One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau; Campeau's partner Dick Allen is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost?Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Excellent epic by DeMille, probably my favorite of his films
It doesn't suffer from any of his usual flaws. The pacing is perfect, the acting is not at all stilted, and the technical aspects don't dominate the story or the characters. The story centers around the building of the titular railroad. A banker hires a motley group of gamblers and whoremongers (led by Brian Donlevy) to slow down production and then invests in the Central Pacific. Joel McCrea plays a railroad cop, basically, who sees that Donlevy is trouble. He can't outright kick him out, because his army buddy and best friend (Robert Preston) is Donlevy's partner. To further complicate the relationship between McCrea and Preston, there is a girl caught between them (Barbara Stanwyck). It's a great story supported by fine performances all around. While the film runs for 2 hours and 19 minutes, it never seemed boring at all. There are several exciting setpieces, most notably an Indian attack. There are also a couple of great suspense sequences. I loved the scene where McCrea corners Preston and Stanwyck after the payroll has been stolen. It goes on for a long time but the suspense never breaks. Generally I don't think DeMille has skill enough to pull something like that off. My only real problem is that sometimes the good guys are as bad as the villains. McCrea has two sidekicks, played by Akim Tamiroff and Lynne Overman, who can't help but be referred to as henchmen. I mean, even the characters' names are sinister, Fiesta and Leach. Donlevy has a couple of henchmen as well (Anthony Quinn in an early role and Robert Barrat), and they aren't any scarier.
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