The Cariboo Trail


Montanans Jim Redfern and Mike Evans head into Canada’s British Columbia via the Cariboo Trail intent to raise cattle and dig for gold but find trouble instead.

ACTORS :  Randolph Scott, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Bill Williams


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The Cariboo Trail, Jim Redfern dreams of owning his own cattle ranch and along with his partners Mike Evans and Ling heads off on the Cariboo Trail into the interior of British Columbia. There’s a gold rush on and along the way they’re joined by old-timer Grizzly Winters, a prospector who hasn’t had much luck of late. They soon come up against Frank Walsh whose men stampede their cattle. Evans is severely injured forcing Redfern to amputate his left arm. Evans hates him for that and will have nothing to do with him or his dream of the cattle ranch. Walsh owns the local town making it difficult for Redfern to get re-established. Things begin to go his way when he finds gold.

“Broken heart for every rock, dead man for every tree”.

The Cariboo Trail, Turner Classics offered up this Randolph Scott Western a few nights ago and it opened with a fairly extensive explanation on how the picture was restored from it’s original Cinecolor filming process. I’d never seen that before, as it looked almost like it was part of the picture appearing right after the opening title. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the restoration, but a cattle stampede instigated by Walsh’s (Victor Jory) henchmen a little into the movie appeared to take place during night and day both!

The story takes place in British Columbia, with displaced Montana cattle man Jim Redfern (Scott) heading out along the Cariboo Trail to find a nice place to settle down and take up ranching. His partner Mike Evans (Bill Williams) would rather prospect for gold, and when he loses an arm in the stampede ambush mentioned earlier, he has a falling out with Redfern. I think the picture could have explained Redfern’s action in amputating Evans’ arm, say along the lines of it being horribly mangled or prone to gangrene, but the story offered no explanation. Failing that, there was an opportunity for Dr. Rhodes (Charles Hughes) to offer a medical opinion along the same lines, but again, nothing to be said about it.

I didn’t realize this was George ‘Gabby’ Hayes’ last film role, but I did look it up to see how old he was when he made the movie knowing that most of his work took place in the Thirties and Forties. Turns out he was sixty five, but not looking much older than any of his earlier screen appearances. Still feisty as ever and pretty nimble, I had to wonder why his movie career just stopped right there, though he did host a mid-Fifties TV Western show bearing his name. Gabby had a pretty good line in the story when he described how hungry he was – “My stomach’s crowdin’ my backbone”. I’ll have to remember that one.

If you’re watching this film with a critical eye, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed because some of the elements just don’t come together too believably. Captured at one point by Blackfeet Indians, Redfern and his crew are saved by Grizzly’s mule Hannibal! There’s also the improbable rescue by the town folk of Carson Creek at the finale, engineered by Mike Evans when he has the sudden change of heart regarding his former partner. Still, it’s not a terrible send off for one of movie Western’s iconic character actors, and another nifty notch in Randolph Scott’s belt in mid-career.

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