Canadian Pacific (1949)
Prior to his now legendary association with Budd Boetticher, western favorite Randolph Scott, was starring in a number of solid outdoor action adventures including this Edwin L. Marin feature released through 20th Century Fox.
Filmed in color, our story kicks in via narration when it’s explained that the biggest obstacle in connecting all of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific are the Rocky Mountains. And so the provincial leaders gather for some Candian Parliamentary discussions. (The ones that Kramer so famously PVR’d on Seinfeld giving all us Canucks a good chuckle because our Gov’t gathering in the House of Commons might be the most boring thing one will ever encounter on television) ….. back to our story ….. If the railway isn’t completed then British Columbia may drop out of the Federation. It’s deemed they need a man who knows the country and can Ramrod a crew through the Rockies.
Paging Randolph Scott.
Scott has been searching for an elusinve pass that will allow the railroad currently making it’s way across the flatlands of Alberta to the Pacific Coastline. No sooner do we see Scott filmed against the beautiful backdrop of Banff, Alberta among other scenic Canadian locales and we are introduced to the villain of our story. None other than screen heavy Victor Jory. Jory is fronting the local Metis settlement and attempting to prevent the railway from succeeding which he claims will only bring more settlers to their territory and steal their livelihoods. Of course what he’s really concerned about is how it will effect his own trading post. In his opening moments on camera, Jory, will take a shot at Scott but miss his mark.
Scott will return to the railway with the route needed to succeed. It’s here we’ll meet J. Carrol Naish subbing for either Walter Brennan or Gabby Hayes. Or maybe both. Naish was of course a supreme character player and easily fills the void of the hero’s sidekick left by Walter and Gabby. Scott will also cross paths with a female doctor tending to the needs of the injured as the railway makes it’s way towards the mountains. Jane Wyatt stars as the woman who thinks very little of Scott who leads with his fists and guns when called upon. That’s no problem for Scott who has young Nancy Olson waiting for him. She’s a feisty Meti girl who hangs on his every word and truth be told comes across like a cat in heat when around the tall he-man of a cowboy.
Truth be told, I’ve always found Miss Olson extremely attractive in those early film roles. She made her film debut here at age 21 and would star opposite William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard for her next assignment followed by another pair of Holden titles, Submarine Command and A Force of Arms. Even a Crosby title, Mr. Music, was an early assignment.
Incredibly, this sexy 21 year old is not only being lined up by 51 year old Scott but by 47 year old Jory who wants her for his own. Afterall, Scott, is an outsider to their community.
Meanwhile back at the ranch … er … railway tracks, Naish, is noticing that plenty of TNT has gone missing and warns Scott of sabotage keeping the railway from meeting it’s deadline. Scott wants out of the Ramrodding business but as we all know, “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”
Jory will nearly get his wish when Scott is badly wounded in an explosion he has rigged. End result? He’s nursed back to health by his very own nurse, Miss Wyatt, giving young Nancy cause for alarm. When Scott comes to and learns it’s Wyatt who saved his life he seems to have become a changed man. Quaker like. One who has sworn off violence and the use of guns.
Naish is quick to point out to the man he looks up to, “What’s that female done to yah?” Personally, I suspect it was the blood transfusion she herself volunteered for. Maybe he’ll need to sit in on another explosion to regain his full senses. He’d better do it quick if he’s to stop Jory from leading an Indian uprising against the railway workers.
Nancy is soon to realize that Jory and her own father are plotting murder and destruction and when Jory comes on to her she’ll wisely take a whip to him and ride off warning Scott of the impending doom. Even if he has taken up with that no-good Nurse Ratchet. In order to do so Scott will send Naish to bring the men from another railway gang to the rescue. This will lead to a not so funny by today’s standards scene where Naish must outwit a group of Indian Braves who have captured him. It’s obviously played for laughs circa 1949 but is anything but funny in today’s climate.
Well I’ll leave the outcome to you but I’m more than confidant you’ll know who is going to win the battle between Scott and Jory when the duo square off in the final reel. As for who Scott is going to have on his arm in the fadeout? Again I’ll let you see for yourself when he and his ladylove romance each other on the shores of the beautiful Lake Louise, Alberta.
I do believe I stood in that same spot decades later with my own lady love.
This proves to be a “rip roaring” action western that doesn’t disappoint. It’s bolstered by both the cast and the location shoot in western Canada. The director Edwin L. Marin who would pass away prematurely in 1952 was no stranger to Randolph Scott features. Of the final eleven films he helmed between 1947 and 1951, seven starred Scott including another winner, The Cariboo Trail.
Trivia buffs will be sure to point out Dimitri Tiomkin’s name as the credited composer. I usually associate Mr. Tiomkin with High Noon. Another that I spied was the second unit director, George Archainbaud. George’s assignment appears to be a “one off.” He hadn’t served in this capacity since 1917 according to the IMDB. Yes his career does go back that far. He mainly directed B films from 1917 through to the 1950’s including a number of Hopalong Cassidy adventures.
Thankfully this Scott western is out on blu ray via Kino Lorber and finally the name Canadian Pacific stirs up an early memory for yours truly. Not the film or the railway line. No in this case a song that was on an LP we had in the house growing up. Always looking to feature some sort of nod to country music, here’s the song Canadian Pacific song by Grand Ole Opry star, George Hamilton IV.