Guthrie McCabe (James Stewart) is a the marshal of a Texas town who spends most of his time in front of the local saloon, where he gets 10 percent of the action, in addition to favors from its owner, Belle Aragon Anelle Hayes. Based on his knowledge of the Commanche tribe, his friend, cavalry officer Jim Gary (Richard Widmark), asks him to help the army to recover long-missing white captives. Despite his initial reluctance, the ability of the opportunistic McCabe to neogotiate a lucrative per capita deal for his recovery of the captives, in addition to his desire to evade the marital intentions of Belle, seal the deal. Even after interviewing the captives' desperate relatives, the hardened McCabe is unmoved, although he believes their chance of ever seeing their relatives again as they once knew them is remote. However, as events unfold, the all-knowing marshal find he has a few things to learn.
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