Well, it seems Ralph sent for him; he needs a top trail boss to run nearly 5,000 head of cattle to Fort Clemson or else the town of Hamilton is finished and kaput (they’ve suffered a few financial setbacks). Hamilton’s precarious status isn’t helped by the fact that Ralph’s ex-foreman—a particularly odious individual who answers to “Garth” (Richard Shannon)—stole half of his herd (stealing from a blind man is pretty low, don’t you think?) and plots to beat Hamilton to market. It’s not going to be an easy trip (it’s not the ideal time to run cattle, particularly since most of the rivers are dry), but if anyone can accomplish the task it’s Cord—so while he accepts Hamilton’s proposal, bitterness over losing Janice and a burning desire to settle his score with the town’s populace (Cord maintains he always tried to stop the drovers from rompin’ and a-stompin’ in that unfortunate Hamilton pillaging incident) also inspires to him to cement an alliance with Garth, whom he’ll meet up with on the trail three days into the drive.
Several thespians who scored regular roles on Rawhide turn up in small parts in Empire, notably character great Paul “Wishbone” Brinegar, who plays one-half of a brotherly duo in the film (both serve as cooks on the cattle drive) as Thomas Jefferson Jeffrey. His brother (Hal K. Dawson) is “George Washington Jeffrey,” and on Rawhide, the Wishbone character inherited the first and name of “George Washington” (G.W. for short). (In “Incident of the Tinker’s Dam,” we meet Wishbone’s brother—he’s the one named “Thomas Jefferson,” and he’s played by the indestructible Regis Toomey.)
McCrea does well as a heel who turns out to be a hero, and there are nice contributions from Phyllis “Gypsy” Coates (as McCrea’s ex-fiancée) and Gloria Talbott (who seems to turn up in everything I’ve watched lately) as the women in Joel’s life. Old-time radio favorite Howard Culver also has a small bit as a preacher, and the actor who plays Ralph Hamilton’s younger brother Douglas is Bing Russell…whose son Kurt didn’t do too badly for himself when he later decided to get into the motion picture bidness.