Along The Great Divide was the first western Kirk Douglas made, and it was a genre he returned to many times throughout his career. Westerns used to be a cinema staple in the early days of Hollywood, with the genre making stars out of John Wayne (The Searchers) and Clint Eastwood (A Fistful Of Dollars). The popularity of the western began to wane somewhat in the 1960s, and by the 1970s Eastwood was one of the few actors still making them with the likes of The Outlaw Josey Wales.
There have been some fantastic westerns produced in the years since then, including Unforgiven, Tombstone and Bone Tomahawk. There have even been some great western video games like Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption or Call Of Juarez. It's fair to say the genre has never reclaimed the popularity it once had, however, and westerns are seen by many as too old-fashioned to catch on with modern audiences.
Kirk Douglas is the definition of a movie star and jumped from genre to genre throughout his long career. Westerns served him very well, and he starred in the likes of Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, The War Wagon - alongside John Wayne - and he both directed and starred in 1975's Posse with Bruce Dern (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood). Along The Great Divide is where it all began for the star, which marked his western debut.
Along The Great Divide finds Douglas playing Marshal Merrick, who rescues a murder suspect dubbed "Pop" (Walter Brennan, Rio Bravo) from a lynching by the father of his supposed victim. Merrick instead escorts him to stand trial, which proves to be an eventful journey as men hired by the vengeful father give chase. Along The Great Divide isn't considered one of the great westerns because it doesn't do really do anything new with the material, but it's still a solid movie with some great performances by Douglas, Brennan and Virginia May (Murder, She Wrote).
While it may have been his first step into the genre, Douglas wasn't fond of Along The Great Divide. He claims to have made it purely to fulfill a contractual obligation and disliked working with director Raoul Walsh, who apparently rushed through his productions. Kirk Douglas would round out his involvement with the western genre with 1984's TV movie Draw! This paired him with fellow genre icon James Coburn (The Magnificent Seven).