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Bend of the River

05 May

You’ll be seeing me. You’ll be seeing me. Every time you bed down for the night, you’ll look back to the darkness and wonder if I’m there. And some night, I will be. You’ll be seeing me.

If you watch enough westerns, from almost any era, it soon becomes apparent that certain themes and subtexts crop up time and again. The one that I feel is the most constant, that seems to almost define the genre as a whole, is the concept of change. It literally pervades the genre: changes to the landscape, control of the country, the law, social organization, transport, the notion of freedom and opportunity, and so on. Of course some of these aspects either increased or decreased in popularity in relation to the time at which they were produced. So it’s no accident that the 50s, with that decade’s frequent meditations on the idea of personal redemption, should see a tendency to focus on changes in the hearts of men. Bend of the River (1952) concerns itself with atonement for the sins of the past and the desire to change the course of one’s life, along with the associated obstacles and prejudices that need to be overcome.

The Civil War has ended and the westward push is on, the drive to roll back the frontier and build something new and fresh. Over the opening credits a wagon train makes its way through the unspoiled beauty of Oregon. The settlers, headed up by Jeremy Baile (Jay C Flippen), are full of hope and a determined pioneering spirit. There’s a kind of wholesome enthusiasm that radiates from these people, and it’s reflected too in the man who’s guiding them, Glyn McLyntock (James Stewart). When he rides ahead to scout the trail we get the first indication that McLyntock isn’t the unsullied character his traveling companions believe. Topping a rise, he stumbles upon a nasty little scene in the clearing below. There’s a lynching in progress for a horse thief. Seeing as a man’s horse was often his most valuable possession and could mean the difference between survival and death in a hostile environment, frontier justice dictated that the rope was all one could expect for such a heinous crime. Still and all, lynching is a dirty little business, and it’s no surprise that McLyntock intervenes and saves the life of the condemned man. No, that in itself is entirely understandable – what is telling though is the reaction of McLyntock just before he draws his gun. His features register violent revulsion but there’s something of the hunted man that flashes briefly from his eyes. It transpires that the man at the end of the rope is Emerson Cole (Arthur Kennedy), a former border raider whose name is familiar to McLyntock. It’s soon revealed that Cole has also heard of McLyntock, both of them having been in the same line of business so to speak. While these two men with a dark past may have some things in common, there is one crucial difference. The devil-may-care Cole has no regrets about his actions whereas McLyntock is a deeply troubled figure, a man trying to bury his unsavory deeds and make a new beginning among people who trust him. When the wagon train rolls into Portland Cole and McLyntock bid each other farewell – Cole thinking only of how best to make his fortune while McLyntock is bound for the clean air and anonymity of the high country. However, these two are destined to cross paths again. The settlers need supplies shipped to them to see them through their first winter and have paid for delivery in advance. As is often the case though, circumstances change dramatically when greed rears its ugly head. A trip back to Portland sees McLyntock and Cole renewing their acquaintance. But theirs is an uneasy relationship, their friendship balanced rather precariously at all times. The shadows of the past are never far away, beckoning enticingly to Cole while pointing accusingly at McLyntock. On the run from new enemies in Portland, it remains to be seen how fast the friendship of these men will be, and whether McLyntock will be allowed to prove to his companions and himself that a man can truly change his ways.

Bend of the River was Anthony Mann’s second western with James Stewart, continuing what was to become a highly influential cycle of movies and further developing the persona of the tortured lead. One of the key visual motifs in Mann’s work was the continual striving upwards of his characters, the drive to rise above base instincts and cares. Although this feature isn’t quite as pronounced in Bend of the River as it is in some of his other movies, it is still there. The wagon train, and most especially McLyntock, view the mountain country as a kind of promised land where social and spiritual rebirth are possible. Irving Glassberg photographed the stunning Oregon locations beautifully, and the contrast between the crisp freshness and purity of the mountains is contrasted strongly with the darker, more restrictive and corrupt feeling of the town gripped by gold fever. The central theme of a man desperate for change and redemption is well handled by Mann, working from a Borden Chase script. Additionally, there’s a fairly complex notion of duality at work too. In essence, Cole and McLyntock are mirror images. The inevitable confrontation represents McLyntock squaring off against his own darker nature as much as anything else.

I think it’s impossible to overemphasize how instrumental Mann was in shaping James Stewart into one of the major post-war movie stars, although both Hitchcock and Capra had a hand in the process too. For much of the time Stewart is, superficially at least, in amiable mode, yet there’s always an unease there. This of course is entirely appropriate as his character is burdened by a tremendous sense of guilt and also a sort of slow burning dread that his past will be revealed and lead to his being rejected. As usual Mann managed to get Stewart to dig deep within himself and draw on his reserves. There are three notable occasions where Stewart’s consuming rage threatens to overcome him. The first is the momentary rush of emotion at the sight of the lynching. The next occurs when the rebellious laborers hired in Portland drop the full weight of a jacked up wagon on Baile – the startling intensity of Stewart’s fury rendering him speechless and inarticulate. However, it’s the final outpouring that carries the greatest impact. With the mutiny complete and Cole having shown his true colors, the emotionally distraught Stewart delivers those lines which I featured at the top of the article. Written down in black and white, they lack the power with which Stewart invests them in his cold, calculated and measured way. With his voice threatening to crack under the strain of maintaining self-control, no-one is left in any doubt that the gloves are off, the Rubicon has been crossed and there’s no going back.

Arthur Kennedy proved a splendid foil for Stewart; where Stewart was all inner conflict and suppressed emotion, Kennedy was a man very much at ease with his own villainy. However, that’s not to say his performance was one-note or lacking in nuance. He starts off as something of a rogue, but not an entirely unattractive one. It’s his innate greed and an inability to rise above his own self-interest that sees him develop into a fully fledged villain. As such, we don’t get the same shock as would be the case a few years later when Kennedy again teamed up with Stewart and Mann to make The Man from Laramie. Here, Kennedy’s character is clearly morally corrupted from the beginning and it’s only the extent that’s in question. The supporting cast in Bend of the River is a remarkably strong one starting with Julia Adams, Rock Hudson and the great Jay C Flippen. This was one of the star making roles for the rising Hudson, a vigorous, heroic part as the young gambler who signs on with the wagon train. Hudson’s good enough at what he’s asked to do, but really it’s not very demanding stuff and he makes only a limited impression. Julia Adams’ beautiful presence graced many a movie for Universal during the 50s and I always like to see her name in the credits. This film offered her a good part as the girl who initially falls for Kennedy’s charm before finally seeing him for what he is and switching her affections to Stewart. And there’s no shortage of familiar faces to add to the villainy ranged against Stewart – Howard Petrie, Royal Dano, Jack Lambert and Harry Morgan all put in good performances. And then there’s Stepin Fetchit, an actor whose characterizations remain controversial to this day. I think it’s worth noting that both Scott Nollen (whose latest book I reviewed last week) and Joseph McBride have interesting things to say about this performer, namely the way John Ford and he tried to actually subvert racial stereotypes in their work together.

I think Bend of the River is available on DVD pretty much everywhere these days – it’s certainly been out in both the UK and the US via Universal for many years now. The UK disc I have is a completely bare bones affair with nothing at all in the way of extra features. However, the transfer of the film is very good indeed, with excellent color and no print damage worth mentioning. In the past I’ve tried broadly rating or comparing the westerns that Mann and Stewart made together, but it’s essentially a pointless exercise. These are all strong and rewarding movies that can be watched repeatedly without losing any of their power or freshness. Let’s just say that this is one of the top-tier westerns from a great team and leave it at that.

I would just like to add a brief postscript here to let anyone who’s interested in such things know that this has been the 250th film which I’ve had the pleasure of writing about on this site.

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44 responses to “Bend of the River

  1. Cavershamragu

    May 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Congrats on the 250th chum – that is very impressive and you should feel really proud with such consistently high levels of output in terms of insight and genuine critical nous – bravo! Apologies for falling off the blogosphere but my computer is still in storage, probably until the end of the month at least (eek) so I am only occasionally snatching a peek over the web parapet.

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Thanks for that. It’s taken me a while to hit 250 considering I started back in the old days of FilmJournal.

      As for your enforced break from the web, look on the bright side – just think of all the energy and enthusiasm you’ll have accumulated by the time you’re back to regularly updating and posting.

       
  2. Judy

    May 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Congratulations on getting to 250, Colin – an impressive milestone. I haven’t seen this film but have just been thinking that I must see more of James Stewart’s films, including his Westerns, and as luck would have it ‘Winchester 73′ is on Film 4 on Tuesday, so I’ll watch that one first and hopefully get to this one before too long.

    I’ve just seen Stewart in Hitchcock’s thriller ‘Rope’, which I found exceptionally tense. I know it has come in for criticism for being too obviously a stage adaptation – but for my money the claustrophobic setting makes it even more powerful. Anyway, watching that had me thinking that I must track down a lot more of Stewart’s movies.

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Cheers Judy. I’m a very big fan of Stewart’s work myself so I’d say you ought to try and catch as many of his movies as possible. Winchester 73 is a terrific film, tight, complex and full of great performances and cameos. It’s probably the ideal place to start with his westerns.
      Generally though, Stewart had a great run between It’s a Wonderful Life and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

       
      • Judy

        May 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm

        Thanks, Colin I love both of those – ‘Liberty Valance’ is probably my favourite out of the Fords I’ve seen. I’ll look forward to ‘Winchester 73′.

         
        • Colin

          May 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm

          Great. I think and hope you’ll enjoy the movie Judy, and it would be great if you could get back to me and share your thoughts on it.

           
  3. Bruce lander

    May 5, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Congratulations Colin, your comments on this – and all the others – are always spot on and continue to make RTHC a “must see” for ,me every time I log on. Incidentally it is worth noting that the Film was based on a Novel by Bill Gulick called “Bend of the Snake” although you would never guess it, this just highlights the screenplay writing skill of Borden Chase who fashioned a superb classic western from a very so so book.

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks very much for that Bruce – I appreciate it.
      I did mean to mention the source novel for this movie but ended up leaving it out for the simple reason I’ve never read it and so couldn’t comment on how much or little Chase’s script resembled it.

       
  4. Blake Lucas

    May 5, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Congratulations, Colin, and I’m glad you chose one of the best Westerns ever for the 250th.

    Just to add a few thoughts to the things you wrote, which are all very apt and evoke the movie well, the “change’ motif you talk about also does echo pretty strongly in Julie Adams’ character, a really strong heroine and one of her best roles (and I know she agrees with that because I had a chance to talk to her about it). When she stays in Portland after her injury she wants to have fun and pretty much abandons her “good girl” persona as she gets involved with Kennedy–Stewart had had hopes for her himself and the scene where the three meet in the saloon and Stewart sees they are together is one of the movie’s most memorable, while of course this same sequence ends with what may be the best gunfight in the film with that memorable “double” image of Stewart and Kennedy back to back that’s used in the poster above.

    I don’t think there is a villain in Westerns who I’d say is stronger for me than Arthur Kennedy is here, though his more tragic figure in THE MAN FROM LARAMIE would also be in my top half dozen–tremendous chemistry between him and Stewart that Mann obviously grasped and looked for that opportunity to reteam them (and again there’s a girl whose affections change from one to the other). I thought you did a good job here of indicating how these two great actors are different and why the contrast between them works so well.

    Also, one other thing you might have taken note of because of your fondness for film noir. It is with this film, his first in color, that Mann finally gives up the noirish stylistic inflections that were apparent in different degrees in his first three Westerns in 1950. So, it could be said that it’s here he starts to fully define the classical Western as it plays through the 1950s more than with the three earlier ones. That’s not a judgement on those, though, as I do love all three–and in so many ways, WINCHESTER ’73 is a seminal work in where he will go in the James Stewart Westerns especially.
    Except for the color. As you observe, the Oregon location work and Glassberg’s cinematography are wonderful, and the settings, especially river and mountains, beautifully align with the themes of the story. This dramaticlaly expressive use of exterior locations is rightly now seen as one of Mann’s signatures in his Westerns, and one of the reasons we accord him such a high place.

    One of those Westerns I’ll never tire of and never stop watching.

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      First, thanks for that Blake.

      You’re very right about Julia Adams’ character also experiencing a change of heart and direction as the narrative progresses – I really ought to have highlighted that aspect, but you’ve expressed it very well here.
      I think it could also be said that Hudson’s character is subject to this change or development too. He starts out as a typically flashy gambler yet moves away from that position as the story unfolds and finally embraces the finer ideals of Stewart and Flippen.

       
  5. lassothemovies

    May 5, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Obviously I would like to give you my warmest congratulations on reaching #250, and I agree that you picked an amazing film to be this historic review. Jimmy Stewart westerns are unique because of his uncommon characters. When you watch a Wayne or Scott film their characters tend to scream hero but with Stewart everything tends to be more subtle and complex. I love each and every one of his westerns because of how different they are, but also because of the way the uniqueness in his characters comes to life; and the marvelous performances that make these characters memorable. “Bend of the River” is a film that wouldn’t be near as touching or powerful with any other actor. It embodies everything that makes a Stewart western, a marvelous film.

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Thank you Paul. I wanted to make sure my 250th piece highlighted one of the better movies, and I reckon this Mann/Stewart film fits the bill.
      Of those actors you mention, I think they all did some subtle shading at various times and have an interesting variety in their repertoire. Still, Stewart, especially in those films with Mann, went the extra mile and brought something very special to his performances.
      And I can’t argue with your assertion that Bend of the River embodies a Stewart western.

       
  6. Jeff Flugel

    May 5, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Congrats on your 250th movie review,Colin! You chose an excellent film to talk about for that milestone. BEND OF THE RIVER is one of my favorite westerns and my personal favorite of the Mann/Stewart team-ups (though as you say, it’s strictly a matter of preference as they’re all very good). I think your point about Mann being responsible for the cementing of Stewart’s post-war image as a more complex leading man is valid (though of course both Capra and especially Hitchcock were instrumental as well). In his post-war films, Stewart really brought a lot of edginess to many of his roles. I was watching another of his and Mann’s collaborations the other day, THUNDER BAY, and it also features Stewart who’s driven and hard and not at all cuddly or even likeable. Stewart was one of those rare actors who quickly earns the audience’s trust that when he starts to go dark, we willingly follow him and maintain sympathy for him.

    Anyway, BEND OF THE RIVER is a splendid western, and I personally feel it’s the most pictorially beautiful of Mann’s westerns. Arthur Kennedy is great in this too and I love his interactions with Stewart’s character. Julie/Julia Adams is always lovely to look at and also gets a good part here, and Jay C. Flippen is very effective (as he pretty much always was) as her father. Really enjoyed the review, Colin – here’s to the next 250!

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Thank you so much Jeff. Stewart’s post-war work is endlessly fascinating as far as I’m concerned, although that’s not to say his pre-war stuff is without merit – just different.

      Thunder Bay is film I haven’t watched in a long time – Dan Duryea and Jay C Flippen in there too. I have the DVD sitting on my shelf and really need to give it a spin. Thanks for reminding me.

       
  7. le0pard13

    May 6, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Great look at this Stewart/Mann classic, Colin. Well done.

     
    • Colin

      May 6, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Cheers Michael. I think you mentioned in the past that the movie is a favorite of yours so I’m pleased you enjoyed this.

       
  8. Keith Payne

    May 6, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Very interesting Colin, and Happy 250th post! Thanks to you, I have seen all of these films. You brought out some points in this one that had escaped me. Thanks for that. And once again I thank you for your most successful review of Scott’s book! KEITH

     
    • Colin

      May 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Keith, one of the great things about the best westerns, and Mann and Stewart’s sit way up near the top, is the fact they can be watched repeatedly and always have something else to reveal. The characters are all so multidimensional that their interactions continually provide food for thought.

       
  9. Laura

    May 6, 2013 at 4:43 am

    Congrats on No. 250, Colin!! The conversations here move so fast and furious — a tribute to the readership your fine writing draws — that I can’t always keep up with commenting, but I read every word here, both your posts and the ensuing discussions. :)

    BEND OF THE RIVER is one of my favorites, real “Movie Comfort Food” which never fails to please. And “You’ll be seeing me” surely must be one of the most memorable lines for me from Jimmy Stewart’s long and distinguished career. I’m glad you turned your attention to this film for No. 250!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

     
    • Colin

      May 6, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Thanks Laura. I’ve been encouraged by all the comments I’ve been lucky enough to receive over the years, but I’m also very appreciative of all those visitors who pass through and simply read – all of them are most welcome.

       
  10. rockfish

    May 6, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Once again Colin, you have hit symetry with a film that’s been a favourite. There is so much to enjoy with the performances that Mann uncovered and Stewart unleashed… Although i’ve never been a huge Kennedy fan (although I can’t picture anyone else as scribe Jackson Bentley in LoA) he is a very competent scoundrel here.
    I’ve always believed that Stewart’s roles and performances after he returned from WWII are those of a man who’s been touched and recast by his own wartime experiences. Gone is the casual, lazy playboy comic who seemed comfortable in his ease; post 1945 we have an actor who does not shy away from portraying hate, anger and remorse, even degrees of degradation. Mann brought this out of him, but Stewart’s characterizations in nearly every film until 1960 is tempered by some heavy burden, an existential map that involves fire, desire and redemption. Maybe I’m getting a little too caught up in my own imagination, but we know that those entertainers who went and served and saw action, many came back with a different view; Marshall refused to do comedy, while Power put a greater emphasis on delivering darker, deeper performances.
    In the western niche, Stewart to me stood taller than Wayne.
    Congrats on the anniversary — many of which have sparked multi-viewings of some great underrated films. Here’s best wishes for the next 250, mate.

     
    • Colin

      May 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

      I quite agree that the experience of going to war seemed to color the attitudes of many artists in the years that followed their return. I think Stewart stands out especially in this respect though; the contrast between his pre and post-war persona is very marked, and the emotional intensity he exposed at times is almost painful to watch.

       
  11. Blake Lucas

    May 6, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Rockfish, when you wrote “Marshall refused to do comedy” I tried to think of who you were referring to and just wondered if maybe you momentarily confused George Marshall and George Stevens since both were directors named “George.” It’s known that Stevens, who had been very successful with comedy, did not want to do more after seeing the concentration camps during his wartime service and that he went to very weighty movies–in my view, with uneven results though his Western SHANE means a lot to me–while Marshall, not a veteran but also known for comedy, made many more comedies in the postwar years.

    But if you were thinking about someone else altogether, I’m curious as to who it was.

    As for James Stewart, it’s certainly true he is so different after the War, even taking a few years to kind of regroup and start consistently finding the right roles for this change–and that’s where Mann comes in. Prewar Stewart was a brilliant actor in doing the kinds of roles he did then, but I must admit he would not mean nearly as much to me if he had gone on this way, and not done the things he did in the movies of his more mature phase. Stewart himself once said something about his interest in playing these roles and used a phrase “human frailty.”

    Most people still say “Jimmy Stewart” as if he were their easygoing pal or something. For me, that works before the War, but for the later films I can only think of him as “James.”

     
  12. billyriel1971

    May 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Congrats on the milestone post, Colin. Your work and reflections are appreciated!

    Chad
    http://www.westernsreboot.com

     
    • Colin

      May 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks very much Chad.

       
  13. Rod Croft

    May 7, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Colin,
    another fine and perceptive review to celebrate your latest achievement. Congratulations!

    I particularly appreciated your reference to the initial “mirror image” of the protagonists – well illustrated by the poster. The mirror cracks when the differing moral directions and personal tensions between the main characters result in their inevitable confrontation. James Stewart takes full advantage of the opportunities afforded by Director Mann and Chase’s script to give his usual great performance and one that would not adversely affect his consideration as one of the World’s most versatile, experienced and best actors.

    Preference for one of the Mann/Stewart film over the others is a difficult choice and one that I would not relish facing; however I have read where “Man of the West” with Gary Cooper is considered by some to be Mann’s best film.

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Thanks Rod. There’s much to ponder in this movie – I think what makes Mann’s films so worthwhile is the fact that, at their best, they contain such richness in terms of theme, visuals and characterization, and offer great entertainment. There are plenty of films which are very entertaining and lots which present interesting ideas. However, the ability to consistently and successfully blend these two elements is no mean feat. What we’re talking about here is the difference between good filmmaking and great filmmaking.

      Is Man of the West Mann’s best film? It may well be; it’s certainly a distillation of all he’d done before, but it’s far from an easy watch. As a stand alone effort, it has to rate consideration for the top spot. Still, I would argue that, viewed as a body of work, the westerns he made with Stewart provide stiff competition.

       
  14. john k

    May 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    A perfect film for your 250th Colin!
    I tend not to have too much to say about genuine classic films because I feel that it has
    already been said before;however several people have made interesting points,and brought
    something new to the table as well.
    Love Arthur Kennedy and it was great to see him on friendly terms with Jimmy in CHEYENNE
    AUTUMN.
    Oddly enough producer Aaron Rosenberg re-worked BEND OF THE RIVER in his Sixties
    TV series DANIEL BOONE starring Fess Parker. It was a two-parter and released to theatres,
    in the UK, at least.It was called DANIEL BOONE FRONTIER TRAIL RIDER or something and
    was more or less a scene for scene remake!

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Cheers John. I know what you mean about the way many of the bona fide classics seem to have been done to death. Having said that, I do think that certain films tend to contain elements that sometimes pass us by and are worth revisiting.

      I never knew about that unofficial “remake” – very interesting. This film, directed by George Sherman, seems to be the one you’re referring to.

       
  15. john k

    May 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Yep,thats the one Colin.
    I remember seeing it the time and was amazed how well it stood up on the big screen.
    At that time they were spending much more money on TV shows and many of them turned
    up in cinemas as second features.

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      Yes, it seems an odd practice in retrospect, doesn’t it?
      I remember when I was a kid how often The Man from UNCLE features turned up on TV – it was only later that I realized they had been stitched together from television episodes.

       
  16. Gareth Cross

    May 8, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Just found this blog after I was linked to it by a friend, seems it will be right up my alley as you have a wonderful writing style and share many of the same cinematic interests as I. This was a great look at one of my favourite Westerns and you certainly get the way Stewart benefited from working with Mann post World War II as he shed his aw shucks screwball comedy persona and became one of the most capable actors of all time. Looking forward to following the blog and congrats on 250!

     
    • Colin

      May 8, 2013 at 8:10 am

      Thank you Gareth. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed your visit and I look forward to reading your thoughts on anything that catches your eye.

       
  17. Vienna

    May 9, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Love your post on one of my Top Ten westerns and Jimmy Stewart heads a fine cast. Terrific role for Arthur Kennedy and I like how Julie Adams’s character is so attracted to the brash and exciting Kennedy until she finds out what he is really like.
    The scenes where Stewart follows Kennedy and the wagons are so well done. Great locations too.And ,as you have said, such a dramatic contrast between the two men, one of whom wanted to change.
    Stewart certainly hit a winning streak, with Hitchcock and Mann in the 50s.
    And that dialogue, “You’ll be seeing me….” is one of the most memorable in any movie for me.
    250 reviews! Many congratulations.

     
    • Colin

      May 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks for that. I too especially appreciate those scenes where Stewart is tracking the wagons; he’s never in view but his presence is always felt and the suspense builds. It really adds some punch to his eventual reappearance as the rescuer/avenger.

       
  18. Chris

    May 12, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Congratulations Colin, on what I believe to be one of the very best, most well written and considered movie sites on the web.

    Becoming more and more disillusioned with the direction cinema is headed these last few years I’ve been making a concerted effort to build out my movie collection heading backwards. Your passion and insight has helped me uncover many treasures of the past and along the way rediscover my own love of cinema – and you haven’t given me a bum steer yet!

    Thank you, mate.
    Looking forward to the next 250,
    Best
    Chris

     
    • Colin

      May 12, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Thanks very much Chris – those kinds of comments mean a lot. Knowing that, once in a while, it’s possible to draw attention to, or encourage people to seek out, something which has been neglected is extremely rewarding.

       
  19. tonyg

    May 13, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Colin – Another great writeup! As long as you’re polling, what about a poll on Mann’s best western (with or without Stewart). The westerns he made with Stewart are among my most watched movies. I’d rank them as follows:
    1) Man From Laramie
    2) Bend of The River
    3) Naked Spur
    4) Winchester 73
    5) The Far Country

    An earlier respondent mentions Man of The West as possibly Mann’s best western. While very good, I don’t have the urge to rewatch it the way I do the Stewart westerns. Part of my facination in watching the Stewart/Mann westerns is the sense these two guys are each working through some heavy duty real world, personal stuff. I can’t think of any other collaboration that gives me that feeling.

     
    • Colin

      May 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Tony, that’s not a bad idea. There are only a handful of Mann’s westerns that I have yet to feature on the site, and will likely get round to them. To be honest, I’d like to at least finish off his westerns with Stewart – The Far Country remains – before I put up a poll though. Mind you, I’d hate to have to vote on them myself; there’s not a lot to separate them and we’re really talking about shades of variation as much as anything.

       
  20. Bruce Hutton

    May 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Colin, hearty congratulations on your 250th review on this site, and how fitting it should be one of the Mann/Stewart westerns, really one of the great collaborations in cinema history, and certainly up there with the iconic Ford/Wayne collaborations. I loved your examination of “Bend of the River,” and I always appreciate any appreciation of the vastly underappreciated Arthur Kennedy, the original Biff in the Broadway debut of “Death of a Salesman.” His work in “The Man From Laramie” is probably his finest moment onscreen, but he was great going all the way back to 1947′s “Boomerang,” as the wrongly-accused killer of a priest….another Dana Andrews noir, speaking of “Fallen Angel.” Kennedy never gave a bad performance that I ever saw, and “Bend” features yet another great one.
    I agree with the various suggestions that Stewart’s work deepened after his WW2 service, though I wouldn’t say he was strictly an “aw-shucks” actor before the war. In 1939′s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the deepening hurt and shock that registers in his Jefferson Davis as he learns how politics really works is still powerfully affecting. Still, you can’t argue with the range and depth he displays with Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock at his back; yet two more reasons why the 1950′s are the most underappreciated decade of the 20th century. There was always more going on there than met the eye.
    Anyway, great review as always, keep it up.
    P.S. – I’ll be looking forward to your review of “The Far Country,” which I’ve always felt was far better than its reputation would seem to indicate….a miscalculation I trust you’ll rectify for us, when you get to it.

     
    • Colin

      May 15, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Thanks very much Bruce. It’s always good to hear from others who rate Arthur Kennedy’s work – many of these guys who tended to get the second lead/supporting roles seem to be glossed over too often when their contributions were a considerable part of what made the movies a success.

      As I mentioned before, I have been one of those who regarded The Far Country as maybe the least of the Mann & Stewart westerns. I haven’t watched the film for a good few years now so I actually look forward to viewing it again and seeing if, in light of the good things said about it here, I need to adjust my own assessment of it.

       
  21. Dan Heaton

    June 11, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    I was a little disappointed in Bend of the River after Winchester ’73. It felt a bit more conventional at first, but it grew on me a lot by the end. Stewart really bottles up the rage and lets it spew during the mutiny in the end. I also found it fascinating to watch the deterioration of the idyllic town that Portland appears to be at the start. The corruption of the wild turns it into chaos, and it essentially becomes a version of hell. I agree that Kennedy and Stewart play off each other so well, and it’s great to see Kennedy return for The Man from Laramie.

     
    • Colin

      June 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Yes Dan, the way Stewart keeps his emotions largely under control makes the final outpouring all the more effective – it’s almost a disgust both with himself and the world around him. Very potent.

      The Portland business is another aspect of the theme of change that dominates the movie. One of those instances that can be found in many classic westerns suggesting that the encroachment of “civilization” is quite the opposite. Bearing in mind the conservatism associated with the era, there’s a certain subversiveness about the way the advance of commerce is frequently seen as a corrupting influence.

       

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