Canyon Passage

"Soybeean!" Hoagy Carmichael in Canyon Passage (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1946).

Susan Hayward, Dana Andrews, and Patrica Roc triangulate.

Dana Andrews and Ward Bond (and some guy way in the background) put things in perspective.

Thanks, Rodney, for tipping me off to Jacques Tourneur's first western. Tourneur is best known for the three eerie thrillers he directed consecutively for Val Lewton (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man) and the noir classic Out of the Past. In between the horror films and the noir, he did this lush, moody frontier drama set in Oregon, mostly in Jacksonville (in Jackson County, where I live). The story is about a love triangle--really more of a pentangle, if I'm counting right--but there are so many digressions and genre shifts that the romance sometimes fades into the background. There's a murder subplot, a wild-Indians subplot, and an old-mortal-enemies plot. And the whole thing is barely over ninety minutes. Hoagy Carmichael mugs shamelessly but winningly as a mandolin-playing troubadour, and Ward Bond seethes with hulking, barely articulate menace as Honey Bragg, a man who seems to have no other motivation in life but to lumber around hurting things. The scenes where homesteaders are massacred by angry Indians (Bragg is to blame for this, too) are horrifyingly brutal for the forties. I'm pretty sure nothing actually coheres in terms of narrative structure or character development, but Tourneur's ineffable style--loose, sleepy, vaguely echoic--suffuses the rich colors (much of the film seems lit with soft rosy flames) and Pacific Northwest vistas with a compelling facsimile of significance.

Brian Donlevy: What's your idea of a friend?
Onslow Stevens: Anyone, I suppose, who believes as I do that the human race is a horrible mistake.


girish said...

I've been looking forward to seeing this. Chris Fujiwara, whose site I linked to here a couple of weeks back, has a superb book on Tourneur's films; it's one of the great 'auteur studies' of recent years.

Kasey Mohammad said...

That definitely goes on my to-read list.

AB said...

Hey, Dana Andrews looks like Stephen!

Phanero Noemikon said...

this looks awesome!