Santa Fe (1951)
“BEYOND FORBIDDEN FRONTIERS…Iron men forge a path of steel for “The Iron Horse!””
Santa Fe (1951)
Director: Irving Pichel
Cast: Randolph Scott, Janis Carter, Jerome Courtland
Synopsis: After their service in the Civil War, four brothers go their separate ways, but later find themselves on opposite sides of a final showdown.
You’d think it was the North who lost the US Civil War judging by the sourness of those on the victorious side in Santa Fe, Irving Pichel’s routine account of the building of the Santa Fe railroad. Reliable Randolph Scott (Roberta, The Bounty Hunter) plays Britt Canfield, a former Confederate soldier and the oldest of four brothers who lost their family plantation in the conflict. Britt’s ready to move on, but his brothers aren’t so easy-going, and while Britt gets a job as a foreman overseeing the building of the Santa Fe railroad, his siblings take to a life of crime following the self-defence killing of an abusive Yankee soldier in a bar. Eventually, the younger brothers throw in their lot with roguish Cole Sanders (Roy Roberts – My Darling Clementine, Chinatown) whose mobile saloon-cum-casino follows the railroad workers, setting up the potential for a family conflict.
Scott’s 1950s Westerns are usually of a fairly decent quality and entertaining to boot, but Santa Fe fails in nearly all departments. Its episodic structure doesn’t sit well with the core plot of a family separated by the aftermath of a war (which, when you think about it, could make for an unusual storyline) and it simply fails to involve the audience. Potential skirmishes are set up only to be forgotten or, in one instance, simply settled with a handshake. At one point, the railroaders must undertake the monumental task of laying four miles of track in less than two days, and Pichel introduces the dilemma as if it’s going to be a major plot point before inexplicably jumping two days to reveal that – phew! – they’ve succeeded. It’s as if he was behind schedule or over-budget and simply decided to tear a few pages out of the script.
(Reviewed 12th November 2014)