A New York City detective, traveling by train between New York and Baltimore, tries to foil an on-board plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln before he reaches Baltimore to give a major pre-Inauguration speech in 1861.
US Army Sgt.-Major Lance Poole, a Shoshone Indian, returns home from the Civil War a highly decorated war hero, his intention being to live a quiet life on the family farm outside Big Horn in the Wyoming Territory being a cattle rancher. His family has been able to live the dream of eking out a good life off the impoverished reserve where there is little hope of that good life, in the process, while still retaining their traditional ways, being admired by the locals who know him and his family. Things have changed during his time away, anti-Indian legislation enacted in the Territory which has brought many farmers, ranchers and others to the area to homestead, which they are able to do legally on the Pooles' land since the Pooles do not have official title. With lawyer Verne Coolan being an open bigot who would not help any Shoshone even if asked, Lance turns to the only other lawyer in the area for legal advice, he learning on their first meeting that "A. Masters" is Orrie Masters, a...Written by
After an unsuccessful May 1950 press preview, MGM shelved the film. The grim movie was superbly made, but its uncompromising, downbeat story seemed to spell box-office disaster. After the release of the more mainstream Broken Arrow (1950) the following fall, it did get some bottom-of-the-bill bookings in neighborhood grindhouses but did little business and has remained little seen. See more »
The railroad is going to make a lot of changes... a lot of changes, Vance. I can remember when your daddy and I trapped the Wind River country. A man could walk a week and never see another living human... just them mountains... big, purple. It's getting so crowded a man can't draw a full breath.
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While some might balk at the idea of Robert Taylor playing an American Indian, such casting was pretty typical of this era--with folks like Rock Hudson and Paul Newman cast as Indians as well! Plus, while the casting is poor, the film does have a lot in its favor. The biggest plus is that the American Indian is portrayed VERY sympathetically here and is a film about intolerance and prejudice--and makes some excellent points to counter the prevailing "evil and stupid Indian" image many films of the day. Plus, although Taylor is an Anglo with an aquiline nose and blue eyes, the film manages to have him appear rather Indian-like--and his craggy middle-aged good looks helped--along with gobs of skin paint! I cannot speak for American Indians, but I assume most would appreciate the film's message and overlook the casting--as there simply wasn't any better sort of film about them made at the time--and very, very few since.
The film begins with Taylor returning home after several years absence serving in the Union army during the Civil War. Along the way, he developed a bit of naiveté and assumes his being a sergeant in the military and living out the White American dream that he'd be accorded respect and equal treatment at home. However, there's an ill-will brewing and instead of receiving honor for his service (which had earned him the Medal of Honor--the nation's highest military award), he will face a lot of unreasoning hate. At the heart of this is a scum-bag lawyer (imagine that!) who is bent on stirring up the Whites against the Indians--mostly so he man make himself rich in the process.
I could say more to the plot, as there is quite a bit more to the film, but I really don't want to spoil the film. Suffice to say that it is very well written--mostly because it is NOT a movie with a clear message that the settlers were all evil and the Shoshone were perfect and noble. I liked this, as both sides had a point--though the Natives clearly were having their rights cast aside in the process. The characters, as a result, were multidimensional and interesting.
Overall, if you are a bit tired of cookie-cutter westerns and are looking for something a bit different, "Devil's Doorway" is a pretty good bet.
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