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In 1856, backwoods businessman Logan Stuart escorts Lucy Overmire, his friend's fiancée, back home to remote Jacksonville, Oregon; in the course of the hard journey, Lucy is attracted to Logan, whose heart seems to belong to another. Once arrived in Jacksonville, a welter of subplots involve villains, fair ladies, romantic triangles, gambling fever, murder, a cabin-raising, and vigilantism...culminating with an Indian uprising that threatens all the settlers. No canyon in sight. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Gorgeous and a great story set in Oregon in the late 1800s...great!
Canyon Passage (1946)
This is a tale with a not so subtle moral message--the man who is modest, just, and hardworking is the better man. And he'll get the sassy girl, the one who is currently attached to the gambling big spender who is the good man's friend and opposite. Dana Andrews plays the virtuous leading man perfectly--he's strong without being a tough or outrageous strong man (like John Wayne) and he's also kind, with a smile the shoots off his sombre face like a flash of light. That's he's popular with women is no surprise, but he's committed most of all to being a successful businessman, and a restless one, roving from outpost to outpost in beautiful Oregon.
His counterpart is the likable but flawed Brian Donlevy, who is really the perfect choice here because he isn't the kind of paradigm we will quite fall in love with. The woman who steals the show is Susan Hayward. And then there is Hoagy Carmichael, playing a role he often plays, the musician wise man who sees everything and understands it before anyone else. It's a great group, supported by hundreds of others (yes--an ambitious film) and directed with a subtle, fast touch by the unsung great, Jacques Tourneur.
So, in short, "Canyon Passage" was surprise and a total pleasure. I couldn't take my eyes off of the photography and the rich color, good pure Technicolor with the redoubtable Natalie Kalmus coordinating. The plot is strong, and Andrews is terrific in scene after scene. Westerns are sometimes difficult to see from the 21st Century without putting it into some history of film context, but this one works as a drama, pure and simple, a drama set out west in the late 1800s. The movie is also unique in being set in the lush mountains near Portland, Oregon. The scenery is gorgeous in the big sense, but every small scene is lush and forested and rainy--almost the opposite of that dry, open, blue sky norma in a "Western" strictly speaking. Interiors in golden lamplight lead to exteriors of dripping greens and blues, or the delicate grays of night.
Even the music is great, especially the lighthearted and clever songs by Carmichael. (The great Frank Skinner handled the rest of the score.) Edward Cronjager is one of the dozen great cinematographers of classic Hollywood, and in this you can see why. It's a complex film, visually, and it never lets up. Especially the night scenes (where the lights and sets could be controlled perfectly) are vivid and have that controlled beauty of great studio (and location) Hollywood. If any of these elements sound good, I wouldn't miss this film.
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