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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>
The story revolves around a group of pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail on their way to start new lives in the Oregon territory. After purchasing supplies in Portland and a promise to have them delivered before winter, they begin building their settlements in the valley they have chosen. In the meantime, gold is discovered in the territory and a dispute arises as to who will get those precious wagon loads of supplies.
There is much to enjoy. The cinematography, filmed in the Columbia River Gorge and around Mt. Hood in Oregon, is wonderful. We also get a glimpse of Celilo Falls, once a sacred fishing site for native Americans in the area but now buried beneath the waters backed up behind the Dalles Dam. The music score blends in nicely with the action and there is plenty of that. Of the actors, Rock Hudson seems out of place, but James Stewart more than makes up for it with his frenzied performance. He is electric when, left behind on the mountain side, he tells his adversary, "You'll be seeing me!"
However, this film is not without its faults. Quite a lot of blood is shed trying to get those wagons delivered but it doesn't seem to be much cause for concern or regret, as if life out on the frontier didn't hold much value. Characters are introduced one moment to be summarily disposed of the next. Trail boss Stewart, a former border raider during the Civil War looking to change his life, still uses violence on behalf of the settlers, who seem to enjoy moral superiority over the miners.
Thus, I don't consider "Bend of the River" among the best of several director Mann/actor Stewart collaborations of the 1950's. Even so, it is a cut above usual Western fare. The scenery, music and steel-eyed Stewart are all magnificent.
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