Thanks to ultracrisp Technirama photography of great mountainside and river gorge locations in Colorado, Night Passage
is often terrific to look at; you can almost feel the autumn sun and brisk air. This should have been another classic Western pairing James Stewart with director Anthony Mann. But after choosing the locations, cast, and crew, and directing the precredit sequence, Mann abruptly resigned. He found Borden Chase's screenplay an "incoherent" rehash of relationships and setups from their previous films, nor was he encouraged by Stewart's determination to play the accordion and sing. Stewart's an ex-railroad cop who became a pariah by letting a prisoner--Audie Murphy's "The Utica Kid"--escape. The two cross paths again in a ghost town where Dan Duryea, doing a zany version of his loony outlaw from Winchester '73, has holed up with his gang. Replacement director James Neilson, a newcomer destined for bland Disney servitude, fosters a lot of flatfooted standing-around. --Richard T. Jameson
Classic Western starring James Stewart as Grant McLaine, a former railroad employee now scraping a living as a traveling musician entertaining workers in the construction camps along the frontier. Fired from his job on the railroads after helping his gun-slinging outlaw brother - known as the Utica Kid (Audie Murphy) - escape the law, he is given one last chance to prove his worth by being asked to deliver $10,000 for the railroad workers' wages. The railroad bosses have had to resort to this drastic measure since the Utica Kid and his gang, led by the fast-shooting Whitey (Dan Duryea), have been holding the train up at gunpoint every time it attempts to deliver the payroll. When the Utica Kid finds out that Grant has been recruited to get the payroll through, he senses an opportunity - but for McLaine his livelihood as well as his sense of moral justice are hanging in the balance, and the film culminates in a tense showdown between the two brothers.