrett tries to save one of his men who's a prisoner of Wade's being transported to trial. Wade manages to shoot them all as they try to ride to safety, and so on to the next adventure for the lawman and his girl.
Any film directed by Michael Curtiz (three years pre-Casablanca) and reuniting Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn (one year post-Robin Hood) and made during Hollywood's golden year of 1939 has to have some merit to it. As a western, it certainly has all the necessary elements: wild-west town, wagon train, buffalo herds and cattle stampedes, gunfights, bar brawls, church women and loose women, good guys and bad guys, and riding off into the sunset. And Curtiz certainly has an eye for it all, keeping the action going. There's nothing unique about the acting, with Flynn playing exactly to type, as always portraying a much better human being than he actually was. De Havilland is stuck in a underdeveloped role, Hale provides the comic relief, the villains are suitably slithery and unsympathetic, and the few African-American actors are abysmally stereotyped (Jesus, Hollywood in the 1930s was racist).
Overall, a predictably rousing and well-directed, albeit not particularly memorable, western.