6.7/10
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27 user 12 critic

Whispering Smith (1948)

Passed | | Western | 9 December 1948 (USA)
Legendary railroad detective Whispering Smith becomes convinced that old friend and colleague Murray Sinclair has joined a criminal band to loot the railroad.

Director:

Leslie Fenton

Writers:

Frank Butler (screenplay), Karl Kamb (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Alan Ladd ... Whispering Smith
Robert Preston ... Murray Sinclair
Brenda Marshall ... Marian Sinclair
Donald Crisp ... Barney Rebstock
William Demarest ... Bill Dansing
Fay Holden ... Emmy Dansing
Murvyn Vye ... Blake Barton
Frank Faylen ... Whitey Du Sang
John Eldredge ... George McCloud
Ward Wood Ward Wood ... Leroy Barton (as Robert Wood)
J. Farrell MacDonald ... Bill Baggs
Will Wright ... Sheriff McSwiggin
Don Barclay ... Dr. Sawbuck
Eddy Waller ... Conductor (as Eddy C. Waller)
Ashley Cowan Ashley Cowan ... Train Brakeman
Edit

Storyline

Smith as an iron-willed railroad detective. When his friend Murray is fired from the railroad and begins helping Rebstock wreck trains, Smith must go after him. He also seems to have an interest in Murray's wife (and vice versa). Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A new Ladd thrills the Old West !

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

9 December 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Vida Por Um Fio See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. A popular local favorite, it was first telecast in Minneapolis Saturday 7 February 1959 on WTCN (Channel 11), followed by Asheville 12 April 1959 on WLOS (Channel 13), by Milwaukee 21 April 1959 on WITI (Channel 6), by Omaha 4 June 1959 on KETV (Channel 7), by Philadelphia Saturday 3 October 1959 on WCAU (Channel 10), by Indianapolis 24 October 1959 on WFBM (Channel 6), by Toledo 2 November 1959 on WTOL (Channel 11), by Seattle 4 November 1959 on KIRO (Channel 7), by Chicago 20 November 1959 on WBBM (Channel 2), and by Johnstown 9 December 1959 on WJAC (Channel 6). At this time, color broadcasting was still in its infancy, limited to only a small number of high rated programs, primarily on NBC and NBC affiliated stations, so all of these vintage film showings were still in B&W, with the exception of WFBM, which, as an NBC affiliate had already ventured into pioneer color broadcasting. Other viewers were not offered the opportunity to see these films in their original Technicolor until several years later. It was released on DVD 12 March 2013 as part of Universal's Classic Westerns Collection, and since that time, has also enjoyed airings on both Turner Classic Movies and the Western Channel. See more »

Goofs

When Murray punches Luke, he falls sideways off the chair. However, in the shot of Luke landing on the floor, he lands on his back. See more »

Quotes

Murray Sinclair: What's the matter with you, Bill?
Bill Dansing: I don't like your friends, Murray... Rebstock... Du Sang. I know that Whitey. He's as cruel as a soft-nosed bullet. He'd shoot a dyin' man just to see him sqirm.
See more »


Soundtracks

Laramie
Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Guys like Smitty they don't make anymore!
8 October 2017 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Whispering Smith is directed by Leslie Fenton and co-adapted to screenplay by Frank Butler and Karl Kamb from Frank H. Spearman's novel. It stars Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Brenda Marshall, Donald Crisp, William Demarest and Frank Faylen. Music is by Adolph Deutsch and cinematography by Ray Rennahan.

Famed railroad detective Whispering Smith (Ladd) becomes conflicted when his latest case pits him up against one of his best pals.

It's somewhat surprising to find Whispering Smith is not more well known, given that it's Ladd's first full length Western feature and that it's really rather good. With its opening scene of Ladd riding towards camera, with glorious landscape in the background, and the thematics of how Smith operates around women and children, this signposts towards Shane five years down the line. In fact this very much works as a tasty appetiser for that superb 1953 picture.

Ladd cuts a fine figure as Smith, giving him the right amount of calm toughness so as to not over play the role, and Preston is on fine form, very ebullient and able to act heaps with only his eyes. Marshall on the surface doesn't impact greatly, in what is a key role, but the character is very shrewdly written and sits in the story as more than a token. The villains headed by Crisp are not very inspiring, while Faylen looks laughably out of place with a blonde wig!, but with Preston erring on the side of badness the good versus bad axis of plotting thrives well enough.

Pic is filled with a number of shoot-outs, banditry and awesome locomotive action, all set to the backdrop of beautiful - Technicolor enhanced - California locales. The running theme of railroad progression in the West is interestingly written, managing to not take sides and let the viewer enjoy both sides of the coin, though a moral equation that Smith ultimately arrives at doesn't quite add up. Add in Fenton's unfussy direction, Rennahan's location photography (see also night sequences) and Deutsch's pleasingly compliant score, and Western fans are good to go.

This doesn't pull up any tress or have the psychological savvy of what many Oaters of the next decade would explore, but it's very well mounted and engages from the get go. 7/10


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