Santa Fe (1951)
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For Randolph Scott, Santa Fe is an interesting blend of two of his previous pre-World War II films The Texans and Western Union. In both he's involved in a great enterprise, a cattle drive in The Texans and building the telegraph in Western Union. In The Texans he's a returning Confederate veteran and in Western Union his conflict is with his brother.
Santa Fe is a good action packed western, plenty of gun-play by a cast of veterans of many a western. Scott is his usual tight-lipped self. The part is a bit offbeat for him. Randolph Scott is usually a driven man with a mission and sometimes can be ruthless. His Britt Canfield here is a man of honor and a straight arrow, the kind of part Joel McCrea would normally be cast in. But Scott does well with the role.
Olin Howland and Billy House provide some good comic relief as an engineer and his fireman. Western fans will not be disappointed.
and his three brothers. There plan was to make enough money in the North and head back to Virginia, however, there was still great hatred towards the Northerners for burning their property and also claiming their homestead lands. As the Santa Fe railroad is trying to lay their track across the land there is a bunch of crooks looking for their pay checks on pay day and they set up a tent with gambling, booze and hot bar maids to grab every nickle and dime and cause great delays in the building of the railroad. Janis Carter, (Judith Chandler) is a pretty platinum blonde who captures the eye of Britt Canfield, but she hates him for killing her brother in the Civil War. Great film with steam engines burning up the tracks and even an Indian takes complete control of the engine. Enjoy a great 1951 Classis Western from the past.
In addition to his brothers, Scott deals with a wide variety of things that might impede the progress of the railroad--rival companies, local Indian tribes and the like. This makes Scott's job in the film as a sort of trouble-shooter. How true all these problems were in the construction of the rails is beyond me and I assume that the writers took a few liberties...just a few! Overall, the film is pretty good. While it isn't among Scott's best films (they were made later in the decade and the early 60s), this is a good film from this time period.
A routine Western boosted by some quality set pieces and a well crafted script. Watchable from the off, film follows a true course whilst launching off narratively from the bitterness still felt by those who were on opposite sides of the war. It pitches Scott front and centre as the stoic character fending off all sorts of challenges, challenges that come courtesy of Indians, rival companies and his own kin! The acting around Scott is pretty average, tho the comic relief from Billy House & Olin Howland is most appealing, while it would have been nice to have some more imposing scenery filling out the screen. All told it's a safe recommendation to Western fans, even if ultimately it's not a genre film to revisit often. 6/10
Director: IRVING PICHEL. Screenplay: Kenneth Gamet. Based on the 1945 book Santa Fe: The Railroad That Built an Empire by James Leslie Marshall and the story All the Brothers Were Loyal by Louis Stevens. Photography in Color by Technicolor by Charles Lawton Jr. Film editor: Gene Havlick. Art director: Walter Holscher. Music composed by Paul Sawtell. Music director: Morris W. Stoloff. Producer: Harry Joe Brown. Executive producers: Harry Joe Brown, Randolph Scott. A Scott-Brown Production. A Columbia Picture.
Copyright 13 March 1951 by Producers Actors Corp. Released by Columbia Pictures Corp. New York opening at the Palace: 3 May 1951. U.S. release: 1 April 1951. U.K. release: 1 October 1951. Australian release: 4 January 1952. 7,926 feet. 88 minutes. Censored to 7,770 feet (86 minutes) in the U.K.
SYNOPSIS: After the Civil War, the four Canfield Brothers, veterans of the Confederate Army, go West. Britt Canfield (Randolph Scott) becomes assistant to Santa Fe R.R. construction chief Dave Baxter (Warner Anderson), and falls in love with beautiful paymaster Judith Chandler (Janis Carter). Britt's brothers, Terry (Jerome Courtland), Tom (Peter Thompson) and Clint (John Archer) join an outlaw gang.
COMMENT: Randolph Scott's fans will not complain, but this agreeably photographed but laboriously routine western is not one of his more appealing outings. True, the movie packs in plenty of action, but it's rather dull in between these well-directed spurts, leaving audiences to twiddle their fingers or talk among themselves or visit the refreshment counters, while they wait, none too patiently, for the plot to gear up and the screen to light up with more fighting, shooting, stunts and thrills.
STORY BACKGROUND: On 22 December 1872, pioneering Santa Fe railroad construction crews completed laying tracks across Kansas to what they thought was the border of Colorado. Upon actual completion depended land grants from the United States government which would permit the road to continue to the Pacific Coast. They thought they had reached the Colorado line with 48 hours to spare.
That night, to the horror of the construction engineer, it was discovered that the Santa Fe's surveyor had erred by four miles. The government's surveyor insisted that the State of Colorado lay four miles beyond the end of the Santa Fe tracks. To insure completion of the road, and to avoid bankruptcy, tracks would have to be laid over those four miles within 48 hours. Since the crew had been averaging only one mile a day, the feat was thought impossible — but the railroaders set to work.
Beset by Indians, outlaws, gamblers and drunks, the crew completed the Santa Fe to Colorado by Christmas Eve, within one minute of the contract's expiration.
In the film, Randolph Scott plays the construction chief responsible for the completion of the job. For the movie, the feat was accomplished not in Kansas but in Arizona where location scenes of Santa Fe were filmed. While no government franchises were at stake, the movie railroaders hewed to a rigorous schedule, under director Irving Pichel and producer Harry Joe Brown. — Columbia Publicity.
OTHER VIEWS: Unexceptionable. — Monthly Film Bulletin.
The film becomes muddled as you really don't understand the conflict between the various factions within the railroad. You also don't know how to feel about the brothers. Are they victims of circumstances? What was the fate of the surviving brothers by film's end?
Roy Roberts plays the villain here. I remember him as a hotel innkeeper who refused admission to Gregory Peck for being Jewish in "Gentleman's Agreement," and 20 years later to a black couple in "Hotel."
This is a great part for Randolph Scott. He is a real good guy here, and yet still loyal to the concept of family.
He was kind of the poor man's John Wayne.
The plot here is that the Civil War is over, and while his brothers carry around a lot of anger about what happened during the war, Randolf plays a guy who goes to work helping to organize and build railroads connecting the west with the rest of the country.
Some parts of the film, like the scene with the native Americans, and they remark "Some day we'll name a train after you, Chief." (Ha, ha, "Super-chief" How funny. Almost takes the sting off the genocide!) The brothers take to train robbing after gambling doesn't work out for them, and there's a bit of pathos between the good guys and bad guys and the historical Bat Matherson being dropped into the mix.