A cattle-drive boss becomes sheriff in the lawless cattle-town and confronts the wealthy crook who dominates with his killers.
In 1866 the railroad reaches Kansas. Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn) has Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) arrested for killing too many buffalo. Railroad man Col. Dodge (Henry O'Neill) thanks Wade and asks him to build the town, but Wade declines.
In 1872 Dodge City is a lawless cattle town. Matt Cole (John Litel) asks Surrett to pay for his cattle. Ruby (Ann Sheridan) sings in a saloon. When Matt reaches for tobacco, Yancey (Victor Jory) shoots him. At the funeral Dr. Irving (Henry Travers) tells the marshal to arrest Yancey; but Surrett and his men abduct the marshal. On the cattle trail drunk Lee Irving (William Lundigan) shoots for fun, risking a stampede. When Wade warns him, Lee shoots at Rusty Hart (Alan Hale) and Wade. Lee is shot by Wade and killed in the stampede he caused. Wade apologizes to Lee's sister Abbie Irving (Olivia de Havilland). In Dodge City Wade and Rusty get a bath, meeting Surrett again. Dr. Irving tells Wade he understands about Lee, but Abbie holds a grudge. At an auction Wade refuses Surrett's high bid, because he won't pay cash, selling cattle to Orth (Russell Simpson). Cole's boy Harry (Bobs Watson) cares for Wade's horse. Orth is shot, but Wade won't sell to Surrett. Yancey complains to Joe Clemens (Frank McHugh) about his newspaper and knocks him down. Reformed Rusty avoids the saloon and attends a temperance meeting of women. At the saloon Ruby sings "Marching Through Georgia," but Texas (Guinn Williams) and others sing "Dixie." A brawl breaks out, and Rusty joins the fighting. Surrett finds Rusty drunk and tries to hang him; but Joe tells Wade, who pulls a gun on Surrett to stop it.
Dr. Irving and others ask Wade to clean up Dodge City; but he says he is busy until Harry is killed during a gun battle. Then Wade restores law and bans guns in the city. Wealthy Surrett offers him a deal that Wade rejects. Wade imposes taxes and even arrests his friend Tex for carrying a gun until he joins Rusty as a deputy. Wade finds Abbie writing for the paper and romances her. Mrs. Cole is selling her home, because Surrett never paid her the $15,000. Joe writes a story exposing Surrett but is killed. Wade sees ink on Yancey's hand and arrests him. Wade gets Taylor (Ward Bond) to say Yancey went out. Wade kisses Abbie and makes her go to Wichita for safety. Afraid of being lynched, Yancey has his lawyer (Charles Halton) get Wade to move him. On the train Surrett and his men shoot against Wade and his deputies. Surrett captures Abbie and frees Yancey. Amid fire Wade rescues Abbie. Horses carry off Surrett and Yancey, but Wade shoots them. In the final scene Col. Dodge asks Wade to clean up Virginia City; but Wade is marrying Abbie, who agrees to go.
This classic western reflects the dangerous world situation
in which callous force dominates whole countries, revealing the
need for law enforcement to stop the organized crime.