Tag Archives: Susan Hayward

Canyon Passage

Nicholas Chennault ~ September 12, 2015

Canyon Passage—Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Lloyd Bridges, Andy Devine (1946; Dir: Jacques Tourneur)

CanyonPassageTallCanyonPassageBelg

Dana Andrews is remembered these days primarily for such modern roles as he played in Laura (1944) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).  But he was also in several good westerns, such as The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Three Hours to Kill (1954), Strange Lady in Town (1955)… and this one.

The movie opens in Portland, Oregon, in 1856.  Logan Stuart (Dana Andrews) is a freighter, running strings of pack mules from San Francisco to Portland.  While in Portland, he gets paid $7000 and arranges to take Lucy Overmire (Susan Hayward), fiancée of his friend George Camrose (Brian Donlevy), back to George in Jacksonville in southern Oregon.  He is also attacked by a robber, whom he thinks to be Honey Bragg (Ward Bond) and with whom he has unpleasant history.  The robbery is not successful, and the thief gets away.

CanyonPassageHaywardAndrews

Lucy Overmire (Susan Hayward) and Logan Stuart (Dana Andrews) head south for Jacksonville.

On the way south to Jacksonville, they stop at the ranch of Ben Dance (Andy Devine) and his family, where Caroline Marsh (Patricia Roc) is staying.  Stuart is attracted to Caroline, but he seems also to have a relationship with Lucy.  At a cabin raising, he asks Caroline to marry him and she accepts, although she wants to stay put and is troubled that Logan is so footloose, constantly concentrating on expanding his freighting business.

Arriving at Jacksonville, Stuart fights Bragg and wins.  Lucy has been putting off setting a date for her marriage to George, but plans to go through with it after she goes to San Francisco with Logan to get a wedding dress.  Meanwhile, George is acting as a banker for miners in Jacksonville.  He has also been gambling and losing, and has been covering his losses by stealing from the gold deposited with him.  We see that George is also a man of restless affections, not limited to Lucy.  Eventually George stands accused of murdering one of his depositors for his gold, and Logan helps him escape before he can be hung.

CanyonPassageDonlevyHayward

George Camrose (Brian Donlevy) finally persuades Lucy Overmire (Susan Hayward) to set the date for their wedding.

[Spoilers follow.]  As Logan and Lucy head south, they are attacked by Bragg.  They are unhurt, but their horses are killed, and they have to walk back to Jacksonville.  By that time the Jacksonville miners, led by Johnny Steele (Lloyd Bridges), have found and killed George in their absence.  After ambushing Logan, Bragg has also attacked an Indian woman, and now the Indians are torching farms and ranches in retaliation, including Ben Dance’s and Logan’s way stations and general store.  Dance is killed and the Indians are after Caroline Marsh, with Logan and the militia also in pursuit.  The Indians catch Bragg and take care of him, which seems to satisfy them for the moment.  Caroline decides she can’t marry Logan because he won’t settle down in one spot.  So Logan heads to San Francisco again to buy more mules to rebuild his operations.  And Lucy joins him.  They’re better suited to each other than Logan and Caroline were, anyway.

CanyonPassageBridgesMiners

A suspicious Johnny Steele (Lloyd Bridges) speaks for a band of vengeful miners.

Logan Stuart:  “There was a lot of good in George.”
Johnny Steele:  “He sure panned out no color.”
Logan Stuart:  “There’s a thin margin, Johnny, between what could be and what is.”
Johnny Steele:  “Yeah.  It was thin for you last night.  We were of a mind to hang you.”
Logan Stuart:  “You see how thin the margin is.”

Based on a story by Ernest Haycox, this is stuffed full of complicated and not-too-predictable plot and romantic triangles, densely populated with a good cast.  Dana Andrews plays Logan Stuart with the same stoic independence he did Det. Mark MacPherson in Laura.  Susan Hayward, an excellent and often fiery actress, has kind of a generically-written part that doesn’t really allow her to show what she can do.  She’s better in Rawhide [1951] and Garden of Evil [1954], both with meatier roles for her when she had become a bigger star.

CanyonPassageDevineRoc

Ben Dance (Andy Devine) offers Caroline Marsh (Patricia Roc) a little avuncular advice.

Brian Donlevy didn’t always play villains (see him in Billy the Kid [1941] and Cowboy [1958], for example), but at this stage of his career he’s so identified with bad guys (the corrupt saloon owner Kent in Destry Rides Again and the sadistic Sgt. Markov in Beau Geste, as just two examples from 1939) that we don’t trust him from the start.  The role of George Camrose calls out instead for somebody like Robert Preston, who specialized during the 1940s in friend-gone-bad roles, in which he established himself as charming first.  Ward Bond also has one of his occasional bad guy roles (e.g., The Oklahoma Kid), and he’s very effective.  This has one of Andy Devine’s better roles, too, where he is not used simply as a form of comic relief.  Hoagy Carmichael plays Hi Linnett, supposedly a small merchant, but mostly there to provide musical interludes, as in To Have and Have Not, and to comment on the action.  Carmichael’s song “Ole Buttermilk Sky” got the movie’s only Oscar nomination.  Several of the film’s significant events happen off-camera:  Bragg’s attack on the Indian maiden, the killing of George by the miners’ mob, the killing of Ben Dance by Indians, etc.

CanyonPassageCarmichael

Hoagy Carmichael as minstrel Hi Linnet provides musical interludes, occasional commentary and the film’s only Oscar nomination.

Jacques Tourneur was a good director of westerns, although he wasn’t best known for them in the 1940s.  Later on in the 1950s, he made a few of them (Stars in My Crown, Wichita, etc.) with Joel McCrea.  Ernest Pascal adapted the Haycox story into a screenplay, with some crisp, sometimes even philosophical, dialogue.  Music, except for that provided by Carmichael, is by Frank Skinner.  This was filmed on location in Oregon in color (a rarity for westerns in 1946) by Edward Cronjager, so it must have had a significant budget for its time.  92 minutes.

CanyonPassageCraterLake

Logan Stuart’s mule train wends its way past Oregon’s Crater Lake.

The title doesn’t seem to mean much; there are no obvious canyons involved.  For other “passage” westerns, see Northwest Passage (1940), California Passage (1950), Passage West (1951), Desert Passage (1952) Southwest Passage (1954), Oregon Passage (1957) and Night Passage (1957), which are otherwise unrelated to this one or to each other.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Rawhide

Nicholas Chennault ~ January 28, 2014

Rawhide—Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, George Tobias (1951; Dir:  Henry Hathaway)

RawhidePoster2RawhideFren

No, not the trail drive television series, with the memorable theme song by Frankie Laine, that gave Clint Eastwood his start.  Eastwood has nothing to do with this.  The title refers to Rawhide Pass, the stagecoach relay station where this movie takes place, as well as perhaps to a stagecoach driver’s whip.  The geography doesn’t entirely make sense; Rawhide Pass is supposed to be about midway on the trip between San Francisco and St. Louis, but it seems to be perhaps in Arizona Territory from the references to Yuma and Tucson.  There are references to the prison at Huntsville, which would seem to be Texas.  Timewise, it’s before the transcontinental railroad, perhaps in the late 1850s. 

In any event, Tom Owens’ father is a big cheese in the overland stage line, and Owens (Tyrone Power) is at Rawhide Pass relay station to learn the business from old timer and stationmaster Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan).  Owens is not doing too well at it and can hardly wait to head back east in a week.  The stage comes through, carrying among others Vinnie Holt (Susan Hayward) and a one-year-old baby, Callie.  She’s heading east from the California gold country, but before she can continue her trip she’s forced off the stage by company policy. 

RawhideMarlPowerRawhideHay2

Escaped criminals from Huntsville Prison, led by Ray Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe), have raided one stage and supposedly make it too dangerous for the baby to continue.  However, waiting doesn’t help.  The four criminals show up at the station, taking Todd, Owens and Holt prisoner.  In addition to Zimmerman, there are Tevis (Jack Elam, in the juiciest role of his early career), a depraved killer crazed with lust for Holt; a German, Gratz (George Tobias); and a compulsive petty thief, Yancy (Dean Jagger).  They plan to wait for the noon stage the next day, which they know is carrying $100,000 in gold. 

The gang assumes that Holt is Owens’ wife; they kill Todd early on.  Owens and Holt try desperately to escape, with no success, and the gang members bicker among themselves.  There’s a fair amount of character development, and developing tension as well.  Ultimately Owens shows himself to have some character, and Holt may have fallen in love with him.  In the climactic shoot-out, Holt plays the pivotal role.  Owens’ pistol seems to have an inexhaustible supply of bullets, amazingly enough.

RawhideElamHay Tevis leers at Holt.

Susan Hayward is the most watchable actor in the movie, although Power and Marlowe are both good, too. At first we take her for a woman with a past, an unwed mother.  But she eventually explains that the child is not hers but her sister’s.  However, she seems to have a chip on her shoulder about it all.

The claustrophobic feel, the black and white cinematography, and the focus on unstable characters in desperate situations make it seem noir-ish.  The theme music over the opening credits by Alfred Newman had been used before, in 1940’s Brigham Young.  Written by Dudley Nichols, who also wrote Stagecoach and The Tin Star.  Shot at Lone Pine, in black and white, by Milton Krasner.  Very watchable; better even than Garden of Evil, a good western which was also directed by Henry Hathaway with Susan Hayward.  She wasn’t in many westerns, but there were at least three more:  Canyon Passage, The Lusty Men and The Revengers.  The situation of innocents held by bad guys has some similarities with The Tall T and Man of the West, as well as non-westerns The Desperate Hours and Key Largo.  The DVD is available in a Fox Western Classics set with The Gunfighter and Garden of Evil, a pretty good deal on three pretty good westerns.

RawhidePoster3

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Garden of Evil

Nicholas Chennault ~ January 10, 2014

Garden of Evil—Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark, Cameron Mitchell, Hugh Marlowe, Victor Manuel Mendoza (1954; Dir:  Henry Hathaway)

GardenEvilPosterGardenEvilIt

During the California gold rush (putting this more or less in the 1850s), passengers on a steamship are stranded in Puerto Miguel on Mexico’s Pacific coast.  They include Hooker (Gary Cooper), a former sheriff from Texas; Fiske (Richard Widmark, in what turns out to be a good-guy role), a gambler; and Daly (Cameron Mitchell), a bounty hunter.  Leah Fuller (a husky-voiced Susan Hayward) arrives in town, desperate for help in getting her mining engineer husband John out of a gold mine, where he lies trapped with a broken leg.  The title of the film refers to the region surrounding the mine, about three days of rough travel into Apache country.

Fiske:  “You know, at first I thought she was one of those women who come along every so often and fascinate men without even trying or even knowing why.”

Hooker:  “And now what?”

Fiske:  “She tries, and she knows why.”

GardenCooperHayward

Hooker, Fiske and Daly sign up for $2000 each, along with Vicente Madariaga (Victor Manuel Mendoza), a Mexican.  After an arduous trip on which Daly makes a move on Leah, they find the mine, rescue Fuller (Hugh Marlowe) and fix his leg.  The unreliable Daly gets his fill of gold and they head back, followed by Apaches and slowed down by the injured and embittered Fuller. 

At the first stop, Daly helps Fuller escape on a horse to get rid of him.  Daly is killed by the Indians, and the group finds Fuller’s body hung upside down from a cross.  The party is now on the run. Vicente is killed, and they reach the narrow trail down a cliff just ahead of the Apaches.  Fiske stays behind to hold them off, and Hooker and Leah make their escape.  Hooker goes back to help Fiske, but it’s too late.  The suggestion is that Leah and Hooker go off together, perhaps with some of the gold from the cursed mine.

GardenThree

Motivations are uneven.  Leah appears to love her husband (he doesn’t think so), but she also appears to be attracted to Fiske (maybe) and Hooker, though not to Daly.  It’s taken for granted that she drives all the men crazy with lust, although only Daly seems to act badly on that impulse.  (What, no bathing in a stream scene?)  The Apaches’ motivation doesn’t appear to be all that consistent, either, and they don’t look much like Apaches.  Clothes and equipment (guns, particularly) don’t fit the 1850s.  The writing is a little spotty, and there are obvious comparisons to Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  One or two of Cooper’s brief speeches get a little heavy-handed, but his presence is strong as always.  This story could have used a bit more character background development. 

GardenEvilSunset

“I guess if the earth were made of gold, men would still die for a handful of dirt.”

There are questions left at the end.  For example, did any of the gold get out, and what happened to it?  Did Hooker get his $2000?  This is watchable, but not the unrecognized gem some would claim.  Spectacularly shot on location in Mexico in early Cinemascope and Technicolor, but there are occasional obvious painted backdrops, too.  Good score by Bernard Herrman and competent direction by Henry Hathaway.  If you like Susan Hayward in this, catch her in Rawhide with Tyrone Power, where she’s even better. 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone