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 whites outnumber us, Father. The war is over. All the wars... even yours. The country is growing up. They gave me these stripes wiithout testing my blood. I led a squad of white men. I slept in the same blankets with them, ate out of the same pan. I held their heads when they died. Whey should it be any different now?
You are home. You are an Indian.
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Anthony Mann's first western maybe one of the best ever done and sad to say it was probably overshadowed by the more popular Broken Arrow which also dealt sympathetically with the plight of the American Indian.
Right after Devil's Doorway Mann did Winchester 73 and a whole slew of films with James Stewart, mostly westerns and well received ones at that. Devil's Doorway should be grouped with those films as well as a cinema classic. My guess is that it is because Mann never did another film with Robert Taylor. If anyone knows why, please let me know.
Robert Taylor gives one of his best screen performances as Lance Poole, Union Army veteran and Congressional Medal of Honor winner and full blooded Shoshoni Indian. He's returned to his ranch in Wyoming hoping to pick up the pieces of his civilian life. Taylor has bought into the ideals of the Civil War. He in fact went to war to free another group of people from slavery.
It's one big disillusioning process as he discovers that Indians need not apply for a piece of the American dream. The Homestead Act which Abraham Lincoln signed during the Civil War specifically excludes Indians from its provisions.
Louis Calhern portrays one of the most loathsome villains of his career as Verne Coolan, a lawyer who apparently for no other reason than his own hatred of the red man, stirs up hatred and resentment against Taylor and the Shoshonis. He brings in sheepherders to homestead in the valley that Poole has his ranch on, knowing full well it will be the start of a range war with racial overtones. The entrance to Taylor's valley is known as the Devil's Doorway.
Calhern has an equally loathsome henchman played by James Millican who starts a bar fight that Taylor finishes. It's a brutal one, ranking right up there with the one in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Other noteworthy performances are by Edgar Buchanan as the town marshal who is torn between his friendship for Taylor and the discriminatory law he's sworn to enforce. Also Paula Raymond and Spring Byington as a female attorney and her mother, quite radical in those days. Although overtly Taylor and Raymond have a business relationship, there is a gleam in Raymond's eyes whenever Taylor's around.
Oddly enough six years later Taylor saw cinematically how the other half lived when in The Last Hunt he played buffalo hunter Charlie Gilson who had a hate for the Indian the equal of Calhern's here.
Although Broken Arrow got all the acclaim and deserved it, it is a pity that Devil's Doorway did not get more attention. Catch this very special film whenever it is broadcast.
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