A Romantic Spectacle of the West!
In 1871, professional gambler John Devlin elopes with Sandra "Sandy" Poli, daughter of Marko Poli, an immigrant who has risen to railroad tycoon. Sandy, knowing that the railroad is to be extended into Dakota, plans to use their $20,000 nest egg to buy land options to sell to the railroad at a profit. On the stage trip to Ft. Abercrombie, their fellow passengers are Jim Bender and Bigtree Collins, who practically own the town of Fargo and Devlin is aware that they are prepared to protect the little empire... trying to drive out the farmers by burning their property, destroying their wheat, and blaming the devastation on the Indians. Continuing their journey north on the river aboard the "River Bird', Sandy and John meet Captain Bounce, an irascible old seafarer. Two of Bendender's henchmen, Slagin and Carp, board the boat and relieve John of his $20,000 at gunpoint. Captain Bounce, chasing the robber's dinghy..


This was one of those B-movie Westerns John Wayne had to pay his dues, and learn his craft in, on his way to superstardom and becoming a household name. His acting chops, while coming along and becoming more multidimensional, are still developing, and he gets by more or less on his charisma and big smile. Joseph Kane provides decent, pedestrian direction--all of the exciting scenes are directed by Wayne's longtime associate, Yakima Canutt (the one who would later direct the outstanding chariot race in 'Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ'), and Vera Ralston is great as the loving wife who just seems to do the wrong thing at the worst possible time. Ward Bond and Mike Mazurki are excellent as the bad guys, and Walter Brennan (as the most bipolar ship captain one will EVER find in cinema) and Nick Stewart (as his harped-on assistant) steal every scene they're in. Ona Munson even throws in an entertaining song-and-dance number, and provides an interesting love possibility for Wayne, if he wasn't such a one-woman guy. This was released on Christmas Day in the States, and it's no lump of coal in one's stocking, but a small, likeable gift for fans of the genre. Worth a watch if you like Westerns, and a purchase and rewatch for Wayne enthusiasts.

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