Red Canyon


Redemption – have I mentioned that concept before? Well, it would be practically impossible to maintain a site which has devoted so much space to the consideration of the classic Hollywood western for so many years and not do so. After all, that was one of the main drivers of the genre, the cornerstone on which everything else rests, and we cannot even approach the western in an intelligent way, let alone attempt to pin down its essence, until we acknowledge the primacy of this core ingredient. One of the more compelling attractions of the western is its multifarious nature, those layers and variations which are woven into the fabric of the genre. George Sherman’s Red Canyon (1949) offers yet another of those spins on the theme of redemption.

Many a movie has been built around the notion of the outlaw seeking to outrun his past deeds, the gunman grown weary of the endless challenges and the fame or notoriety which has come to be a curse. Yet what about a reputation foisted upon a man not through his own actions but second hand? What about the idea of guilt by association, or in this case as a result of one’s bloodline? This is the central theme of Red Canyon, the tale of a man looking to break loose from the shadows cast by his disreputable family. Such a task requires not only grit and resolve but money too for new beginnings come with a hefty price tag. To that end, Lin Sloan (Howard Duff) has determined to catch, break and race a famed wild stallion known as Black Velvet. This is the secondary thread running through the picture, the hunting and taming of this magnificent force of nature. And it is that quest which brings Sloan into contact with Lucy Bostel (Ann Blyth), the romantic angle which then develops forming the third plot strand and acting as a bridging device of sorts. That relationship starts out out in a lighthearted manner – Sloan’s arrogance results in Lucy temporarily losing face and losing her prized thoroughbred, while she seizes an unexpected opportunity to pass on some indignity by way of repayment – but folds into the main narrative when it deepens. It is complicated by the fact that Sloan’s family is responsible for the death of Lucy’s mother in a raid and her father (George Brent) has consequently sworn vengeance against the entire clan. A situation is thus set up whereby all the main players have no alternative but to defy their past histories, and one of them might perhaps earn that coveted redemption for his family name if nothing else.

Red Canyon ranges widely in tone, the lightness of the early scenes should by rights contrast sharply with the action of the finale and the deep-rooted schism which provokes it. It is a credit to George Sherman’s assured direction that all the tonal shifts which occur feel so smooth. Working from a Maurice Geraghty script which is an adaptation of a Zane Grey novel, Sherman seamlessly blends all the ingredients in this tale about breaking a horse and breaking with the past. Ultimately, Lin Sloan does redeem his family name by decisively cutting the bonds that have tethered him all his life. The movie celebrates the restoration of harmony and balance, in nature, relationships and in life itself. By reclaiming his identity, Sloan also ensures that the Bostels, both father and daughter, are freed from the shackles imposed by long held grudges. Of course the stallion is set free too, this symbol of unfettered nature has been instrumental in restoring the emotional equilibrium but it is patently clear that such a potent and primal force could only ever be tamed temporarily.

Howard Duff made a number of films with George Sherman and had a pretty good run in general up until the mid-1950s without ever breaking through to the very top rank of stars. He had that tough persona which made him a good fit for crime movies and westerns and Sherman gets good value from him in Red Canyon. An exuberant and vigorous Ann Blyth (who turned 93 earlier this year) plays off Duff’s ruggedness and deals credibly with both the romantic and more tomboyish aspects of her role. I guess she will be best remembered as Joan Crawford’s ungrateful daughter in Mildred Pierce but she did plenty of varied and interesting work well into the following decade.

As is the case with so many studio productions of the era, the supporting cast is positively crammed with talent and familiar faces. John McIntire gives one of his memorably mean performances as Duff’s no-good father while Denver Pyle and a rather vicious Lloyd Bridges are his siblings. George Brent, who is not an actor usually associated with westerns, is suitably stern and implacable as the head of the Bostel household. Among all the drama there is welcome comic relief provided by Jane Darwell, Chill Wills and the wonderful Edgar Buchanan as a delightfully self-aggrandizing windbag.

Red Canyon has had a Blu-ray release in Germany via Koch as part of a George Sherman collection also containing The Last of the Fast Guns and a DVD of River Lady. I still have to pick up a copy of that set but I should imagine it is a strong transfer as even standard definition copies of Red Canyon are hugely impressive with Irving Glassberg’s  stunning Technicolor cinematography looking terrific. Comparatively speaking, this movie will be regarded as a minor western. Sure there are bigger, bolder and unquestionably better films to be found in the genre, but it does have a great deal of charm and that attractive sensibility typically found in Sherman’s work.

While this might not be my final post of 2021, it will definitely be the last one to be published before Christmas is upon us. With that in mind, I want to take the opportunity to wish all the visitors here, both the regulars and those who have just come across the site, a merry and peaceful Christmas.

68 thoughts on “Red Canyon

  1. I picked up the DVD of “RED CANYON” within the past year or two and found myself VERY pleased both with the beautiful ‘look’ of the film and with the film itself. A Universal-International western is usually a good start and with George Sherman at the helm it is a very good start. The film has a lot of charm and the two leads are excellent in it. Add in a fine supporting cast headed by the great John McIntire and I would have no hesitation in supporting Colin’s recommendation to catch this nice film at some point.

    I would like to join the Christmas and New Year wishes to all my fellow readers and commenters to Colin’s great blogsite.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My year has been enriched by your eloquent and thoughtful writing here as well. Thank you for pointing out some great Westerns I’d missed, and for helping me to find new things to appreciate in some old favorites.
    Merry Christmas

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a good review, Colin: the high standard of your thought and writing never varies. I’m off now to watch the version kindly provided above by jcalberta. Thank you for providing another year of pleasure and instruction. I hope you and all your followers on RTHC have a happy wind-up to this challenging year.

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  4. Have not seen this and find your review compelling. Howard Duff always watchable. John McIntire always interesting and found him dependable as a villian in Backlash with Richard Widmark.Last saw Duff in a lighthearted western involving a horse also, if I am not mistaken, Calamity Jane and Sam Bass with Yvonne deCarlo. Merry Christmas to you n friends hereof.

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  5. Colin, good write-up on RED CANYON(1949), which is a Western Movie that I’ve never viewed. I don’t think it was shown on tv in my neck of the woods. Because of your write-up, I’ll seek it out. This movie reads like it will be right up my lane.

    Colin, I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS! Also, to all readers and commenters of this wonderful blog a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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  6. Red Canyon is based on Zane Grey’s novel, Wildfire, which is about tough, barely civilized people creating the world as we know it. The principal character is Bostel, played by George Brent, neither suave nor especially handsome and cultured, he is hard and interested in revenge. He mostly gets it.

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        • I’m afraid I’ll have to hold up my hand and admit I haven’t read any either.
          However, I intend to do something about it – for those who are OK about reading ebooks there is a lot of his work available on Kindle either free of charge or for next to nothing.

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          • Re Zane Grey’s books, I have read RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE and can thoroughly recommend it. It’s an intriguing tale, almost mystical in places. I can also recommend a very fine TV movie based faithfully on the book. Starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, its cinematography is spectacularly good.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’ve read half a dozen of Zane Grey’s books, not all westerns, and while his style can be heavy, his narrative is realistic and far more so than most, if not all, the films made from them. In the right frame of mind, his work is rewarding.

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  7. Colin
    Again you hit me with another film I have never heard of. Your review has me putting this at the top of the must find and watch list. Sounds like it has a great cast and crew. I bow to you for presenting this one.

    My birthday is next Thursday. Be a HOME ALONE Christmas this year. Covid has the kids and their brood staying home. This has a good point as it keeps the EX at home with her broom parked in the car park!!!!!!!!. It hit minus 33C with the wind last night.

    Cheers to all and best of the season.
    Gordon

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  8. Weekend viewing
    Just the one film this weekend. This one is director Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film, DUEL. Dennis Weaver stars. I recall watching this while in high school.

    Gordon.

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    • Speaking of Spielberg, I saw “West Side Story” last night. Although most critics are giving it superlative reviews, I was somewhat disappointed. While it was Friday night on the second weekend of its release, there were only eight people in the theater. Some set pieces in the new version work better in the 2021 version than they did in the 1961 film, while others do not. The new “Office Krupke” was a complete bomb. However, Tony Kushner’s screenplay does provide some backstory on Tony and Riff that is interesting.

      Last month I went to a movie house for the first time in four years to see Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”. The movie is about “The Troubles” and takes place in 1969. It is both painful and hopeful with some delightful humor mixed in. The soundtrack is by Belfast native, Van Morrison. I strongly recommended it.

      Now that I’ve put my toe in the water so to speak, I plan on returning to see another movie on the Big Screen in a few weeks. This time it will be Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” starring Denzel Washington.

      From watching last night’s previews it seems that after “Macbeth”, it may be another four years before I’ll be going to a movie theater. I hope not. While today’s cineplexes do not have the allure that going to the theaters of my youth had, it’s still nice to “go to the movies.”

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  9. Always a great pleasure to read your thoughtful reviews, Colin! This is one I’m surprised I haven’t caught up with yet, given how much I like the cast. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Merry Christmas and happiest wishes to you and all here for a wonderful 2022!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Coming up on Dec 25th on TCM is a Randolph Scott film I have never heard of. It is called CHRISTMAS EVE and was made in 1947. Besides Randy, the cast includes, George Raft, George Brent, and Joan Blondell. Anyone here know what it is?.

    Gord

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      • A film generally reviled, but with a lot to like. Brent, Scott, and Raft each have their segments coming together on Christmas Eve, I felt like cheering, and the casting beyond the three guys is just marvelous.

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        • I finally managed to track down a decent copy, the first time I had seen it in 50 years probably. I remember my Mum talking about it starring the two ‘Georges’ ,who she liked.
          Even now I can remember how the screen lit up when Randolph Scott appeared!
          Not a bad film at all. Let us know what you think when viewed, Gord??

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  11. Today I watched the 1930 classic, “LITTLE CAESAR”, again the first time for decades. What a film! The film that made a star of Edward G., kicked off the gangster film cycle, and , together with “PUBLIC ENEMY” (1931) brought gangsterism resulting from Prohibition to the attention of the wider public and ultimately to the repeal of Prohibition and the fight back by the forces of the Law. Phew! All that aside, a thoroughly entertaining film and Edward G. leaving the audience in no doubt that a new STAR had been born.
    Warners, of course, led the gangster film cycle in the ’30s and I LOVE ’em!
    Any other fans out there??

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    • Yes, I’ve always liked the 30s gangster movies, although it’s been a while since I last viewed one.
      My own weekend viewing has been a somewhat eclectic mix, ranging from Robert Wise’s Criminal Court (1946), which offered Tom Conway an attractive role, to Vincent Sherman’s Harriet Craig (1950) with a distinctly vinegary Joan Crawford making Wendell Corey’s life a misery, and then Montgomery Tully’s cheap and cheerful programmer The Diplomatic Corpse (1958).

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  12. Colin
    Seen Criminal Court and The Diplomatic Corpse but have yet to take in the Crawford film. I quite liked the low-rent Tully film as well.

    Gord

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  13. Weekend Viewing

    Steven Spielberg’s first film is really a nifty little thriller. A man, Dennis Weaver, driving to a meeting finds himself being chased by a crazy truck driver. Set out in the middle of nowhere, it works very well. with some nice suspense and good driving stunts.

    Gord .

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    • I should also have added that I watched The Broken Horseshoe (1953), a Francis Durbridge adaptation with Robert Beatty and Elizabeth Sellars.
      Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood though. The two leads are fine but the score really irritated me, loud, inappropriate and massively intrusive.

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  14. Regarding Sherman’s RED CANYON I pretty much agree
    with Colin’s review but prefer his two Columbia A Westerns from
    the same period RENEGADES and RELENTLESS.
    Much has been mentioned on these pages recently regarding
    Colin’s fine wordsmithing ( a phrase I borrowed from Walter
    which proves I only steal from the best!)
    In my opinion it’s high time Colin made the transition from Blog
    Meister to commentaries on DVD’s & Blu Ray’s,certainly others
    have made a similar progression namely our friend Toby Roan and
    “The Nitrate Diva”…………LOVE that name!!
    I hope this happens one day, in fact I’m rather surprised the likes of
    Indicator and Imprint have not been knocking on Colin’s door.
    It”s also interesting that Toby recently did superb commentaries
    for both those companies.
    CHRISTMAS EVE for me was pretty flat and for me the only
    interesting element is that third billed Scott’s career would soar,
    while the two George’s careers headed straight down the drain.
    The Georges ended up in British B Flicks a sure sign that their
    career was on the slide.
    Interesting how many other Warner Brothers roster stars ended up in
    British B Movies: (Pat O Brien,Dane Clark,Wayne Morris,
    William Lundigan,Zachary Scott)
    I thought I’d mention Criterion’s sensational release of HIGH SIERRA
    a wonderful package including COLORADO TERRITORY ( a high def scan
    from a 35mm source but not cleaned up but very watchable all the same)
    There are many extras including a 1 hour 35 minute documentary on
    Raoul Walsh which is highly informative, to say the least.
    The 2019 doc covers the Great Man’s career from his adventures with
    Pancho Villa,to his early days with Griffith & Fairbanks through to his
    saucy pre code days on his triumphs at Warners.
    The Walsh retrospective continues through his 50’s work and if you can snap
    up the Criterion package at a decent price it comes with my highest recommendation.
    There’s just too much info to take in at one sitting,many surprises like
    for instance Joel McCrea was Jack Warner’s first choice for PURSUED
    Finally,further icing on the cake,as if it needed any,there is a superb essay
    by the always engaging Imogen Sara Smith, images simply flow through the
    mind as one savours Smith’s “fine wordsmithing” (thanks again to Walter)
    Finally just like to extend my very best seasonal wishes to all who
    “Ride The High Country” stay safe,keep well during ’22.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Firstly, it’s genuinely great to see you posting here again and I hope you’ll be in a position to do so more often soon.
      That Criterion release of High Sierra sounds wonderful, not least for the inclusion of a Hi-Def version of Colorado Territory among all those extras. I’d love to pick it up but it’s locked to Region A and I’m not able to play US Blu-rays. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the UK branch of Criterion will see their way to putting it out in Region B at some stage.

      And thank you too for the very kind words about my scribblings here over the years. I appreciate that a lot.

      Merry Christmas, John.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Thanks for the kind words Colin,I’m indeed humbled.
    My region 1 player conked out recently and until I purchased
    a replacement I only had Imogen Sara Smith’s lovely essay to read
    which I read over and over, my goodness, can she write.
    I hope HIGH SIERRA gets a UK release it’s certainly one that you
    will not want to be without.

    And a very Merry Christmas to you too Colin-I’m so glad your
    blog continues to go from strength to strength in these uncertain times.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Opinions please. Coming up this week here on cable is THE GREEN MAN, a 1957 UK production starring Alastair Sim. Never seen it myself but have heard good things about it. Is that the feeling here as well? You guys are always good for an opinion.

    Gordon

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  17. One of my favourite Blu Ray’s of 2021 was Warner Archives
    superb transfer of THE WINDOW. (1949)
    The film justifies Dore Schary’s faith in first time director
    Ted Tetzlaff and THE WINDOW was surely his finest film as director.
    I do like the two films Tetzlaff did with Glenn Ford and UNDER THE GUN
    is one of my most wanted Universal International crime thrillers.
    I hope Kino Lorber get around to releasing UNDER THE GUN sooner
    rather than later.
    THE WINDOW also has a thinly veiled social comment element especially
    showing the rather Spartan tenement apartment blue collar worker Arthur
    Kennedy and his wife and child live in.
    The film owes much to European Neo Realism of the post war period
    and this is backed up by the striking location work.
    The two female leads (Barbara Hale and Ruth Roman) are suitably
    de glamorised to an extent that more A list stars would have refused.
    Only the cops,this time ’round are more humane than usual,a nice touch is
    a neighbourhood stray cat wanders into the police station to get his lunch.
    THE WINDOW packs a whole heap of nail biting suspense into it’s trim
    73 minutes,I did catch a 16mm print at a Noir Evening a dozen or so
    years back but this lovely crisp Warner Archive restoration is indeed a
    joy to behold. The film was a sleeper hit for RKO in 1949 and one wonders
    what the studios fortunes might have been had Dore Schary not moved
    on to MGM in the early 50’s.

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    • John,
      At MGM things were not so great under Schary and he lost that position in just a few years, so his performance at a much more important studio, is a reasonable response to your hypothetical.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks Barry,
    I always thought Schary hit the ground running at MGM with
    WESTWARD THE WOMEN and his later Taylor vehicle
    THE LAST HUNT divides opinion,although there are other interesting
    titles in the mix.
    Thanks also for your kind words on Facebook,you always make my day
    even ‘though we don’t agree about everything film wise.
    Speaking of Facebook I missed Colin’s birthday yesterday I just don’t follow
    it as closely as I should, so Colin many happy returns for yesterday
    and may you and your lovely blog continue to “Ride High” during ’22.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. All the best to everyone and their families. Happy Birthday to Colin, the spring chicken that he his. I hit the big 65 with my birthday on Dec 24th.
    Again, all the best to everyone on RTHC.

    A White Christmas for sure here in Calgary. Snowing and minus 15C out right now.. Minus 23 for the 25th and minus 29 C on Monday .and that is not counting the wind chill!!!!

    Gordon

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  20. Colin, belated, but I wish and hope you had a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    Gordon, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    Quite some Winter weather up there in the Northland. Here in the old middle borderland of the Arkansas/Missouri lapping over country, it is supposed to be a sunny 72F today and 75F on Christmas Day. Although, we had weather here, like your having now, last February.

    Colin, I would like to wish you and all the readers and commenters of this wonderful RIDING THE HIGH COUNTRY: REVIEWS AND RAMBLINGS a very MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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  21. Just lit up my first Cuban cigar and poured myself a stiff belt of cognac. So I have now opened the season of Santa and the Reindeer.

    All the best for all you fine folks.

    Gord

    Liked by 1 person

  22. The weather here is a cool minus 35 C which comes out as a nice balmy minus 31 on the F scale. That is without the wind chill. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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  23. Right now with the wind it is minus 51 C or Minus 59 F There was 46 new record cold spots in Alberta. Record summer temps and now record cold. A hell of a year.

    Gord

    Like

    • Gord,
      I hope your Cuban cigar and glass of cognac gave you the Christmas Feelgood Factor. I am sitting in the warmth of my daughter’s home with most of the family here, having just enjoyed a superb Christmas roast, two helpings of my wife’s trifle and several glasses of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. I am feeling ‘fat’ but hey we’ll worry about the diet next week!
      Happy New Year, chum.
      Jerry

      Liked by 1 person

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