Cast & Crew
In 1847, while leading a wagon train of settlers traveling from Missouri to Portland, Oregon, Glyn McLyntock saves a suspected horse thief, Emerson Cole, from a lynch mob. Although Glyn recognizes Cole as a former Missouri border raider, the two become friends and Cole joins the wagon train. That night, six Shoshone Indians attack the camp and shoot a settler, Laura Baile, in the shoulder with an arrow. Cole follows Glyn as he bravely attacks the Indians and, after saving Glyn from one, hears Glyn's gunshots signal the death of the five others. The next day, Glyn notes with disappointment that Laura is attracted to Cole, and reveals to the younger man that he is running away from his younger self. In Portland, the settlers receive a warm welcome from saloon owner Don Grundy and local steamboat owner Tom Hendricks. As Laura is tended to by doctor and riverboat captain Mello, her father, Jeremy, spends all the settlers' money on supplies Hendricks is to deliver in a few months. Handsome gambler Trey Wilson arrives in town that night and spurns the attentions of Laura's younger sister Marjie, in order to play poker with Cole and Grundy. During their game, Grundy recognizes Cole as a former raider, and when Trey accuses the saloon owner of cheating, Cole shoots Grundy. The next day, everyone except Cole, who is staying in town, and Laura, who needs to recuperate for another month, boards the steamboat and heads to the settlement. Jeremy confides to Glyn that he does not like Cole because he believes that once a man has gone bad, he cannot be reformed. Over the next months, Jeremy presides over the building of the settlement's farms, homes, school and church. By mid-October, however, neither Laura nor the supplies have arrived, and the settlers are in danger of starving once winter sets in. Glyn and Jeremy travel to Portland to retrieve the supplies, only to discover that the town has been transformed by an influx of gold miners, and that greedy Hendricks is holding their goods, now worth five times their former value. Glyn hires out-of-work miners and instructs them to load their supplies onto the steamboat, then finds Hendricks in the new gambling hall. There, Cole works as Hendricks' pit boss, with Laura by his side. Glyn advises Laura to inform her father of her decision to stay in Portland, then confronts Hendricks, who refuses to give up the supplies and instead shoots at Glyn. Cole and Trey leap to Glyn's defense, and the three are forced to flee to the steamboat, where they convince Captain Mello to help them, along with Jeremy, Laura and the miners, to escape. With Hendricks and his men on their trail, Glyn convinces the miners to help them bring the supplies over the mountain. That night, Glyn positions them in the hills and so is able to kill off Hendricks and his men. As they begin the perilous journey over the mountain, they meet hungry miners, who have also been tricked out of their food by Hendricks. Cole and Red want to accept the miners' offer of $100,000 for the supplies, but Jeremy refuses to sell. Soon after, the miners revolt against Glyn, and although Cole saves Glyn, Jeremy's leg is injured. The next day, Cole, who cannot resist the other miners' money, beats up Glyn, leaves him horseless and abducts Jeremy, Laura and the supplies. As Glyn tenaciously tracks the wagons on foot, Cole grows more depraved. Laura frees a horse for Glyn to find, and two hours outside of the mining camp, Glyn attacks. Desperate, Cole beats Jeremy and then shoots at Trey when the gambler defends the older man. Cole takes off for the mining camp to round up help, and before Glyn, Laura, Trey and Jeremy can get the supplies back to the settlers, Cole and his men appear. Trey and Jeremy shoot down the miners as Cole and Glyn fall into the river, locked in combat. Glyn finally knocks out Cole, and the criminal drowns. When Glyn staggers out of the river, Jeremy sees the scars around his neck and, realizing that his friend is also a former border raider, admits that he was wrong about the ability of men to reform. Soon, the settlers joyfully welcome the group back, and as Trey approaches Marjie, Jeremy proudly watches Laura joining Glyn in his wagon.
Jay C. Flippen
Dallas R. Mckennon
Manuel Thomas Golemis
George B. North
Richard H. Randlett
Otic Albert Russell
Albertine V. West
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
Hans J. Salter
Joan St. Oegger
Bend of the River
This dialogue, fiercely delivered by James Stewart, is more than just a dramatic high point of Bend of the River (1952). It represents a new, tough side of Stewart that audiences would come to know largely through the five westerns he made with director Anthony Mann between 1950 and 1955. (The other four are Winchester '73, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, and The Man From Laramie.) Presenting a psychological intensity that was quite startling for their time, these films forced audiences to question their assumption that a western hero was all noble, all good, and vastly different from the villain. While Stewart's natural charm and aw-shucks warmth is on display here, his character is often portrayed as just this side of demented.
In Bend of the River, for instance, we are immediately shown that Stewart is a man with a hidden past, someone who was once strung up and almost hung. Eventually we find out that he was a Missouri border raider. In one shocking scene, Stewart is about to maniacally stab a man before a scream from Julia Adams stops him. And later, after his men have taken over his supply wagons and are about to leave him behind, Stewart delivers the quote above. Audiences had caught a glimmer of this side of Stewart, of course, in It's a Wonderful Life, and Alfred Hitchcock would take it to its extreme six years later in Vertigo, but it was a quality which served Mann's westerns especially well.
Jean-Luc Godard once said: "With Anthony Mann, one rediscovers the western, as one discovers arithmetic in an elementary math class." Mann's westerns, in other words, represent the genre stripped to a bare-bones, fundamental form - simple, but not simplistic. With his westerns, Bend of the River included, Mann was able to transfer the violent intensity of his 1940s films noirs (such as Raw Deal and Border Incident) to a genre with a new sort of landscape which afforded a cleaner style. The simplicity and clarity of these five western scripts makes Stewart's primal, complex characterizations all the more shocking and fascinating. And as usual for a Mann picture, there are many wordless sequences of purely visual storytelling, a quality that makes Anthony Mann one of the greatest yet least recognized American directors.
Bend of the River features Stewart as a guide leading a wagon train of homesteaders from Missouri to a new life in the Oregon Territory. When the settlers' promised winter supplies and cattle don't arrive from Portland, Stewart heads to town to find that a gold rush has created rampant corruption. With the help of Arthur Kennedy (and in a smaller role, Rock Hudson), Stewart battles to bring the needed supplies upriver and across a mountain, only to have to deal with a mutiny attempt along the way. The mutiny is one of several story devices that seem to be stolen outright from the plot of another famous western which ends with the word "River," but Bend of the River has enough originality, action, and intelligence to satisfy the most discriminating western fan. A wonderful supporting cast includes Jay C. Flippen as a patriarchal homesteader, a gorgeous Julia Adams as his daughter, Chubby Johnson as a riverboat captain, and Henry Morgan and Jack Lambert as thugs.
The cast and crew of Bend of the River spent several weeks on location in the Oregon wilderness, which Stewart enjoyed immensely according to his co-star Arthur Kennedy. In James Stewart: Behind the Scenes of a Wonderful Life by Lawrence J. Quirk (Applause), Kennedy "felt that Stewart, who, in 1951, found himself with new twin daughters in addition to two stepsons, relished the time away from home. Domesticity, children, and even the devoted ministrations of a loving wife, got on his nerves after a while, hence his joy in male company and the wilderness. "He did get hitched rather late in life," Kennedy said, "and while a wonderful husband and father, I think he missed the freedom he had had before. He seemed to me often tense, ready to cut loose, and his role in Bend of the River certainly gave him the range for that!"
Producer: Frank Clever, Aaron Rosenberg
Director: Anthony Mann
Screenplay: Borden Chase, based on the novel by William Gulick
Cinematography: Irving Glassberg
Music by Hans J. Salter
Film Editing: Russell F. Schoengarth
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun, Nathan Juran
Cast: James Stewart (Glyn McLyntock), Arthur Kennedy (Emerson Cole), Julie Adams (Laura Baile), Rock Hudson (Trey Wilson), Lori Nelson (Marjie Baile), Jay C. Flippen (Jeremy Baile), Harry Morgan (Shorty), Royal Dano (Long Tom), Stepin Fetchit (Adam).
C-92m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
Bend of the River
I don't like that man Cole.- Jeremy Baile
Why not?- Glyn McLyntock
I heard Grundy say he was a raider on the Missouri border.- Jeremy Baile
Well, lots of people used to raid along the border.- Glyn McLyntock
That kind can't change. When an apple's rotten, there's nothing you can do except throw it away or it will spoil the whole barrel.- Jeremy Baile
Well, there's a difference between men and apples.- Glyn McLyntock
The working title of this film was Bend of the Snake. Hollywood Reporter news items add Frank Conlon to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to other Hollywood Reporter news items, the film was shot at locations in the Snake River country in Oregon, including the Sandy River, Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge and Timberline. Although the CBCS and contemporary reviews list Arthur Kennedy's character name as "Cole Garrett," he is called "Emerson Cole" in the film. The Hollywood Reporter review mistakenly credits Jay C. Flippen in the role of "Captain Mello," but the part was played by Chubby Johnson.
The film marked the return to the screen of actor Stepin' Fetchit. Fetchit had appeared in only one other film since 1939, the 1948 picture Miracle in Harlem (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther commented that he was sorry to see the African-American actor playing another "clownish stereotype."
Universal-International production notes reveal the following information: Arthur Kennedy sprained his knee while filming the scene in which he beats Jay C. Flippen's character, and was confined to shooting riding scenes until his knee healed; the 8,000 foot shooting elevation required a variety of safety innovations, including the bulldozing of a path up the mountain and another path across the Sandy River; the planting of a steel cable to which covered wagons were attached to keep them from sliding down cliffs; and the use of slow-moving tractors to haul equipment up the mountainside.
Although a May 1967 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that a remake of the film was planned under producer Howard Christie, no remake appears to have been produced. According to modern sources, James Stewart considered Bend of the River to be the most physically demanding film he ever made. Modern sources add Denver Dixon to the cast.