Bend of the River (1952)

Bend of the River (1952) movie poster

director Anthony Mann
viewed: 08/29/2015

Jimmy Stewart is a former border raider leading a wagon train to Oregon to set down roots and start homesteading.  He saves the life of a man about to be lynched, another former raider, not quite sure if he’s ready to settle down but joins up for the trek.  When they get to Portland, the homesteaders purchase supplies and catch a steamboat up toward their stake and start working their land.  When a promised and paid for shipment of supplies fails to show up, Stewart heads back down to Portland to see what’s what.

Turns out there has been a gold rush and the merchant who sold them their goods hasn’t sent them because he’s planning on selling them for hugely inflated prices.  When Stewart and his men get the steamboat laded up, they make a break for it.  A chase ensues with the greedy rabble ready to make a break to the highest bidder.

This is another of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns, and another good one.  Morality and the Wild West are challenged by greed, and even Stewart’s good-hearted hero forces the layabouts at gunpoint to aid him, promising them decent pay at the end of the line but no choice in the matter.  The other former raider (Arthur Kennedy) doesn’t ultimately have as high a moral code and the showdown must commence.  A lot of it was shot on location in Oregon and bears the unique landscapes of that state.

The film has a good cast, including Rock Hudson as an unlikely gambler good guy and the lovely Julie Adams (Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)) as primary love interest.  It also features a youngish Harry Morgan as Shorty, one of the “treacherous hired men” (as Wikipedia puts it).  And Steppin Fetchit!  Controversial as he was, he was also very good.

I’ve now seen three of the Mann/Stewart Westerns (Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River, and The Naked Spur (1953).  I’ll have to check out the other two as well (The Far Country (1955) and The Man from Laramie (1955).

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