THE VANISHING AMERICAN. 1955

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THE VANISHING AMERICAN , from a Zane Grey novel, was first filmed in 1925 with Richard Dix, on location in Monument Valley ( and slightly before Stagecoach).
This remake by Republic was also filmed in Utah and gave SCOTT BRADY a chance to do something different – he plays a quiet spoken Navajo Indian – and does it well.
The film highlights the plight of the Navajo Indians as more and more of their land is taken from them.
As Scott Brady tells AUDREY TOTTER at the beginning of the film,
“This land has belonged to my people for 700 years.”

As an Audrey Totter devotee, it ‘s great to see her in the central role of the film. Like Joan Crawford in JOHNNY GUITAR, she drives the action and makes all the decisions which further the plot.
Audrey has come to take over the ranch her uncle left her. The uncle had filed a claim on the Red Dusty water hole and FORREST TUCKER and his gang need the water rights.
When she first meets Scott, her first remark to him is,
“You’re on my land. Get off – quick.”

Tucker has a trading post and is in cahoots with the local Indian agent,GENE LOCKHART. They, along with Tucker’s men, LEE VAN CLEEF and JIM DAVIS are fleecing the Navajos for all they can get.

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Audrey makes it clear she is going to fence in the water hole and says to Gene,
“Get your confounded Indians off my land.”
She does however end up sympathetic to the Indian cause after rescuing a young Indian girl from Tucker’s clutches. As she says,
” Getting walked all over is a Navajo hobby,not mine.”
Audrey even gets the drop on Davis and Van Cleef as they threaten the girls’s father.

At one point the store owned by Tucker goes up in flames ,and what we see quite clearly is a clip from “Johnny Guitar” of Vienna’s saloon on fire!
Audrey shows her determination to show up Tucker and Lockhart for what they are. She tells the Indian girls’s father,
“I’m gonna bust this thing wide open.” His reply is, “If you fool around with Morgan (Tucker), you’ll end up in a pine box.”

Scott Brady actually disappears for about a half hour of the film,but then he and Audrey start working on plans to expose Tucker ,and before you know it, they are developing a relationship.
Eventually, with the help of the Navajo chief played by GLENN STRANGE, the villains get their comeuppance at the hands of marshal JAMES MILLICAN.
Millican tries to persuade the Navajos that fighting is not the way forward.But,philosophically,the Indian chief says,
“Soon the last Indian will vanish from the earth. We wish only to die killing white men in these sacred rocks.”

The ending comes too suddenly, but this is a rare, fast paced western with a good cast and plenty of action.A pity Republic couldn’t stretch to color for that magnificent scenery.
It could be argued Audrey’s softening towards Brady is a little forced and not in keeping with her character. And there is no indication how their relationship could ever develop.
JAY SILVERHEELS has a small part, and I particularly liked the old man who played the Indian girls’s father,JULIAN RIVERO.

5 responses »

  1. Another film I haven’t seen! What a great cast though, and the plot sounds intriguing to say the least.
    I generally think of Audrey Totter as a noir actress and don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a western.

  2. Great to see you spotlight an unheralded film like this,Vienna!
    The only main fault I could find with the film was the rather abrupt ending,
    that you mentioned.
    Sadly this seems to be the sort of film that is not on Olive Films
    radar,who are now releasing lots of Republic titles.
    Another Audrey Totter Republic Western that I really enjoyed was
    WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED where she is at loggerheads
    with Joan Leslie but eventually they settle their differences and sort those
    pesky men out! Laura on her blog has already championed another,
    later Republic Totter Western MAN OR GUN which is more of a B picture
    but really good and unusual. Like Colin states I think Audrey is more well
    known for her Noir credits.
    These Republic Westerns always had great casts,full of wonderful
    character actors. Someone sent me a beautiful “off air” copy of
    JUBILEE TRAIL which the Republic publicity guys thought was their
    answer to GONE WITH THE WIND….(they sure got that one wrong)
    Its not the “epic” that Republic had intended but such an amazing cast.
    I totally agree that THE VANISHING AMERICAN is one Western that
    should have been made in color.

  3. Hi,Colin. Hope you get to see” Vanishing American ” sometime. Audrey Totter only made a few westerns including the two john k mentions.
    She also did MASSACRE CANYON with Phil Carey but I’ve never tracked that one down.
    And of course she had a long running role in TV’s CIMARRON CITY in 1958, with George Montgomery.

    john k, thanks for your comment. I have both MAN AND GUN and WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED, both ropey copies but better than not having them.
    I agree Laura ( Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings) does a fine review of “Man or Gun”.
    Not keen on Vera Ralston so I would avoid Jubilee Trail. Sorry.

  4. I have a decent copy of WOMAN THEY ALMOST
    LYNCHED,but it has non-removable subtitles,sadly.
    I have a decent copy of MAN OR GUN but sadly pan & scan.
    After the striking opening,in scope it reverts to 4 x 3 but as
    you say better than nothing at all.
    I love black & white widescreen but sadly any versions available
    of Regalscope pictures or later Republic “Naturama” pictures all
    seem to be pan & scan.
    I am of course referring to “bootleg” copies although people say
    I must not use that word,the correct term is “collectors” copies.
    I would most certainly buy an official release of MAN OR GUN in
    widescreen because I really like the film,and would love to see it
    in that format.
    Regarding Vera Ralston,I much prefer the other women who worked
    at Republic like Joan Leslie,Ella Raines and Adrian Booth;however
    the fact that she is in a film would not put me off seeing it.
    JUBILEE TRAIL,apart from Ralson also features Joan Leslie,
    Forrest Tucker,John Russell,Pat O Brien,Ray Middleton,James
    Millican and Jack Elam.

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