Bend of the River (1952)
Two men with mysterious pasts, McLyntock (James Stewart) and Cole (Arthur Kennedy) lead a group of settlers deep into the wilderness beyond Portland. The settlers begin to run out of food and McLyntock must return to Portland – now under the rule of a corrupt official – to secure the promised-supplies of food for his group of homesteaders. However, things do not run smoothly…..as it becomes clear that Cole may have different plans and intentions to McLyntock.
An ‘epic’ which feels a bit like it could have been a 6-episode series or something.
Each character gets into the audience’s head and we care for all of those involved. Cole’s performance is the real treat and of course, Jimmy Stewart is as reliably gallant as you might expect. Stewart plays a reformed raider looking to leave his past self from where he came and to set-up as a rancher with his group of settlers. Cole, although initially warmed by these ideas, cannot shake his own past and soon begins to diverge from Stewart – the pace of their parting quickens once money and gold become involved. In essence, this is what the whole film is about – the damaging effects of money , gold and greed on the good intentions of men.
Watch out for stalwarts Harry Morgan and Royal Dano as the hired but untrustworthy help. Rock Hudson is highly-billed but he actually doesn’t play much more than bit-part in the film – he’s a gambler stuck in-between Stewart and Kennedy.
The film looks great – Anthony’s Mann camera captures some of the best scenery I have seen here – and the movie moves along like the galloping horses on our cattle drive. It’s never boring – and no scene is ‘wasted’. In fact, my favourite sequence comes early on in which Stewart covertly kills a small group of indians who attack his beloved and word-weary settlers at night.
A sentimental (yet good) script coupled with the old-fashioned ‘you-saw-it-coming’ plot developments may put some viewers off this picture, but to miss out on this movie as a result would be a terrible shame. Rent it, at least.
hotdog rating: 8/10