AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Bend of the River
Alternate Title: Bend of the Snake
Director: Anthony Mann (Dir)
Release Date:   9 Apr 1952
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Portland, OR 23 Jan 1952; Los Angeles opening: 29 Feb 1952; New York opening: 9 Apr 1952
Production Date:   26 Jul--13 Sep 1951
Duration (in mins):   91-92
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   James Stewart (Glyn McLyntock)  
    Arthur Kennedy (Emerson Cole)  
    Julia Adams (Laura Baile)  
    Rock Hudson (Trey Wilson)  
    Lori Nelson (Marjie Baile)  
    Jay C. Flippen (Jeremy Baile)  
    Chubby Johnson (Captain Mello)  
    Henry ["Harry"] Morgan (Shorty)  
    Royal Dano (Long Tom)  
    Frances Bavier (Mrs. Prentiss)  
    Howard Petrie (Tom Hendricks)  
    Stepin' Fetchit (Adam)  
    Jack Lambert (Red)  
    Frank Ferguson (Don Grundy)  
    Cliff Lyons (Wullie)  
    Jennings Miles (Lock)  
    Frank Chase (Wasco)  
    Lillian Randolph (Aunt Tildy)  
    Britt Wood (Roustabout)  
    Gregg Barton (Miner)  
    Dallas R. McKennon (Miner)  
    Manuel Thomas Golemis (Miner)  
    George Taylor (Prospector)  
    Philo McCullogh (Prospector)  
    Hugh Prosser (Johnson)  
    Donald Kerr (Barker)  
    Harry Arnie (Barker)  
    Charles Bennett (Young man)  
    George B. North (Trapper)  
    Richard H. Randlett (Man at settlement camp)  
    Ron Myron (Man at settlement camp)  
    Otic Albert Russell (Man at settlement camp)  
    Albertine V. West (Woman at settlement camp)  

Summary: In 1847, while leading a wagon train of settlers traveling from Missouri to Portland, Oregon, Glyn McLyntock saves a suspected horse thief, Emerson Cole, from a lynch mob. Although Glyn recognizes Cole as a former Missouri border raider, the two become friends and Cole joins the wagon train. That night, six Shoshone Indians attack the camp and shoot a settler, Laura Baile, in the shoulder with an arrow. Cole follows Glyn as he bravely attacks the Indians and, after saving Glyn from one, hears Glyn's gunshots signal the death of the five others. The next day, Glyn notes with disappointment that Laura is attracted to Cole, and reveals to the younger man that he is running away from his younger self. In Portland, the settlers receive a warm welcome from saloon owner Don Grundy and local steamboat owner Tom Hendricks. As Laura is tended to by doctor and riverboat captain Mello, her father, Jeremy, spends all the settlers' money on supplies Hendricks is to deliver in a few months. Handsome gambler Trey Wilson arrives in town that night and spurns the attentions of Laura's younger sister Marjie, in order to play poker with Cole and Grundy. During their game, Grundy recognizes Cole as a former raider, and when Trey accuses the saloon owner of cheating, Cole shoots Grundy. The next day, everyone except Cole, who is staying in town, and Laura, who needs to recuperate for another month, boards the steamboat and heads to the settlement. Jeremy confides to Glyn that he does not like Cole because he believes that once a man has gone bad, he cannot be reformed. Over the next months, Jeremy presides over the building of the settlement's farms, homes, school and church. By mid-October, however, neither Laura nor the supplies have arrived, and the settlers are in danger of starving once winter sets in. Glyn and Jeremy travel to Portland to retrieve the supplies, only to discover that the town has been transformed by an influx of gold miners, and that greedy Hendricks is holding their goods, now worth five times their former value. Glyn hires out-of-work miners and instructs them to load their supplies onto the steamboat, then finds Hendricks in the new gambling hall. There, Cole works as Hendricks' pit boss, with Laura by his side. Glyn advises Laura to inform her father of her decision to stay in Portland, then confronts Hendricks, who refuses to give up the supplies and instead shoots at Glyn. Cole and Trey leap to Glyn's defense, and the three are forced to flee to the steamboat, where they convince Captain Mello to help them, along with Jeremy, Laura and the miners, to escape. With Hendricks and his men on their trail, Glyn convinces the miners to help them bring the supplies over the mountain. That night, Glyn positions them in the hills and so is able to kill off Hendricks and his men. As they begin the perilous journey over the mountain, they meet hungry miners, who have also been tricked out of their food by Hendricks. Cole and Red want to accept the miners' offer of $100,000 for the supplies, but Jeremy refuses to sell. Soon after, the miners revolt against Glyn, and although Cole saves Glyn, Jeremy's leg is injured. The next day, Cole, who cannot resist the other miners' money, beats up Glyn, leaves him horseless and abducts Jeremy, Laura and the supplies. As Glyn tenaciously tracks the wagons on foot, Cole grows more depraved. Laura frees a horse for Glyn to find, and two hours outside of the mining camp, Glyn attacks. Desperate, Cole beats Jeremy and then shoots at Trey when the gambler defends the older man. Cole takes off for the mining camp to round up help, and before Glyn, Laura, Trey and Jeremy can get the supplies back to the settlers, Cole and his men appear. Trey and Jeremy shoot down the miners as Cole and Glyn fall into the river, locked in combat. Glyn finally knocks out Cole, and the criminal drowns. When Glyn staggers out of the river, Jeremy sees the scars around his neck and, realizing that his friend is also a former border raider, admits that he was wrong about the ability of men to reform. Soon, the settlers joyfully welcome the group back, and as Trey approaches Marjie, Jeremy proudly watches Laura joining Glyn in his wagon. 

Production Company: Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Co., Inc.  
Director: Anthony Mann (Dir)
  John Sherwood (Asst dir)
Producer: Aaron Rosenberg (Prod)
  Frank Cleaver (Assoc prod)
Writer: Borden Chase (Scr)
Photography: Irving Glassberg (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun (Art dir)
  Nathan Juran (Art dir)
Film Editor: Russell Schoengarth (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  Oliver Emert (Set dec)
Costumes: Rosemary Odell (Cost)
Music: Hans J. Salter (Mus)
Sound: Leslie I. Carey (Sd)
  Joe Lapis (Sd)
Make Up: Joan St. Oegger (Hairstylist)
  Bud Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: Lew Leary (Unit prod mgr)
  Clem Fuller (Stunts)
  Phil Benjamin (Casting exec)
Color Personnel: William Fritzsche (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Bend of the Snake by Bill Gulick (Boston, 1950).
Authors: Bill Gulick

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 18/2/1952 dd/mm/yyyy LP1503

PCA NO: 15401
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor

Genre: Western
Subjects (Major): Duplicity
  Gold rushes
  Moral reformation
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  African Americans
  Fathers and daughters
  Indians of North America
  Poker (Game)
  Portland (OR)
  Wagon trains
  Wounds and injuries

Note: The working title of this film was Bend of the Snake . HR news items add Frank Conlon to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to other HR news items, the film was shot at locations in the Snake River country in Oregon, including the Sandy River, Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge and Timberline. Although the CBCS and contemporary reviews list Arthur Kennedy's character name as "Cole Garrett," he is called "Emerson Cole" in the film. The HR review mistakenly credits Jay C. Flippen in the role of "Captain Mello," but the part was played by Chubby Johnson.
       The film marked the return to the screen of actor Stepin' Fetchit. Fetchit had appeared in only one other film since 1939, the 1948 picture Miracle in Harlem (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). NYT reviewer Bosley Crowther commented that he was sorry to see the African-American actor playing another "clownish stereotype."
       Universal-International production notes reveal the following information: Arthur Kennedy sprained his knee while filming the scene in which he beats Jay C. Flippen's character, and was confined to shooting riding scenes until his knee healed; the 8,000 foot shooting elevation required a variety of safety innovations, including the bulldozing of a path up the mountain and another path across the Sandy River; the planting of a steel cable to which covered wagons were attached to keep them from sliding down cliffs; and the use of slow-moving tractors to haul equipment up the mountainside.
       Although a May 1967 HR news item stated that a remake of the film was planned under producer Howard Christie, no remake appears to have been produced. According to modern sources, James Stewart considered Bend of the River to be the most physically demanding film he ever made. Modern sources add Denver Dixon to the cast. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   26 Jan 1952.   
Daily Variety   22 Jan 52   p. 3.
Film Daily   22 Jan 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jul 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jul 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jul 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jul 51   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jul 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Aug 51   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Sep 51   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Sep 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Jan 52   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 52   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   3 May 1967.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   26 Jan 52   p. 1213.
New York Times   9 Apr 52   p. 27.
New York Times   10 Apr 52   p. 37.
Variety   23 Jan 52   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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