POWDER RIVER is a forgotten little western from 1953, easy on the eyes with location filming around Glacier National Park in Montana; the color camerawork can be acknowledged to credit Edward Cronjager, who did scores of movies for Fox, and over his career earned seven Oscar nominations.
Directed by Louis King, who specialized in capably handing B-films, mostly westerns. His older brother Henry was more famous for big-scaled productions. Louis’ best film was probably 1948s pleasing Green Grass Of Wyoming, but there’s nothing wrong with this quick 78 minute affair,starring Rory Calhoun, Corinne Calvet and Cameron Mitchell. It’s sort of a watered-down sideways take on the Wyatt Earp-Doc Holliday friendship, and it emerged from a book by well-known Earp biographer Stuart N. Lake.
‘Chino Bull’ (Calhoun) becomes a marshal after his partner is killed, and he’s assisted by dapper pal Mitchell, a gunfighter with some sort of brain-haywire situation. He has the best line: “All I want to do is die in peace, and I can’t get any cooperation.”
Naturally there are competing romances, one with saucy French import Calvet (as ‘Frenchie Dumont’), another with wholesome Penny Edwards (wholesome for real: she took a career-crucial three year break from films after this to work for the Seventh Day Adventist Church.)
The four leads were all attaining a measure of popularity and success in buildup mode from Fox, and they acquit themselves honorably in this minor but leisurely watchable matinee. Good roster of supporting players: Carl Betz, John Dehner, Robert J. Wilke, Frank Ferguson, Henry Kulky, James Griffith, John Beradino, Mae Marsh, Hank Worden. It grossed $3,000,000.