Carson City (1952)
Champagne and Cowboys
Rob the poor and you get a posse of outraged citizens after you. Rob a mine owner and nobody cares - Big Jack
Randolph Scott in a cowboy hat, yes we have another 50s western featuring the matinee idol. And to be blunt "Carson City" is like many of Scott's 50s westerns, he's the good guy, when he gets involved in a brawl he slugs it out and wins and of course he gets the younger girl. But there is something about "Carson City" which is a little different to so many of Scott's westerns and that is that it has a lot of storyline, not necessary clever or original storyline but crams a lot in to the space of 87 minutes. As such whilst there is a lot of cliche going on there is a storyline which keeps you interested when the action doesn't.
Tired of seeing the stagecoach robbed and his gold being stolen, bank owner William Sharon (Larry Keating) hires Silent Jeff Kincaid (Randolph Scott - Sugarfoot) to build a railroad from Carlson City through the mountain to Virginia. But not everyone in Carson City wants a railroad especial mine owner A.J. 'Big' Jack Davis (Raymond Massey - Santa Fe Trail) and his partner Jim Squires (James Millican) as they are the men behind the stage robberies, stealing the gold and then passing it off as their own. Determined to sabotage things Kincaid has his hands fall and also has the complications of Susan Mitchell (Lucille Norman) who has a crush on him much to the chagrin of Kincaid's half brother Alan (Richard Webb - Distant Drums) who sees Susan as his girl.
So as already mentioned for a 50s western "Carson City" packs in a lot of story, built around certain western cliches but put together nicely. At it's heart we have the corrupt businessman who is in fact the brains behind a series of stage robberies, but then you have the nice twist on this that the business man owns a gold mine which has gone bust, in fact it is no longer used and so he passes off the loot that his men steal as gold from his mines. And you can add the quirk that when his men rob a stage they actually treat the passengers nicely, giving them food and champagne whilst they steal the gold. It is a nice twist on a very routine idea and immediately gets your interest.
All of this leads to the bank manager wanting to build a railroad to Carson City and so we have former Carson City resident Silent Jeff Kincaid returning to head up the construction and drilling through of a nearby hill. Of course what follows it plenty of trouble not only from the locals who don't want a railroad but also A.J. 'Big' Jack Davis the Gold mine owner and robbery mastermind who has his men try and sabotage the construction. Now you have the cliche which includes a murder and some brawling but then you get something different as we have Kincaid and his men trapped in one of the tunnels after a landfall. You can guess how it will end up with Kincaid discovering the truth as to who is behind not only the robberies but the sabotage but it is entertaining as it gets there.
And just for good measure you also have a romantic subplot thrown in as Susan Mitchell who works at the Carson City paper has a thing for Kincaid. Now that would be totally cliche if it wasn't for the fact that Kincaid's half brother Alan works with Susan and has a thing for her bringing tension between the brothers. This slight twist on a simple western cliche along with all the other moments of drama and embellishments makes it far more interesting despite not being that original at its heart.
But whilst the embellishments makes "Carson City" more interesting the performances are purely typical of a 50s western with Randolph Scott delivering the same good guy cowboy he delivered in many of his westerns. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable watching Scott play the morally upright man who isn't afraid of a fight but it is a case that you will have seen it before. And to be honest everyone else such as Raymond Massey as A.J. 'Big' Jack Davis, Richard Webb as Alan Kincaid and Lucille Norman as Susan Mitchell all deliver solid but forgettable performances in cliches characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Carson City" whilst doing a nice job of embellishing plenty of western cliches is really just another 50s western featuring Randolph Scott. It is entertaining and the amount of story and drama it crams into 87 minutes is impressive but beyond all the drama there is little which is memorable or leads you to wanting to go out of your way to watch it again.
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