Ambush At Cimarron Pass was a western so poor, it nearly made a young Clint Eastwood quit the movie business. As both an actor and director, Clint Eastwood has had many hits, including the Dirty Harry movie franchise, In The Line Of Fire and American Sniper. He was also one of the last true western movie stars and made many iconic films in the genre, including The Man with No Name trilogy and The Outlaw Josey Wales.
Eastwood’s raspy voice, squinty eyes and stoic demeanor were almost custom-built for westerns. Of course, like any actor, Eastwood was far from an overnight success. His early filmography is littered with small roles in b-movies like Revenge Of The Creature, Star In The Dust and Tarantula! His first breakthrough was playing Rowdy Yates on TV series Rawhide, which ran for eight seasons between 1959 to 1965, and might be best remembered today for its catchy theme tune.
While it’s all but forgotten now, one of Clint Eastwood’s – who once passed on Superman – first major film roles came with Ambush At Cimarron Pass. This 1958 western cast Scott Brady as Sergeant Blake, who teams his men with a group of cowboys from a cattle drive – including Eastwood’s Williams – when they find themselves under siege from Native Americans determined to steal rifles the group is hauling. This shaky partnership is tested by repeated attacks and tension between the two groups as they try to reach the safety of a nearby fort. Despite being one of his first big roles, Eastwood was far from a fan of Ambush At Cimarron Pass, reportedly once dubbing it “the lousiest western ever made.”
More than that, Ambush At Cimarron Pass found Clint Eastwood – who once pitched John Wayne a western – at a crossroads in his career. In 1978, he recalled the experience of watching the movie with Crawdaddy magazine, stating “It was sooo bad I just kept sinking lower and lower in my seat. I said to my wife ‘I’m going to quit, I’m really going to quit.” In the aftermath of watching Ambush At Cimarron Pass, he considered going back to school and training in something else, presumably because after finally scoring a leading role, he was heartbroken over the movie’s quality.
Luckily, Eastwood soon landed Rawhide, which would lead to 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars and movie stardom. If Eastwood hadn’t booked Rawhide shortly after Ambush At Cimarron Pass though, it’s hard to say what would have happened to his career. The movie itself wasn’t very positively reviewed upon release and was seen as a cheap western programmer with a generic story. For Clint Eastwood fans it might be worth viewing for an early look at the actor he would become, but even his performance leaves a little to be desired.