by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Canyon Passage (1946)

Jack   B+

IMDB    7.0

Tribe(s) : Oregon Indians

Language : English/Native



   Jacques Tourneur directed this story set in 1846 in the Oregon Territory with frontier businessman Dana Andrews starring as Logan Stuart. Susan Hayward plays Lucy Overmire who is Logan's friend George Camrose's (Brian Donlevy) fiancee. Ward Bond plays Honey Bragg the local bully.

It's interesting to see Frenchman Tourneur's treatment of the Indians. Early in the movie an Indian rides by on a horse and the music changes to that familiar tune that denotes a menacing Indian presence is near.

Indians appear at a dance the settlers are having. They speak a Native language and Ben Dance (Andy Devine) translates. Ben says "It's the same old story. They don't mind us coming here. It's like he says, the Mother Earth is for all. What they don't like is the cabin, that makes the land ours." The Indians ask for whiskey but the settlers give them a basket of apples. The Indians take the basket and leave.

The Indians in canyon Passage are offscreen for most of the movie, but their presence is always felt. When the mule train is attacked we don't see the Indians, only the results of what they have done. The Indians in this movie serve as a plot device to unite the whites together.

In a beautiful scene Indian girls are swimming and laughing by a waterfall. Into this tranquil setting comes Honey Bragg. A swimming Indian girl looks up and sees him and a look of terror comes on her face and we see Honey smile as he starts after her, and then the camera switches back to town.

The Indians then begin raiding and burning to avenge the girl that Honey Bragg killed. We hear Indian music and see indians running in the shadows. Tourneur always likes to keep his menacing terror hidden in the dark. The Indians do come out in the light and burn a house. They tomahawk a women behind a bush. The Indians attack another house and kill the couple living there. They then attack and burn a passing wagon with children inside. We don't see results but can imagine the horror.

We then see the results of an attack on a mule train. Bragg attempts to come back to the settlement but they won't let him come in and he runs off in to the woods. We then see the Indians pursuing Bragg through the woods. Out of the shadows they come and finish off Bragg. The white settlers then attack the Indians and drive them off.

The Indians in this movie are portrayed as victims. They are peacefully living their own lives, but are aware of the intrusion of the whites, but don't like it because they know what will follow. Bragg starts the Indian uprising by his senseless killing of the young Indian girl. The Indians respond to the assault, but eventually they are the ones who will be punished.

A really good movie by Jacques Tourneur who uses the Indians as threats in the shadows. The Indians are shown in a sympathetic light, but they are also shown to be minor characters in a plot in which they only have a small plot. Their days are numbered.