Canyon Passage (1946)
Andrews Ends Up Wayward with Hayward
We're all careless with gold. It's the cheapest thing in camp - George
I think this is the first time I have watched a western and found it curious, but curious is exactly what "Canyon Passage" is. I say curious because "Canyon Passage" has a meandering storyline which flows one way then the next switching emphasis from one dramatic moment to the next. And when you haven't got dramatic scenes or shifts in emphasis you have cliche elements such as an entire community getting together to build a house for a couple who are marrying. As such one thing is for sure and that is whilst you may expect certain things will happen in "Canyon Passage" there is no guaranteeing that they will.
Hard working businessman Logan Stuart (Dana Andrews - A Walk in the Sun) agrees to escort Lucy Overmire (Susan Hayward - The Fighting Seabees) back to Jacksonville as a favour to his friend George (Brian Donlevy) the town's banker and Lucy's husband to be. But deep down Lucy has a thing for Logan and becomes a little jealous when he decides to marry Caroline (Patricia Roc) who he had helped rescue some time earlier when her parents were killed by Indians. Not only that Logan has to deal with George's irresponsible gambling which has left him in debt as well as Honey Bragg (Ward Bond - Tall in the Saddle) who is biding his time till he can get his hands on Logan.
At the heart of "Canyon Passage" we have a storyline which revolves around 4 people, Logan the non stop business woman, his friend George the banker with a gambling problem, George's girl Lucy who he plans to marry and Caroline who Logan is a little sweet on. Now that seems simple enough, 2 couples what could happen well basically we have Logan in between two women because Lucy also has a thing for him, something she keeps in check until Logan says he is going to marry Caroline. But wait there is more because Logan has feelings for Lucy too but out of loyalty to George he keeps them in check, in fact he goes out of his way to help George especially with his gambling issues. How does this all end up, who ends up with who well as I said you may expect certain things but there is no guarantee it will end up playing out how you expect.
Now part of the reason that "Canyon Passage" basically keeps you on your toes is because it has all these little curious dramas going on. There is history between Logan and troublemaker Honey Bragg which crops up a few times as Bragg tries to do away with Logan, what that history is we never know. Then there is Johnny Steele who eggs on people to fight and seems to enjoy stirring things up especially when it becomes known that George as town banker not only has gambling debts but also been spotted shifting gold between peoples pouches. And that leads me to a character called Hi Linnet, played by Hoagy Carmichael, who basically roams around in the background; peering through windows and singing a trio of songs which to be fair are nice but rather curious in their inclusion. Throw in a house building, Indian trouble, murder and treachery and you have this movie which crams a lot in and shifts from one drama to the next.
Because there ends up a lot going on, especially for a movie that only just makes it over the 90 minute mark that the characters end up being quite one dimensional. You have hard working business man and loyal friend Logan, the slightly nefarious George, the brutish Bragg and both Lucy and Caroline are beautiful love interests. And with them being so one dimensional the performances from the likes of Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward and Patricia Roc are adequate but unremarkable. In fact whilst "Canyon Passage" also stars Andy Devine and Lloyd Bridges it is Ward Bond who makes the most impact because he delivers the brutish nature of Bragg quite brilliantly.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Canyon Passage" is really just an average western it is an entertaining and curious one thanks to so much going on. It is most certainly worth a watch if you are fans of westerns but unless you are into director Jacques Tourneur's work and maybe Hoagy Carmichael's singing it won't leave a lasting impression on you.
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