And that wraps up my Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Western viewings. I saved this film for last because it was the only one I'd seen before, when I was young. I'd completely forgotten Rock Hudson was in it, but, well, he had almost no part and should have been cut out anyway. Not that I have anything against him, it's just the plot would have been tighter without him. He didn't add anything other than an extra gun. Besides, he's just so vanilla next to Arthur Kennedy and James Stewart.
Ahhh, Arthur Kennedy. This was the first movie I ever saw him in, and I've liked him ever since. It was kind of funny, because watching it now, I realize the first thing that attracted me to him -- was his horse. Horses were big in my family, well with my mom, anyway. My dad, not so much. She'd always owned and ridden horses, was always talking and watching horses. We watched Westerns as much to see the horses as the shoot-outs and barroom brawls. And in Bend of the River, Mr. Kennedy is riding a buckskin, and that was always my favorite coloring. Hee. But he's fabulous in this, just like in Man From Laramie. All the right shades of charming, brave, shifty, determined, and desperate.
I think it's fascinating how similar his character and Jimmy Stewart really are, how it could easily have been Jimmy Stewart who betrayed Arthur Kennedy instead. They're both skirting the edges of their pasts and future, looking for a new life. Kennedy's just a little greedier, where Stewart wants redemption. Their scenes together are the best in the film and make me grin grin grin. I love the way they each realize who the other is in the beginning, how it's mostly conveyed in looks, not words, because they both have a lot to hide, and they respect each other enough not to give each other away to the settlers. Gotta dig that. I love their Oriole/Indian talk. I love how quick Kennedy is to defend Stewart (a lot quicker than the reverse) multiple times. I love Kennedy's horse. :-D (Hah! Just re-read my review of Man from Laramie, and apparently, he's also riding a buckskin in that movie. That I also had to comment on.)
Julie Adams is the love interest in this, and I couldn't help but be cross with her. This isn't her fault so much as her character's. I seem to have encountered a rash of fickle Julie Adams characters lately, and I'm still mad at her for messing with Joel McCrea's heart in The Gunfight at Dodge City. I think she's just as cold and fickle here. I mean, she's clearly attracted to Arthur Kennedy the moment he appears. She spends months with him in Portland, and then she condemns him completely in less than a minute flat when he turns on Jimmy Stewart. Now, honey, don't you even want to hear his side of it? Stand by your man just a little? Particularly after knowing he's a gambler and already deciding to stay in Portland with him and ignore your family? Sheesh! I would have. At least let him 'splain things. Maybe there was more to his plan, maybe he had grander ideas. But nooooo. She tells him instantly to get lost. Hmph. Silly fickle woman.
But really, I loved the movie very much. And the Mann/Stewart collaborations really are a great series of Westerns. I'd personally rank them as follows:
1. The Naked Spur
2. Bend of the River
3. The Man from Laramie
4. The Far Country
5. Winchester 73
Probably an obvious order for anyone who knows me, me being the plot-girl I am: The Naked Spur is the only one with a really tight story. The others are a little too sprawly, a little too segmented into different sections. And, of course, Naked Spur has Ralph Meeker. And as much as I love Arthur Kennedy, I love Meeker a lot more, even if he doesn't ride a buckskin. LOL!