Silver River — Only a Sliver of Good Entertainment?

22 May

May 22, 1948

New York Times Review

Raoul Walsh is a director who knows how to handle scenes of violence and action, but he handicapped himself unmercifully in filming “Silver River” by cramming all the excitement into the first ten minutes or so. As a consequence the new picture, which Warner Brothers presented yesterday at the Strand, runs downhill for most of its remaining length.

The opening sequences are full of sound and fury, sweep and dash. The screen is crowded with charging horses and masses of men locked in bloody battle as the Blue and Gray collide at Gettysburg. A Union payroll wagon makes a spectacular torch as it tries vainly to outrun Jeb Stuart’s cavalry, and there is tingling, savage spirit in the way a company of soldiers demolish a crooked gambling, tent. Mr. Walsh shot the budget here, but he got the kind of results that stir up audience spirits.The beginning, however, is just an exciting prelude to a dull script about a cashiered Army captain’s lust for power and an attractive woman who is happily married and wants to stay that way. And all the charm Errol Flynn turns on to mask his true colors, plus all the temperament and determination that Ann Sheridan displays in the role of a hardy, pioneer beauty doesn’t help much to stem the ebbing tide.

Only a resourceful and soundly constructed script could have restored interest, but the story supplied by Stephen Longstreet and Harriet Frank Jr. gets increasingly incredible and stilted as it goes along. Flynn schemes his way into partnership in the silver mine owned by Miss Sheridan and spouse; summarily does away with a rival who wants in on his saloon and gambling hall; gobbles up some more mining interests, opens a bank and, from the looks of things, controls most of Nevada.Only Miss Sheridan remains outside his grasp, though not for long, as he permits her husband to go off on a fatal surveying trip knowing that hostile Indians abound in the territory. Although Mr. Flynn suffers reverses and is reformed by the loss of his empire and friends, we still think the Warners pulled a fast one on the Production Code people by making a hero out of a character who deliberately lets a man die in order to marry his widow.

You can tell “Silver River” is grade A western by the magnificence of its sets, the generous amount of extras used to swell the cast and the presence of Mr. Flynn and Miss Sheridan. But is it good entertainment? We say no. The stars are not given any opportunity for acting of any consequence, but they are assured in what they do and Tom D’Andrea, Bruce Bennett and Thomas Mitchell are around to help out.The Strand’s stage show includes Eddy Duchin and orchestra, Artie Dan, and also Perry Franks and Janyce.

SILVER RIVER, based on a novel by Stephen Longstreet; screen play by Mr. Longstreet and Harriet Frank Jr.; directed by Raoul Walsh; produced by Owen Crump for Warner Brothers. “Mike” McComb . . . Errol Flynn; Georgia Moore . . . Ann Sheridan; John Plato Beck . . . Thomas Mitchell; Stanley Moore . . . Bruce Bennett; “Pistol” Porter . . . Tom D’Andrea; “Banjo” Sweeney . . . Barton MacLane; “Buck” Chevigee . . . Monte Blue; Major Spencer . . . Jonathan Hale; Slade . . . Alan Bridge; Major Ross . . . Arthur Space; Major Wilson . . . Art Baker; President Grant . . . Joe Crehan.

A version of this article appears in print on May 22, 1948 of the National edition with the headline: ‘Silver River,’ With Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan at Strand.

— Tim


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    May 22, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    Interesting choice to highlight as the film is not one of Errol’s best, but of real interest is that Errol and Ann were at one time an item. Also when shown on TV, the civil war scenes were omitted by some stations looking to use the film to fill a particular time slot, which is how I first saw this movie. The poster is cool, though. –A. R.

  2. Selene Hutchison-Zuffi

    May 23, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    I read that he didnt care for the movie, nor did Anne. He thougt it had no good story clear end.
    I will be honest..i didnt finish it.