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SANTA FE PASSAGE (director: William Witney; screenwriter: Lillie Hayward/based on the Esquire Magazine story by Clay Fisher; cinematographer: Bud Thackery; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: R. Dale Butts; cast: John Payne (Kirby Randolph), Faith Domergue (Aurelie St. Clair), Rod Cameron (Jess Griswold), Slim Pickens (Sam Beekman), Anthony Caruso (Chavez), Irene Tedrow (Ptewaquin), Leo Gordon (Tuss McLawery), George Krymas (Satank); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sidney Picker; Republic; 1955)
“Average oater.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The veteran William Witney’ (“The Trigger Trio”/”S.O.S. Coast Guard“/”Zorro Rides Again”) last Western he directed for Republic is only an average oater. It’s based on the Esquire Magazine story by Clay Fisher, and is written by Lillie Hayward.

John Payne and Slim Pickens are ostracized wagon scouts for supposedly conspiring with the fierce Satang (George Krymas), the Kiowa chief. The town falsely believes both scouts took bribes from Satang, and allowed the Kiowa to attack the wagon train and massacre all the passengers. Therefor both are unable to work in town. In the next town Jess Griswold (Rod Cameron) is the new owner of an express freight outfit, who gives them both a second chance by hiring them to take his wagon train to Santa Fe.

Payne is a vocal Indian hater. On the Santa Fe Trail, Payne is taunted for the massacre by the wagon boss Leo Gordon, and the angered Payne responds by slugging the half-breed. Payne curiously finds Ptewaquin (Irene Tedrow), an old Indian woman, driving the wagon of Faith Domergue from New Orleans. He soon learns thatGriswold is to transport rifles to sell to the Mexican army. Payne now fears Satank will try and stop them. When the herd stampedes, Payne saves Faith when her dress catches fire. She then confides to him she wants the money to get respect, because she was raised by a failure of a father who was ostracized by the locals. She fails to tell the racist her mother was a squaw.

When a double-cross over the rifle deal is sniffed out by Griswold, Satank and the traitor are ruthlessly dealt with. Payne then kisses Faith hotly. But when told by Griswold his woman is a half-breed, he angrily dumps her. After more attacks, more heroics and learning that Faith’s mother is Ptewaquin, the Indian hater overcomes his prejudice and marries the hottie Indian in Mexico.

I’m a bit confused about what the confusing film was trying to say about all this hatred for Indians and its abrupt ending, whereby its most racist character suddenly changes.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”