Friday, March 19, 2010

1946 - CANYON PASSAGE making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, part 2.

The previous post on Wichita, looked at the director Jacques Tourneur's attempt to take a minor western film and bring some visual flair to it with somewhat disappointing results.

Canyon Passage was Tourneur's first shot at a western and his first color film.   Tourneur was very lucky to be associated with two talented individuals, the producer Walter Wanger and the writer Ernest Haycox.  The differences in these two western films are pretty amazing.

Walter Wanger was an independent producer who was known for making quality films without being associated with any particular studio.  Wanger would prepare a script, assemble the production team, hire the director and most importantly leave everyone alone to make the film.   Wanger worked with some pretty strong willed directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and Fritz Lang.

The author of Canyon Passage was Ernest Haycox, he was a quality writer of westerns and is mostly remembered as the guy who wrote the story for Stagecoach.  With support like that behind the camera, Jacques Tourneur couldn't miss with this western.

Tourneur brought his amazing visual sense to this film using color and composition.  Tourneur is now known as a director who knew how to achieve interesting 3D depth of field effects by placing props in certain parts of the camera frame.  Canyon Passage has many examples of this.  The scene below with Dana Andrews and Ward Bond has a bottle carefully placed in the frame.  Attention is also given to lighting the set and the actors, it does create an interesting look. 

A very good high quality western,  Canyon Passage has lots of beautiful on location filming, the film also has the legendary composer/performer Hoagy Carmichael in a small role.  Carmichael's actually pretty good and he sings "Ole Buttermilk Sky."

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