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"Bend of the River" welcomes the fine blend of a passionate action with
intense characterization that had become Mann's masterful specialty...
Stewart (in his second feature with Mann after "Winchester '73") is seen as a reluctant hero, stumbled, brutalized and confused, chasing a personal mission with severe determination, and giving life to the complex moral and psychological forces that drive Mann's heroes...
Vivid as a laconic quiet man driven by betrayal to violent rage, Stewart is a former raider on the Missouri-Kansas border, who guides a wagon train of settlers to Oregon... There he gets double-crossed by associates who try to turn aside necessary food and supplies to gold-rush activities...
Ingenious and malicious, Arthur Kennedy (very much in his element), is Stewart's former companion-in-crime whom Stewart saves from hanging, and helps him fight the Indians on the way to Oregon...
Adroit, insincere, and dishonest, Kennedy turns on Stewart stealing the settler's supplies for a handsome profit but is later dispatched by an irritated and enraged Stewart...
Kennedy has been preferred in Westerns as the more insidious kind of villain: friendly, smiling, charming and smooth-talking on the surface, weak and corrupt underneath... His specialty is the courteous type who befriends the hero and then turns out to be planning something illegal to his own advantage on the side...
Julie Adams is along the ride as a love interest getting short penitence in all the macho interplay...
Rock Hudson is cast as a soft gambling man from San Francisco, adept at cards as well as women, defender of a fair deal, ready to fight beside his friends...
Filmed against a breathtaking Technicolor panorama, with nice music that highlights the action, "Bend of the River" is a good standard Western with pace and period feeling, rolling along to its predictable happy ending, discarding any unwanted characters...
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.
The acting of both Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy lifted this film well above the norm for a Hollywood Western. In particular, I liked Kennedy as the slimy guy you know MUST go bad before the picture is complete. Rock Hudson is fine, though not especially distinguished in his supporting role. On top of these two excellent performances, the writing is stellar, as the story is far from the typical production. It takes a lot of twists and turns and keeps your attention throughout. And, finally, the location cinematography is excellent, as the film has realism that is so often lacking in other Westerns--it is obvious this was filmed outdoors and not in some studio. All-in-all, an excellent film.
Now that this is out on DVD, I hope to be able to view this on a better
format: widescreen and a clearer prettier transfer. As with many
westerns, there is a lot to like visually. That includes Julia Adams,
who plays one of the leads: "Laura Baile." Adams was a decent actress
and had a very pretty face. I wonder why she never made it as a "star?"
Overall, this classic-era western has a pretty good story, a good cast led by James Stewart, and enough action to keep ones interest for the hour-and-a-half. I enjoyed most of the characters. Arthur Kennedy, Jay C. Flippen, Rock Hudson, Lori Nelson, Stephin Fetchit and Henry Morgan all comprise a well-known cast.
My only complaint was the "Rambo mentality," with two scenes in which good-guy Stewart should have been easily shot, but wasn't. In summary, pretty good storytelling and one to have in your collection if you are a fan of westerns, especially when Anthony Mann is the director. He and Stewart teamed up on several very good westerns in their day, and this is one of them.
The plot may be weak even if the action is only decently played out.
But what really makes this film, is the landscape. Breathtaking shots
of Mount Hood, some taken from near Timberline lodge, others on the
White River on the east flank, fed by the White River Glacier. Those of
the stern-wheeler trudging up the Columbia River past what is now
Rooster Rock State Park, but in those days was just a sandy spot below
Crown Point, perched high on the surrounding cliffs. Occasionally where
the action takes place at high altitude on Mount Hood, a panorama so
vast as to take in most of Oregon in a single frame. Even if you have
lived in the area your whole life, the photography will grab you every
time you watch Bend in the River.
In case the title doesn't quite make sense, think of life as the places in time and space where you made a turn, just as you would when traveling down a river and once again there is the bend you just passed, or the one you are about to encounter. The old timers saw life in these terms of metaphors, and they had a saying about "going to see the elephant", alluding to seeing something the likes of which no man could even imagine.
The second of five genre defining Westerns that director Anthony Mann
made with James Stewart, Bend Of The River is the first one to be made
in color. The slick screenplay is written by Borden Chase from William
Gulick's novel "Bend Of The Snake," with support for Stewart coming
from Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson & Jay C. Flippen.
Stewart plays guide Glyn McLyntock who in 1847 is leading a wagon- train of homesteaders from troubled Missouri to the Oregon Territory. What the group are hoping for is a new start, a paradise, with McLyntock himself hoping for a new identity to escape his own troubled past. But after rescuing Emerson Cole (Kennedy) from a lynching, it's an act that has far reaching consequences for McLyntock and the trail once they get to Portland.
In typical Anthony Mann style, McLyntock is a man tested to the maximum as he seeks to throw off his shackles and find a new redemption within a peaceful community. Cloaked in what would be become Mann's trademark stunning vistas (cinematography courtesy of Irving Glassberg), Bend Of The River is often thought of as the lighter tale from the Stewart/Mann partnership; most likely because it has more action and no little amount of comedy in there. But although it's a simple story in essence, it is given a hardboiled and psychological edge by the makers. An edge that asks searching questions of its "hero" in waiting. Can "McLyntock" indeed escape his past? And as a "hero" is it OK to use violence when he is wronged? Potent stuff that is acted with tremendous gravitas by Stewart.
Very recommended picture, but in truth all five of them are really. 7/10
James Stewart plays Glyn McLyntock whose job is to lead the settlers west.Emerson Cole, a man with a shady past, is played by Arthur Kennedy.He's there to help Glyn with the job.The settlers are gonna need some food for the winter and soon the other side of Cole steps out.Anthony Mann worked for the second time with James Stewart in Bend of the River (1952).Jimmy does good work as always.Arthur Kennedy is brilliant in his role.The beautiful and talented Julie Adams plays Laura Baile and she does it great.Lori Nelson is wonderful as Marjie Baile.Rock Hudson is a gambler named Trey Wilson and he's terrific.This movie has got the most wonderful scenery.It's great to watch all those wagons travel there towards a better future.This is a good western from 55 years back.The world has changed in that time- and so have the movies.
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
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.
This is truly a great Classic Western with the best super stars of all time. The special photography with cattle going up and down rocky hills and the many covered wagons and beautiful scenery of the Northwest was outstanding. James Stewart,(Glyn McLyntock),"Broken Arrow",'50, was a wagon train guide, and also had a wicked past life he was trying to forget about. Glyns wicked past came in hand having to face many situations that required lots of fighting and gun action. Arthur Kennedy(Emerson Cole),"Nevada Smith",'66 gave a very outstanding performance and also gave Glyn a real hard time because they both had past careers that were almost the same, however, Glyn was hateful deep in his very soul! Julie Adams,(Laura Baile), "Slim Carter",'57 was very beautiful and had a hard time trying to find out which guy she really wanted to HOOK! Rock Hudson,(Trey Wilson),"Iron Man,",'51, was a gambler and gave a rather weak performance, however, he was just starting his career and took almost any role that he was presented with. Jimmy Stewart always was very particular about any picture that he appeared in and I can see why he liked this film. Enjoy!!
Being a huge movie buff, I had thought I had seen every western film
ever made with the leading actors of the mid-20th century. We purchased
a DVD with 4 old westerns starring James Stewart - "Bend of the River"
was the first on the disk. I had never heard of it, but the cast
included Rock Hudson and Harry Morgan so I thought it would be
interesting at least.
It started out with action right from the start - which really caught me off-guard. I kept thinking to myself that it must get really slow/boring/stupid or something to merit it's lack of public awareness. Not so - this film kept me completely rapt with all its twists and turns.
The writing was incredible - comedy, drama and human angst all combined within a scene and then again, and again throughout the story. You felt you could relate to each character, no matter how minor or repugnant their role.
I am also a history buff with respect to ghost towns and the Gold Rush. What I have read about the real prospectors and the greedy businessmen who preyed on their pursuit of riches only enhances the believe- ability of this story.
Regardless of the goofs, errors or historical/geographical inaccuracies that have been listed within this site - this movie is a real gem.
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