Classic Film Guide

Station West (1948)

Directed by Sidney Lanfield, with a screenplay by Frank Fenton and Winston Miller, this noir-like Western stars Dick Powell and Jane Greer, and features a cast which includes Agnes Moorehead, Tom Powers, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Raymond Burr, and Burl Ives (uncredited), among others. If you like Powell's wisecracking film noir persona, you'll love the twist on the setting; if you don't and/or you're a fan of more traditional Westerns, you probably won't.

Powell plays a Military Intelligence officer sent to investigate the deaths of two soldiers and discovers that the town has an unusually large stash of gold nearby. The soldiers were killed while trying unsuccessfully to deliver the mine owner's gold elsewhere because Wells Fargo had given up previously. Haven (Powell) arrives in town incognito, though he's instantly recognized as a stranger by a singing hotel clerk (Ives) and everyone else in town. He enters the local gambling house saloon and instantly wins a couple of games of craps before Prince (Gordon Oliver) intervenes. At the bar, he dresses down a 2nd Lieutenant (Steve Brodie), who leaves, before the bartender (John Doucette) asks him if he's looking for trouble. Haven notices the pretty gal (Greer) singing before he leaves the establishment and subsequently follows the 2nd Lieutenant into Mrs. Caslon’s (Moorehead), the mine owner's house. There, he rendezvouses with Captain Isles (Powers) and they agree to work apart on solving the murders and robbery, with Mrs. Caslon being their go-between.

Haven returns to the saloon and sits down with the singer. Prince joins them and then Mick Marion (Williams), the bouncer, does too. Though Haven thinks that the girl will vouch for him, she doesn't, and a fight breaks out between Haven and Marion. Haven wins, though he's barely able to walk away from the brawl himself. He returns to his hotel room where he soon joined by the singer. She wipes his forehead and tucks him in before leaving herself. The next morning, Haven learns that Charlie has inquired about him, and that Charlie owns a piece of everything, and everyone, in town. So Haven goes to meet with Charlie only to discover that Charlie and the singer are one in the same. Because Haven beat Marion, Charlie wants to hire Haven as his replacement. Charlie accepts the job of transportation chief from her instead. It's clear that she's attracted to him, and the feeling could be mutual. He escorts her across the street to her lawyer Mark Bristow (Burr), then has a brief conversation with Mrs. Caslon. He convinces her to allow him to attempt to transport some gold, and then joins Charlie in time to learn that Bristow owes her a $6,000 gambling debt.

Haven's plan appears to be to "smoke out" whomever is robbing the stagecoaches using $50,000 of Mrs. Caslon’s gold. A previously injured stage driver, Jim Goddard (Regis Toomey), insists on going along with Haven. Naturally, they're robbed but Haven is merely knocked out while Goddard is murdered. When Haven comes to, he picks up the trail of two horses, eventually catching up with and killing one of the thieves. He then releases the thief's horses, with the gold still in its saddle bag, and follows them to Charlie's mill.  He decides to investigate further, interrupting a delivery and acting as if he was its hired driver.  He learns very little, though he does pick up a button he can't identify (later, you'll see why this is ridiculous).  He's given an assignment to return a mill part to Charlie but, on his way back, he stops to open it, discovering it's the gold.  He throws it over a ravine and then returns to town where he "forces" Bristow to take down his deposition of what he's discovered (though we, the audience, aren't allowed to hear it).  Bristow was instructed to take the deposition to be locked in Mrs. Caslon's safe, but Captain Isle intercepts it and replaces it with a blank piece of paper.

The plot gets even more muddled at this point ...

*** SPOILERS ***

Haven goes to get the gold and is robbed by Mrs. Caslon, who'd read his deposition with Captain Isle.  Returning empty handed to Charlie, he learns his life isn't worth squat unless he can return with the gold.  Instead, he returns to his hotel room where Bristow, after a conference with Charlie and Prince, comes to kill him.  Since Bristow is a sniveling wimp, Haven easily disarms him and tells him to leave town.  Bristow doesn't follow Haven's instructions to the letter and is shot by Prince and Marion.  "Ives" then tells Haven that the button he found is from a uniform (you'd think a M.I. officer would know that!) and Haven, after pretending to let the Sheriff (Charles Middleton, uncredited) arrest him for Bristow's murder, escapes to the mill where he sets fire to the barn and shoots Marion.  He returns to town to inform Captain Isle of Charlie's plot to have her men pretend to be the Cavalry come to get all the gold.  After accepting their (his and Mrs. Caslon's) apologies, he goes to Charlie's office to arrest her for murder.  Prince sneaks up behind Haven but Charlie tips him off such that she gets Prince's bullet and he dies from Haven's.  On her deathbed, Haven finally tells Charlie he loves her before riding off into the sunset.

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