Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sterling Hayden to the rescue!

(Reminder: this was originally posted in July 2003 on my other blog. I've only made a few changes to the text.)

Last Friday I had the afternoon free so I watched another western from the GREAT AMERICAN WESTERN collection I mentioned previously.

KANSAS PACIFIC (1953) is a dramatization of the construction of the railroad through Kansas just prior to the Civil War. The area was divided between those who favored the Union and those 'state rights' & pro-slavery advocates who supported the Confederacy. Seeing the difficulties being thrown at the railroad the Union Army ‘unofficially' sends in a construction engineer (played by Sterling Hayden) to assist. Naturally, as these things go events rapidly build from destruction of property to the murder of railroad personnel. Eventually the Army must send in troops. (For folks also into comic books, I should recommend the John Ostrander scripted THE KENTS, from DC Comics. It covers the same era and features fictional and real life individuals involved in the conflict.)

Hayden stars with Barton MacLane as the railroad's chief engineer, and Eve Miller as MacLane's daughter (and the only female in the cast), the love interest for Hayden. One of the villain's henchmen is played by Myron Healey, whom you may recall was in RAGE AT DAWN, with Randolph Scott, as one of the Reno brothers. That fella was all over the place and proof that Hollywood loved a 'good' bad guy. :-)

Initially I didn't recognize him in pencil-thin moustache and minus the mask, but Clayton Moore has such a distinctive voice that I couldn't help but realize that he was playing a bad guy. You have to remember that at this point Moore was having contractual problems with the folks producing the LONE RANGER TV show and was temporarily replaced in the role for which he will always be remembered. Guy still had to pay the rent! Moore had played a villain in several films earlier in his career, so it wasn't a stretch for him, even though it may have startled any LR fans who happened to catch this in the theatre back then.

Not a classic, by any means, but like many other 'B' westerns of the time well-acted and well produced. Director Ray Navarro was very busy in the 1940s - '50s cranking out dozens of westerns for a number of studios. His last project was in 1964 when he directed "When Strangers Meet" (also released as "Dog Eats Dog") with Jayne Mansfield and Cameron Mitchell. Now there's a legacy!
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