Bend of the River (1952)

Bend of the River (1952), directed by Anthony Mann.

Two men with dark secret pasts as Missouri border raiders: one (Arthur Kennedy) knows that nothing ever changes, that he will never be forgiven and will always be at war with society. The other (James Stewart) works for his redemption and hopes that eventually he can cross back over and be accepted by decent people. Who wins when they are on opposite sides?

This is the first time Anthony Mann has seemed more optimistic to me than John Ford. In Ford's westerns the hard men have to fade away once the west is settled. Here Stewart leads settlers to Oregon, thinks about staying with them, marrying and trying farming (or ranching!)

After an encounter with hostile Indians (who instantly drop dead when you throw a knife at them) things are pleasant and they reach a too-friendly town and are taken up river on a great stern-wheel steamboat. When winter supplies fail to arrive they have to go back and find out why the town is no longer so friendly. It's gold fever and the miners are hungry too. But a hard man will find a way.

The great cast includes Julie Adams (romantic interest), Rock Hudson (a gambler who is sometimes useful, sometimes not), Stepin Fetchit (ethnic/racial humor, he's getting gray), Harry Morgan, Jack Lambert, Royal Dano (villains), and Frances Bavier (Aunt Bea!).

The good guys really massacre the bad at one point.

Two of the women, Julie Adams and Lori Nelson, starred as swimsuited lovelies in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and Revenge of the Creature (1955), respectively.

I don't usually trouble about logical and historical flaws in movies, but:


Harry Morgan: The Law won't let you get away with this.

James Stewart: (pause, sideways glint) What Law?