Timberjack is a 1955 American Trucolor Western film directed by Joseph Kane and starring Sterling Hayden, Vera Ralston, David Brian, Adolphe Menjou, Hoagy Carmichael and Chill Wills.
In the late 1800s, college-educated Tim Chipman returns to his boyhood home in the Talka area of Montana, after learning that his father, a lumberman who owns substantial timber property, has had a serious accident. Arriving after the elder Chipman has died, Tim learns the sad news from his former sweetheart, Lynne Tilton, who owns and performs in the popular saloon and dance hall “Vermillion Belle.” A private talk with Steve Riika, the Chipmans’ foreman and close family friend, increases Tim’s suspicion that behind his father’s death was foul play orchestrated by Croft Brunner, another logging operator who co-owns the Chipmans’ small railroad connected to the main line. The scheming Brunner, who was often at odds with Chipman, Sr., charges an $11,000 assessment on Chipman timber stock and prevents Tim from getting his lumber to market by closing the railroad until it is paid. Brunner then offers to buy Chipman land, claiming that he will pay more for it than it is worth.
However, Tim has secretly been told by Lynne’s father, Swiftwater “Swiftie” Tilton, who is also Brunner’s lawyer, why Brunner wants the land: Brunner has found a loophole in an old legal restriction that has prevented the clearcutting of old growth for several decades. Knowing that the old growth timber on his land can now be cut, Tim also realizes that his land is much more valuable that Brunner’s offer and refuses to sell. Meanwhile, although Swiftie is beginning to realize how far Brunner will go to achieve his ambitions, Lynne is considering marriage to the businessman and refuses to believe Tim, when he tells her his suspicion that Brunner murdered his father. Still, she remains loyal to Tim and when three Brunner employees, Axe-Handle Ole, Punky and Red Bush, beat Tim up, Lynne and her piano player, Jingles, come to Tim’s rescue. After Tim recuperates, he and Steve make plans to sneak the timber out at night. While Tim and his men steal the train engine and several flat cars away from the station, Lynne tries to avoid a violent showdown between the two factions by distracting Brunner’s men with a high-spirited performance accompanied by the accordian-playing Jingles. Brunner, having been alerted by Tim’s man, Pauquette, orders his men to follow the train to the loading area, but, despite a rowdy fistfight, they are unable to prevent the shipment from leaving. Later, Brunner kills the inebriated Swiftie in an argument and has his body hidden in the woods. Although Swiftie’s death appears accidental, Jingles points out that Swiftie never went anywhere without a hat, yet no hat was found near his body. Ole, despite his penchant for roughhousing, is uncomfortable with Swiftie’s death and switches his allegiance to Tim, who hires him with some misgivings. Brunner, meanwhile, sends for ammunition specialists to dynamite the waterway Tim is using to transport his lumber to market. After learning about the dynamiters, Lynne confronts Brunner in his office and finds Swiftie’s hat. When he threatens her and tries to prevent her from leaving with evidence of his guilt, she shoots Brunner in the arm, and with Jingles’ help, rushes out to warn Tim. Using information supplied by Pauquette, Brunner finds Lynne alone and they exchange gunfire, until Tim and Steve, alerted by Jingles, rescue her. Remembering his father’s words, that the only way to stop Brunner is to kill him, Tim pursues Brunner in the woods, where he kills his foe in a shootout. With Brunner dead, his men go quietly when Tim orders them out of the area. Ole then confesses that Brunner killed the older and frailer Chipman during an argument that turned into a fistfight. Later, at Tim and Lynne’s wedding celebration at the Vermillion Belle, Lynne hands over the ownership of the dance hall to Jingles.