Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bend of the River (Anthony Mann, 1952)

***½
USA



Anthony Mann directs Jimmy Stewart in this essay on the hardships that faced the Oregon pioneers in the 1840s. It features lots of sweeping vistas and is entertaining enough, but it's wobbly and lacks the complexity of the other Mann-Stewart Westerns (it's probably the weakest of the five).

Arthur Kennedy plays the shifty though charismatic villain, and it's astounding how much sexual tension he musters up with Hollywood's most wholesome movie star. In the opening half-hour alone, they exchange enough heavy leers, pregnant pauses and ambiguous grins to fill several montages on gay subtexts and cowboys. Then there's all the innuendo about giving up one's wild ways and the psychological struggles of settling for the straight and narrow. The two continue sizing each other up for much of the film and Jimmy looks on with frustrated jealousy every time Kennedy forced himself to kiss the very pretty Julia Adams.

Funnily enough, Rock Hudson also pops up in an early role, more to flash his blinding set of teeth than to do any acting.

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