Adapted from Alan Le May's novel, a cowboy is mistaken for a wanted criminal and is attracted to the criminal's girlfriend.
After a stagecoach is ambushed and robbed, a reward is offered for tall Monte Jarrad. Melody Jones (Gary Cooper) and George Fury (William Demarest) ride into Payneville. Melody's saddle has the initials MJ, and people suspect him. George drinks in the saloon and denies he is Monte's uncle. Melody likes being feared and tells him not to smile. Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young) rescues them from an ambush and tells them of the $10,000 reward. Cherry and her brother Avery (Frank Sully) tell them to leave. Cherry tells Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea) how Melody knocked down a man who insulted her. Jealous Monte warns her not to stray.
Melody and George go back because Cherry sent them south. She finds Melody laying on her bed and asks him to sleep there. George says he went to town and gives Melody a note from Ira Waggoner to go see him. Cherry tells Melody that she is helping Monte. Melody trades saddles to please her, and they kiss before he goes. Monte tells Cherry that he will send for her and leaves.
Melody kicks over a poker table and talks with Ira Waggoner (Walter Sande), who demands his share of the stolen money. Leo (Don Costello) comes in and gives Ira orders. Leo walks out with Melody and makes him ride out of town. Leo thinks Melody killed Monte, but Melody says he is alive. Cherry prevents a gun duel and tells George to make Leo walk out into the desert. Cherry asks Melody to turn in the money in the spring, and he promises to wait. Luke Packard (Willard Robertson) from the express company holds a gun on Melody and Cherry while he waits for the posse. Melody fears being hanged by the Cottons and asks Cherry if he can turn over the money. She tells Packard where it is. Packard is shot from outside and dies. George comes in, and they figure Monte is outside.
The sheriff (Arthur Loft) arrives, and a deputy knocks out George, who is trying to keep Melody from talking. The sheriff tries to make Melody say where the money is, but he and Cherry escape. Melody goes to her house, but she is not there. Monte comes in with a gun and makes Melody exchange clothes with him. Melody says that Cherry is not Monte's anymore. Cherry comes in and says George is dying; she blames Monte as Melody goes to George. Monte's men warn him the posse is coming, and a shootout begins. Melody refuses to leave and tells Cherry why he came back. Monte wounds Melody, who misses, but Cherry kills Monte.
Melody is released from jail and gives George the reward money. George denies shooting Monte, and Melody takes the money to Cherry. He accuses her of aiming at him; but she shows him she can shoot accurately, and they kiss.
In this satire of westerns the hero handles a gun poorly,
but the pretty woman is a crack shot.