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Two men with questionable pasts, Glyn McLyntock and his friend Cole, lead a wagon-train load of homesteaders from Missouri to the Oregon territory. They establish a settlement outside of Portland and as winter nears, it is necessary for McLyntock and Cole to rescue and deliver food and supplies being held in Portland by corrupt officials. On the trip back to the settlement, up river and over a mountain, Cole engineers a mutiny to divert the supplies to a gold mining camp for a handsome profit. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
Bend of the River is the second Anthony Mann/James Stewart western and the first in technicolor. The technicolor is used to best advantage here with some great footage of the Columbia River and surrounding vicinity. And Mann used in support of Stewart, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Arthur Kennedy and Rock Hudson all of whom had appeared in Mann films before and/or would again. Anthony Mann is never given credit for the stock company he had. Like John Ford, Mann liked using the same players in his films.
Jimmy Stewart is guiding a group of settlers west and along the way saves Arthur Kennedy from a lynching. Turns out they're both former border raiders from the Missouri/Kansas area, but Stewart's decided to go honest.
When they arrive in Portland, the settlers are warmly greeted and a deal is made by settler leader Jay C. Flippen for needed supplies for his people during the winter.
When Stewart and Flippen return for the supplies, there's been a gold strike and the town is mad with gold fever. They have to take what was due them and then have to fight to get the supplies back to the settlers. Seems some prospectors want them also.
The point is that there are no options for Stewart and Flippen. These supplies have to get to their colony or they will freeze and starve during the winter. They have to fight prospectors, townspeople and treachery in their own group to get the goods where they are needed.
There's no law here to help them. It's broken down totally along with all kinds of behavioral virtues when gold fever has struck. One of the best performances in the film comes from Howard Petrie town merchant who can't do enough for the settlers on their first arrival. When we see him next when Stewart and Flippen come for their goods, it's like we're seeing a totally different human being. Petrie has practically morphed into Fred C. Dobbs.
I don't think Jimmy Stewart has ever been more ruthless on the screen than he is here. His characters in Anthony Mann films are always purpose driven whether it's revenge like in Winchester 73, an outlaw bounty so he can start a new life in The Naked Spur, or even an idea he has like offshore oil drilling in Thunder Bay.
But in Bend of the River it's a matter of survival and to prove to himself that he can and has changed his character for the better. It's as much an internal struggle for Stewart as it is with the forces allied against him.
It's another ten star winner for the Stewart/Mann team.
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