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CANYON PASSAGE (director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriters: from the novel by Ernest Haycox/Ernest Pascal; cinematographer: Edward Cronjager; editor: Milton Carruth; music: Hoagy Carmichael; cast: Dana Andrews (Logan Stuart), Brian Donlevy (George Camrose), Susan Hayward (Lucy Overmire), Patricia Roc (Caroline Marsh), Ward Bond (Honey Bragg), Hoagy Carmichael (Hi Linnet), Lloyd Bridges (Johnny Steele), Andy Devine (Ben Dance), Dorothy Peterson (Mrs. Dance), Rose Hobart (Marta Lestrade), Onslow Stevens (Jack Lestrade), Wallace Scott (Mack McIver); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Walter Wanger; Universal; 1946)
“One of those great Westerns, equal to John Ford’s top work, that has somehow been undeservedly ignored.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jacques Tourneur (“Out of the Past”/”I Walked with a Zombie”/”Cat People”) directs his first Western, an unusual one that skillfully mixes action, a melodramatic romance and colorful location scenery, that’s set in the Oregon Territory of 1856. It’s based on the novel by Ernest Haycox and literately written with depth by Ernest Pascal. It reaches for the sky when Hoagy Carmichael, in the role of a wandering minstrel, sings one of four numbers “Ole Buttermilk Sky.”

Dana Andrews plays Logan Stuart a scout turned general store and freight company owner, based in the mining settlement of Jacksonville, Oregon (offers a different look than the usual Western town). The gal the ambitious Logan courts is the English-born Caroline Marsh (Patricia Roc), whose father was killed by Indians and she now lives in a wilderness log cabin with Ben Dance (Andy Devine) and his family. Logan’s best friend is George Camrose (Brian Donlevy), a banker and express company owner who uses his depositors’ money to stake his losing poker games. Lucy Overmire (Susan Hayward) is the beauty that is committed to marry George, despite his gambling habit, but secretly loves the somewhat more stable Logan. The rival suitors, with entirely different ideas on what they want out of life, are friendly to each other but remain opposites. The go-getter and highly popular business-minded Logan, interested only in building a secure business for the future, is too busy moving around the frontier and too loyal to his friend to court Lucy. They only look at each other with lust that goes unanswered, while George looks to San Francisco to start over. Ward Bond plays the brutish Honey Bragg.

Logan stakes George to $5,000 in gold to help him get on his feet again, but he quickly loses it in poker to Lestrade. He then can’t resist one more chance to get even and uses the gold dust of the miner McIver to play poker. When the miner is found drowned the next day, George is accused of murder by the hotheaded Jonny Steele (Lloyd Bridges) and in an impromptu kangaroo court run by the townspeople George is found guilty and sentenced to death. Logan helps him escape and before the men can go looking for him, the Indians go on the warpath when Bragg kills a young Indian woman.

It’s a film loaded with big ideas, great acting and the directing is first-class. One of those great Westerns, equal to John Ford’s top work, that has somehow been undeservedly ignored.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”