During the early 20th century, a plucky runaway orphan named Biarn (Brandon DeWilde, the little kid from Shane) wanders into a small town and befriends Tobias (Lee Marvin), a well-to-do sharecropper and Doyle (Gary Merrill) an easy-going journalist. While Tobias teaches him how to work for a living, Doyle schools him on how to act like a civilized kid. When Tobias swindles Biarn out of his beloved horse, Doyle steps in and makes a wager that Biarn’s horse can beat Tobias’ in a race. It all ends with one long, good natured, knock-down-drag-out, Quiet Man inspired fight scene between Doyle and Tobias.
The Missouri Traveler is a pleasant yet slight family flick that has a handful of decent performances but little else. I mostly sat through this flick because of Lee Marvin. He really commands the screen and the film always perks up whenever he’s around. The trouble is; he isn’t around nearly enough to make the movie worthwhile. For the most part, the flick was just way too wholesome and syrupy (it’s the sorta thing you’d expect to see on The Hallmark Hall of Fame) for my tastes. Grandparents and/or other recipients of Medicare will probably eat it up though.
Marvin gets the best line of the movie when he says, “A good farmer works from Can to Can’t… From when he ‘Can’ see in the morning til he ‘Can’t’ see at night!”