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The workers on the railroad haven't been paid in months --- that's because Whitey and his gang, including fast-shooting, dangerous, but likeable Utica Kid, keep holding up the train for its payroll. Grant McLaine, a former railroad employee who was fired in disgrace, is recruited to take the payroll through under cover. A young boy and a shoebox figure into the plot when Whitey's gang tries to hold up the train and Grant and the Kid meet again to settle an old score. Written by
"Night Passage" is one of a series of westerns made by the venerable James Stewart for Universal in the 50's and 60's. This one is directed by James Neilson rather than Anthony Mann but is nonetheless an above average western.
Grant McLaine (Stewart) has been wondering from place to place over the past five years earning his living by singing songs and playing the accordion. McLaine had been fired by the railroad for appearing to have helped his outlaw brother, The Utica Kid (Audie Murphy) escape justice five years earlier. The railroad is being robbed of their payrolls by Whitey Harbin (Dan Duryea) and his gang. Railroad boss Kimball (Jay C. Flippen) rehires McLaine to guard the next payroll. Along the way McLaine learns that the Utica Kid is a part of Whitey's gang.
McLaine befriends a boy, Joey (Brandon DeWilde) as he is being chased by surly villain Concho (Robert Wilke). Later, the train on which they are traveling is held up by the gang and Kimball's wife Verna (Elaine Stewart) is taken captive. After being pistol whipped by Concho, McLaine recovers and trails the gang to their hideout. There he poses as the person bringing the ransom money while meeting up with his brother. Will blood be thicker than water? You'll have to wait until the final showdown.
The film is beautifully photographed and the railroad setting provides for many scenic moments. The Stewart character doesn't quite have the edge that he would have had in a Mann film, however ANY film with James Stewart is worth your time. Murphy playing in an rare "A" level movie does okay as the all in black gunfighter. Duryea is at his usual sneering slightly mad best as the chief villain.
Of the supporting players, Olive Carey (widow of Harry Carey) has a delightful bit as a muleskinner named Miss Vittles. Dianne Foster appears as Murphy's girl, "Charlie" and Paul Fix and Ellen Corby are hilarious as the Feeneys. In addition to Wilke, Duryea's gang includes Jack Elam and Chuck Roberson. For nostalgic TV fans Herbert Anderson (Dennis the Menace) and Hugh Beaumont (Leave It To Beaver) have small roles as well.
Worth your while.
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