Raton Pass


1h 24m 1951
Raton Pass

Brief Synopsis

A beautiful woman tries to seduce her way into ruling the West.

Film Details

Also Known As
Along the Santa Fe Trail
Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Apr 7, 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Warner Ranch, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Raton Pass by Tom W. Blackburn (Garden City, New York, 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

In 1880, New Mexico territory, elderly widower Pierre Challon and his son Marc, owners of the huge Challon ranching empire, are resented by Jim Pozner and the other homesteaders, most of whom live on the opposite side of Raton Pass. As Pierre high-handedly negotiates with Pozner for a lease of grassland property on the homesteaders' side of the pass, a stagecoach arrives bearing Cy Van Cleave, a ruffian whose return from Colorado is not welcomed by the Raton inhabitants. Also on the coach is an alluring woman, Ann, who claims to want to start a ranch, and who immediately pursues Marc after she realizes his wealth and power. Mistaking the greedy look in her eye for a love of the land, Marc is a willing victim, and the sentimental Pierre, remembering his happy marriage, is also easily charmed. Ann and Marc soon marry, and at their wedding, Pierre presents the deed to the ranch made out to both of them. Ann, who is more conniver than homemaker, is soon bored leaving ranch decisions to Marc, and urges him to take out a loan for an irrigation project. To please her, Marc invites Mr. Prentice, a wealthy Chicago banker and railroad man, to the ranch to discuss backing the project. When Marc realizes that Prentice requires a voice in management before he will grant a loan, Ann convinces Marc that, while he and Pierre are on a cattle drive, she will convince Prentice to agree to their terms. However, when the male Challons return, they find Ann and Prentice in an embrace and Ann tells Marc that she and Prentice want to buy out his half of the ranch. Although Pierre is ready to "take care of them," Marc plots revenge, and sells the ranch at an exorbitant price, expecting that he will be able to foreclose within the year. In the meantime, Marc intends to ranch the leased area, but Pierre sees no sense in the plan, and having lost his home, leaves town. Some of Marc's ranchhands, fearing trouble from the homesteaders, are reluctant to follow Marc to the other side of the pass, and Sheriff Perigord, who traditionally backs the Challons, is concerned about the well-being of the Raton community. Pozner's niece, Lena Casamajor, who has been secretly infatuated with Marc since they were young, scolds him for his talk of revenge, fearing that the town will suffer even if his plans succeed. However, she asks Pozner to persuade the homesteaders to support Marc and later brings Pozner and other homesteaders to Marc's camp. At first the homesteaders vent their years of resentment by bullying Marc, but when they talk business, Marc convinces them to close up the pass. In return he promises that, after he gets the ranch back, he will use the $100,000 down payment from Prentice to finance the irrigation project, which will benefit the homesteaders. Meanwhile, Ann discovers that the ranch employees have deserted her and hires Van Cleave as ranch foreman. Van Cleave and his hired thugs begin rounding up the cattle to bring through the pass and Marc's ranchhands, assisted by the homesteaders, try to stop them. Recognizing the two groups against him, Van Cleave then has Marc arrested for rustling by coercing Pozner to confirm his accusation to Perigord. Later, at the jail, Van Cleave shoots first Marc in the back, then Pozner, and leaves them for dead. Meanwhile, Lena finds and enlists Pierre, who proceeds with Perigord and the ranchhands to the Challon ranch to confront Ann and Van Cleave. The injured Marc insists on following them, so Lena takes him, after convincing the homesteaders to help. At the ranch, Prentice, who disapproves of the brutality unleashed by Ann and is genuinely concerned for the territory, finds himself no longer in love and leaves. However, Van Cleave is quick to establish himself in Prentice's place. When Perigord tries to arrest him, Van Cleave kills him outright, then shoots Pierre, and a gunfight commences between the Challon ranchhands and Van Cleave's men. After arriving with Lena and witnessing Pierre's death, Marc sneaks into the house and throws Van Cleave and Ann out. As Ann begs to Marc, the injured Van Cleave shoots at him, but kills Ann instead. In turn, Van Cleave is shot, and the thugs surrender. With the uniting of Marc and Lena, the longstanding feud between the Challon empire and the homesteaders comes to an end.

Film Details

Also Known As
Along the Santa Fe Trail
Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Apr 7, 1951
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Warner Ranch, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Raton Pass by Tom W. Blackburn (Garden City, New York, 1950).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Raton Pass


Patricia Neal, in her memoir As I Am, did not look back fondly on Raton Pass (1951), the last film of her Warner Brothers contract. She'd signed with the studio in 1947 as one of the hottest young actresses of the day, in strong demand after a brilliant run on Broadway in Another Part of the Forest (1946). For that performance, her Broadway debut, she had won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play at the tender age of 21.

Though Warner Brothers placed her in some notable films such as The Fountainhead (1949), The Hasty Heart (1949) and The Breaking Point (1950), the studio didn't really seem to know how to use her, and her career stagnated. Nonetheless, she later recounted, she did everything the Warners publicity department ever asked of her, including marching in silly parades, posing for tourists at amusement parks, and serving as honorary mayor of Burbank for a day. The only time she ever said "no," she wrote, was to "a cheap little western, the title of which I've blocked." The studio responded by taking her off salary until she accepted a part in another western, Raton Pass, which she didn't like much either. "Changing my hair back to brown did not help in the least. The golden age of Patricia Neal was over in more ways than one."

By the time she finished the film, she realized that she "was becoming an expensive commodity for the studio. Their investment in me had not paid off. The critics had been kind, but I had not hit the jackpot at the box office. I certainly had not become the new Garbo." Warner Bros. did not renew her contract and she left for Fox and a three-picture deal, starting with The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

During these years, Neal was having an affair with Gary Cooper -- until he made it clear that he would not leave his wife to marry her. When Neal became pregnant, she chose to have an abortion, and Cooper was with her through the process. She forever regretted the decision, later writing, "If I had only one thing to do over in my life, I would have that baby." In 1953, she married the author Roald Dahl.

Raton Pass, meanwhile, did not turn out nearly as poorly as Neal thought of it, though some reviewers did note that her role was difficult to make believable -- a function of the script more than of Neal. The story involves a New Mexico cattle baron (Dennis Morgan) who marries a scheming and conniving woman (Patricia Neal). When a railroad money man (Scott Forbes) arrives to do business with Morgan, Neal latches onto him and schemes to marry him while still keeping Morgan's ranch. To this end she hires a gunslinger played by Steve Cochran, and eventually stirs up a mighty range war.

"Good old-fashioned western action stuff, right down to the amazing recovery Mr. Morgan makes after being shot in the back," noted The New York Times. Variety said, "Of the stars, Cochran scores best, throwing everything into his flamboyant character." Dennis Morgan and Neal were certainly both odd choices for a western. As a critic in the Los Angeles Examiner wrote, "Miss Neal is as bad as bad can be (by nature, not performance) in the role of a scheming wench with a roving eye, and the way she twists big strong men around her very little finger is a caution. However, I hope the producers will leave Miss Neal in non-Western pace hereafter; she has so much to offer us in other directions, and she looks so much yummier in chicly modern trappings."

By Jeremy Arnold
Raton Pass

Raton Pass

Patricia Neal, in her memoir As I Am, did not look back fondly on Raton Pass (1951), the last film of her Warner Brothers contract. She'd signed with the studio in 1947 as one of the hottest young actresses of the day, in strong demand after a brilliant run on Broadway in Another Part of the Forest (1946). For that performance, her Broadway debut, she had won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play at the tender age of 21. Though Warner Brothers placed her in some notable films such as The Fountainhead (1949), The Hasty Heart (1949) and The Breaking Point (1950), the studio didn't really seem to know how to use her, and her career stagnated. Nonetheless, she later recounted, she did everything the Warners publicity department ever asked of her, including marching in silly parades, posing for tourists at amusement parks, and serving as honorary mayor of Burbank for a day. The only time she ever said "no," she wrote, was to "a cheap little western, the title of which I've blocked." The studio responded by taking her off salary until she accepted a part in another western, Raton Pass, which she didn't like much either. "Changing my hair back to brown did not help in the least. The golden age of Patricia Neal was over in more ways than one." By the time she finished the film, she realized that she "was becoming an expensive commodity for the studio. Their investment in me had not paid off. The critics had been kind, but I had not hit the jackpot at the box office. I certainly had not become the new Garbo." Warner Bros. did not renew her contract and she left for Fox and a three-picture deal, starting with The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). During these years, Neal was having an affair with Gary Cooper -- until he made it clear that he would not leave his wife to marry her. When Neal became pregnant, she chose to have an abortion, and Cooper was with her through the process. She forever regretted the decision, later writing, "If I had only one thing to do over in my life, I would have that baby." In 1953, she married the author Roald Dahl. Raton Pass, meanwhile, did not turn out nearly as poorly as Neal thought of it, though some reviewers did note that her role was difficult to make believable -- a function of the script more than of Neal. The story involves a New Mexico cattle baron (Dennis Morgan) who marries a scheming and conniving woman (Patricia Neal). When a railroad money man (Scott Forbes) arrives to do business with Morgan, Neal latches onto him and schemes to marry him while still keeping Morgan's ranch. To this end she hires a gunslinger played by Steve Cochran, and eventually stirs up a mighty range war. "Good old-fashioned western action stuff, right down to the amazing recovery Mr. Morgan makes after being shot in the back," noted The New York Times. Variety said, "Of the stars, Cochran scores best, throwing everything into his flamboyant character." Dennis Morgan and Neal were certainly both odd choices for a western. As a critic in the Los Angeles Examiner wrote, "Miss Neal is as bad as bad can be (by nature, not performance) in the role of a scheming wench with a roving eye, and the way she twists big strong men around her very little finger is a caution. However, I hope the producers will leave Miss Neal in non-Western pace hereafter; she has so much to offer us in other directions, and she looks so much yummier in chicly modern trappings." By Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of the film was Along the Santa Fe Trail. The film opens with a narrated prologue introducing the high mesa country in the Southwest as a challenge to possess and a haven for the restless. Although an August 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item states that William Lava was assigned to write the score, his contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. Portions of the film were shot at the Warner Ranch near Calabasas, according to an August 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item.