FOUR FACES WEST. MGM, 1948. Joel McCrea, Frances Dee, Charles Bickford, Joseph Calliea, and William Conrad. Screenplay by C. Graham Baker and Teddy Sherman, from the story “Paso Por Aqui” by Eugene Manlove Rhodes. Produced by Harry Sherman. Directed by Alfred E Green.

   “Pop” Sherman’s last Western is a gentle affair, maybe too gentle, but a fitting coda for the man who brought Hopalong Cassidy to the screen.

   Joel McCrea stars as a wandering westerner who rides into town and robs the bank while Marshall Pat Garrett (Charles Bickford) is giving a speech a few blocks away. A chase ensues. And ensues. And goes on… and on…. And about the time I’d had enough, the story takes a turn that brings things to a worthy, if tame, ending.

   Aye, there’s the rub. I’m not going to put in a ((SPOILER ALERT!)) here because it’s pretty obvious early on that nothing very bad is going to happen here. And when the viewer figures that out, the film forfeits a certain amount of interest. Much as we like the characters, it’s hard to care about them when we can see a happy ending galloping across the screen with every shot. And speaking of Shot, nobody gets killed in Four Faces. Hell, nobody even gets shot much. There’s not even a decent fist-fight in the whole film, and at a certain point we no longer expect one, so there’s no need to add ((END OF ALERT!)) here.

   For viewers accustomed to seeing a certain amount of action in their oaters — even a pacifist Western like Angel and the Bad Man — this can be off-putting. Four Faces compensates with a literate script, strong performances (Charles Bickford embodies everything I’d like to think Pat Garrett really was) and lustrous photography, and I’d like to think this was what Sherman wanted his Hoppy series to be.

   I’m just glad it wasn’t.