An engineer must overcome both human and technical obstacles to build a railroad. [Dir: Andre De Toth/ Randolph Scott, Lucille Norman, Raymond Massey/ 87 min/ Western/ Creator as Hero, Equality & Envy]
“Rob the poor and you get a posse of outraged citizens after you; rob a mine owner and nobody cares.” So says the diabolical thief at the center of this story. He seeks to undermine public resistance to his stagecoach robberies by treating ordinary stagecoach passengers to a champagne lunch while robbing only the rich. And indeed his “Robin Hood” policy charms many common people.
The thief’s operations are threatened, however, when an engineer arrives to build a railroad that will replace the slow-moving, easily robbed stagecoaches. So the thief, a respected member of the community by day, begins lobbying against the building of the railroad.
As it happens, other townspeople have their own reasons to oppose it. In particular, the stagecoach owner fears that the railroad will destroy his business, and the newspaper editor thinks that it will change the city’s small-town way of life. Together, they work their influence on the townspeople and pretty soon almost everyone is trying to stop the engineer’s progress.
In short, the deliberately evil and the misguided good are united against the creative individual. There is something of the flavor of an Ayn Rand novel here.
It’s not bad as a western either, with a fair amount of “shoot ’em up” action in the second half. Raymond Massey is delightful as the cynical gentleman-thief, a secret predator disloyal even to his partner. Randolph Scott makes an admirable rough-and-tumble hero. This unusual creator-as-hero western is a pleasure to watch.