Follow TV Tropes


Film / No Name on the Bullet

Go To

No Name On the Bullet is a 1959 western directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Audie Murphy Playing Against Type as a cold-blooded killer, Charles Drake as a good-hearted physician, and Joan Evans as the inevitable love interest.

John Gant (Murphy) is a gun for hire who always provokes his targets into shooting first, and never gives away who he's gunning for. The town goes nuts and tears itself apart trying to figure out who hired him and who he's coming for, while he sits back and watches with a Cheshire Cat Grin.

No Name on the Bullet is frequently considered one of the best of Murphy's westerns.

No Name On The Bullet contains examples of:

  • Analogy Backfire: Luke tells his father that Gant's continued presence just makes things worse for everyone, likening it to a cold turning into pneumonia. Asa points out that you can cure pneumonia sometimes but you can't cure a cold.
  • Ate His Gun: The banker Thad Pierce shoots himself out of fear of Gant. He wasn't the target.
  • Awful Wedded Life: While the stress of the situation likely contributes to it, the Fradens don't get along that well during their screen time, with Roseanne wondering out loud why she left her first husband for Lou and later saying that if he didn't send Gant and is letting them stay together then he must hate them worse than she'd thought.
  • Bad Liar: Stricker and Pierce aren't too convincing when they deny thinking that Gant is there to kill them.
  • Badass Boast: Gant while facing down the would-be vigilantes informs them that he does not kill without being paid...but they're tempting him.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: John Gant's response to the Sheriff's ordering him out of town? A contemptuously bored, "Go away."
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: When Sheriff Buck Hastings starts to draw on Gant as Gant is walking away from him, Gant spins round and shoots the gun out of his hand. Later, as Luke is bandaging Hastings' hand, Hastings confides to him that part of him is secretly glad, because even though this no means he has no hope of moving Gant on, the fact that is not dead means that he is not Gant's target.
  • Buy Them Off: Mine owners Earl Stricker and Thad Pierce assume that their partner, Ben Chaffee, has hired Gant to kill them to take sole ownership of the mine. When they find Gant in the saloon and propose a counter-offer; offering him double whatever he is being paid to leave town. However, Gant observes that no innocent man would be afraid, and turns them away.
  • Career-Ending Injury: At the end of the film, Luke breaks Gant's shoulder with a thrown hammer; leaving him unable to draw a gun. Although Luke offers to treat the injury, Gant just rides off, saying "A lot of men want to kill John Gant. It took a healer with a hammer to make it easy for them."
  • Chekhov's Skill: When Gant first meets Luke Canfield, Luke demonstrates his perfect aim with a maul by tossing the hammer so it hangs itself on a hook on the smithy wall. [[spoiller:In their final confrontation, Luke uses a thrown maul to shatter the shoulder of Gant's gun arm; destroying his career as a gunfighter]].
  • Cigar Chomper: Henry Reeger is a pretty heavy smoker.
  • The Confidant: Luke ocassionaly visits his fiancées father to talk about Gant, trying to understand what makes him tick, and the potential strategies for stopping him.
  • Crippling the Competition: At the end of the film, Luke breaks Gant's shoulder with a thrown hammer; leaving him unable to draw a gun. Although Luke offers to treat the injury, Gant just rides off, saying "A lot of men want to kill John Gant. It took a healer with a hammer to make it easy for them."
  • Death Glare: When John Gant looks at you, you've been freaking looked at.
  • Death Seeker: Gant declines Luke's offer to fix his broken arm and rides off, knowing that he is now an easy target.
  • Domestic Abuse: Subverted. Lou raises his hand as if to slip his wife after one insult but ultimately doesn't.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Gant barely ever raises his voice and remains calm even while facing down an enraged mob.
  • The Dreaded: When Professional Killer John Gant arrives in town, the locals are terrified by his reputation and surprised by how young he is. Every person with a guilty conscience assumes he is after them, and one person even commits suicide rather than face him, and two others try to kill each other, each convinced that the other hired Gant to kill them.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: One barks at Gant a lot as he rides into the area.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Anne is introduced making a meal for Luke and Asa.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Judge knowing that his time is about to run out.
    • A drunk Lou Fraden exclaiming, "You want me to," when Gant is daring him to draw.
    • Luke's ability to nail a target with a thrown hammer.
  • Frontier Doctor: Luke Canfield is the only doctor in the town of Lordsburg and, despite his self-deprecation, an exceptionally good one. He is also the town vet.
  • Genre Savvy: Judge Benson is fairly good at predicting what will happen, particularly when he wagers that the sheriff's failure will be followed by a mob.
  • The Ghost: Sam Ferris who Lou Fraden is convinced hired Gant to kill him, and the Governor, who Judge Benson suspects hired Gant to kill him.
  • Hero of Another Story: Sheriff Hastings has been a lawman for a long time and notes early on that with all the outlaws and powerful men he's crossed, he could easily be Gant's target (which causes him far less trepidation than most of the people who consider that possibility).
  • Hitman with a Heart: Gant doesn't kill a single person in the entire movie.
  • I Shall Taunt You: No one has ever convicted Gant of murder, because he always goads his targets into drawing first.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Sheriff Buck Hastings takes off his badge and tosses it into the dirt when he witnesses the bloodshed John Gant's presence in the town has unleashed and which he is powerless to stop.
  • Irony: "A lot of men want to kill John Gant. It took a healer with a hammer to make it easy for them."
  • Kindly Vet: Luke treats animals as well as people, and is constantly portrayed as the resident Nice Guy.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Ben Chaffee has a nice mustache, and is one of the tougher, less panicky locals.
  • Meaningful Name: "Gant" is a variant pronounciation of "Gaunt."
  • Menacing Stroll: Gant manages to stroll menacingly away from his victim.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Thad Pierce, who is afraid that Gant is after him and Earl Stricker for trying to force out their mining partner (who did most of the real work) although he comes across as more regretful and/or pathetic than his associate Stricker does. Luke also seems to think highly of Pierce, saying he's done a lot of good for the town and getting angry and defensive when Gant speculates that he's a thief.
  • The Needs of the Many: Judge Benson speculates that if they gave Gant whoever he was after, the town would recover before it fell into too deep of a panic. At first the judge seems like a Pragmatic Hero during that speech but later it becomes clear he was considering making a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • The Nicknamer: Gant dubs Luke "Physician."
  • Noble Demon: Gant doesn't kill for free; he also doesn't kill except those whom he feels need killing.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Gant believes he and Luke are not so different...being the only honest men in town.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: Gant bluffs Ann into glancing down at her gun, giving him the chance to grab it away.
  • Older Sidekick: Asa the blacksmith acts as Luke's, and gets added points for being his father.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Stricker is this, both in his method of acquiring part of Ben Chaffee's mine, and later suggests to Reeger that they let a drunk Lou Fraden challenge Gant to a duel rather than intervene, out of the off chance that he might win.
  • Papa Wolf: played for tragedy when Gant's taunting of the Judge takes this route.
  • Pet the Dog: Fear of Gant does being out the uglier sides of Stricker and Reeger but both men have positive moments as well. Stricker promises Hastings that the town will support him (in a sincere, comforting way) after he agrees to try to run off Gant, while Reeger shows visible alarm and concern when he hears Anne's confrontation with Gant and hurries to find Luke and alert him.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Earl Stricker gets paranoid after seeing Gant having a drink at the bar while his partner Ben Chaffee is there, causing him and Pierce to be convinced that Chaffee hired Gant to kill them. They then into the bar hoping to pay Gant into leaving and while they're sitting down with him, one of Chaffee's miners walks in, gets the wrong impression, and hurries out to tell Chaffee that Stricker and Pierce hired Gant to kill him.
  • Right Behind Me: Sid the bartender/hotel clerk is racing around telling people about Gant, and is just starting to tell Luke when he notices Gant standing there with him, causing him to abruptly shut up and move on.
  • Saloon Owner: Henry Reeger, who is clearly afraid that he could be Gant's target, although unlike others who are afraid of Gant it's never revealed why he thinks Gant is after him.
  • Shaming the Mob: Stricker gathers the townsmen to challenge Gant, and although Luke disapproves, he agrees to lead them, hoping to minimize the possible violence. Gant, angered to see Luke backed by a mob, warns the men that if they shoot him, he will still live long enough to kill Luke, saloon owner Henry Reeger (another man afraid Gant is after him), Asa, Stricker, and several other town leaders. The men disband silently.
  • The Sheriff: Sheriff Hastings is a sensible, law-abiding man who works hard to keep the peace in his town and is justifiably concerned about Gant.
  • Smart People Play Chess: The doctor and Gant play a game; it's mentioned that neither gets much of an opportunity to.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Reeger first gets paranoid that Gant is after him (or at least knows something about his past that he'd rather not discuss) when Gant calls him Dutch the first time they trade words. When Reeger's fellow card players question him about this, he's quick to change the subject.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims / A House Divided: Who is Gant after? Very few people take the opportunity to find out.
  • Those Two Guys: A pair of old men always paying chess or talking or sitting out in the sun.
  • Turn in Your Badge: The Sheriff does this at the end, disgusted by his inability to keep even the decent citizens from breaking the law.
    • Earlier, Deputy Miller hands in his badge after Gant outdraws and wounds the sheriff, not wanting to face Gant himself if the town council decides that You Are in Command Now.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: Asa was the one who first wanted his son to be a doctor, although Luke didn't protest and seems to enjoy the work.
  • The Watson: Deputy Miller, who doesn't know who John Gant is and how he operates, causing the Sheriff and Sid to explain it to him (and the audience).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ben Chafee who is badly wounded in a gunfight attacking someone he thinks sent Gant to kill him. Luke tells him that he'll be alright, but it's ultimately unrevealed whether or not he survived his wounds, or if anyone pressed charges against him if he did so.