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Glyn McLyntock (James Stewart) is a man with a chequered past who sets out to redeem himself by leading a wagon train west into Oregon where the settlers hope to establish their own community. On the way, McLyntock saves horse-thief Cole Emerson (Arthur Kennedy) from a lynching and discovers that he too has a past. The two men become firm friends when Cole saves Glyn from an Indian tomahawk and they join up again when a rogue merchant tries to renege on supplies that will keep the settlers from starving. Eventually the two men will be separated again by greed and betrayal, but the river itself will have the final say in their fate.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Lust, greed, betrayal and gold; men seeking redemption from a shady past; all were common ingredients of the Hollywood western but few were blended as smoothly as in this gripping and strikingly handsome horse opera. James Stewart is Glyn McLyntock...a rugged cowboy and a fierce Indian fighter. He's exactly the kind of saddle-sitter you'd want to lead a wagon train through hostile territory, over swollen rivers to the virgin valleys of Oregon...but can he be trusted?

The peace-seeking settlers know nothing of McLyntock's sordid past...he was a "boundary raider" between Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War, which means he was capable of anything between thieving and murder. When he saves Cole Emerson (Arthur Kennedy) from a lynch mob, the men discover they have more in common than having felt the tug of coarse rope round their necks. Together they ride into a potential Indian ambush, but this time, it's Emerson who saves McLyntock's scalp from a redskin tomahawk and the bonds of friendship they form seem firm. When told of Emerson's dubious background, the leader of the settlers, Jeremy Baile (Jay C. Flippen) is vocal in expressing his concerns, due in part to the stranger's interest in his eligible daughter Laura (Julia Adams). "That kind can't change," he mutters gloomily. "When an apple's rotten, there's nothing you can do except throw it away or it will spoil the whole barrel."

From then on McLyntock eyes Emerson with increasing suspicion...and opportunity beckons when gold prospectors who are as desperate for supplies as the homesteaders, offer what amounts to a king's ransom for the wagons. If McLyntock sells out, the settlers will starve but he has a genuine admiration for Baile and an un-stated love for Laura. If anyone is going to be tempted by the chance of a quick buck it will more than likely be Emerson.

This was the second of eight films Stewart did with director Mann between 1950 and 1955. Many believe it's the pick of them but fans of Winchester 73, The Glenn Miller Story and The Man From Laramie might disagree. Mann was a notoriously fast worker and the film, completed in six weeks beneath the spectacular snow-caps of Oregon's Mount Hood, is visually grand (although shots of raging waterfalls are clearly lifted from elsewhere) and not without a sense of humour.

We're pretty sure that the oddly superfluous appearance of Rock Hudson as Trey, a dandified gambler who refuses a dance with Baile's youngest daughter (Lori Nelson) and later says that he is "not the marrying kind," was not intended as an "in" joke. But it did seem unlikely that Trey, who made a living from poker, would up and join the wagon train, in all his tailored finery, with barely a word of explanation. The film suffers for its low-key finale and a weak redress of the apple analogy. ("There is a difference between apples and men; really there is!")

But its flaws are few and its virtues are many. Adapted by Borden Chase (of Red River fame) from a Bill Gulick novel, Bend Of The River has 33 speaking parts (watch for Henry Morgan, from the M*A*S*H TV series as a side-winder named Shorty) and is more exciting and more intricately plotted than a half dozen more famous westerns. Curiously, the British released it as Where The River Bends (!)

Published September 2, 2004

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(US, 1952)

CAST: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Rock Hudson., Julia Adams

DIRECTOR: Anthony Mann

SCRIPT: Borden Chase

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

PRESENTATION: 4:3; DD 2:0. Languages: English, French. Subtitles: Spanish, French.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Original trailer.


DVD RELEASE: August 18, 2004

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