BEND OF THE RIVER [1952] movie review

December 31, 2011 · Print This Article

A western in motion, BEND OF THE RIVER follows a wagon train of 100 people going cross country from Missouri to Oregon with James Stewart as their hired guide through the wilderness. Well paced and offering a real feeling of the hardship and hope of packing everything to head west, RIVER offers an unusual western with strong family characters.

One of the things that struck me while watching RIVER, was the terrain it is possible for a team of four horses to pull a wagon over. Amazing creatures. Up mountain path, possible. Across a stream with grapefruit sized stones for a bed, possible.

 

Stewart rides tall in his saddle as he does in all his westerns, always wearing a handkerchief around his neck. We do not learn much of him until he finds a man about to be hung in the middle of nowhere. He rescues the man no questions asked, which seemed a bit odd to me. We come to learn that perhaps Stewart and the stranger, named Cole played by veteran western actor Arthur Kennedy, are not all that different. Either way, they make a fine team together protecting and leading the wagon train all the way to Portland.

 

The main theme of RIVER is if a person can really change, be it from bad to good, or good to bad. Can Stewart? Can the stranger? Can other characters? RIVER keeps you guessing until very close to the end effectively building tension throughout the movie.

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