Station West (1948): Lanfield’s Western Starring Dick Powell, Jane Greer, Agnes Moorehead

Station West, a black-and-white Western, is directed by Sidney Lanfield, and based on Luke Short’s novel.

In 1881, in a western saloon, a tough-talking man, John Martin Haven picks a fight with army lieutenant Stellman. Haven is then escorted by Stellman to a secret meeting with Captain George Iles, the commander of the army post.

Haven is a demoted lieutenant who has been sent by the government to investigate a series of deadly gold shipment thefts.

He tells the doubting Iles that he will continue to work undercover to discover the thieves’s identity and will report his findings to widow Mrs. Mary Caslon, a trusted gold mine owner.

Haven returns to the saloon to speak to the town’s financial boss, whom he knows only as “Charlie.” While making his inquiries, Haven is distracted by the singing of a beautiful woman and attempts to flirt with her, unaware that she is Charlie.

Unmoved by Haven, Charlie encourages Mick Marion, the saloon’s bouncer, to fight with him. After a long, bloody fight, Haven beats the previously undefeated Mick and wins Charlie’s respect. In his hotel room that night, Charlie gently tends to Haven’s wounds and later offers him a job working on one of her many operations. Haven chooses a position on Charlie’s stage line and, after reporting for duty, asks Mrs. Caslon to allow him to transport some of her gold.

As Haven and fellow driver James Goddard are driving the gold-ladden stage, they are attacked by masked bandits. During the confrontation, Goddard is killed, while Haven is knocked unconscious. When Haven awakens, he discovers a card on Goddard identifying him as a Wells Fargo detective. Haven then pursues Joe, one of the bandits, and shoots and kills him. Finding nothing on Joe’s body, Haven follows Joe’s horse to Charlie’s saw mill, which is being used as the bandits’ hideout.

Haven commandeers a wagon from another stage driver and finds a button from an army uniform on the wagon’s floor.

After he convinces Pete, the bandit leader, that he is just a driver, Haven leaves the mill with a locked box.

On the road back to town, Haven breaks open the box and discovers Mrs. Caslon’s stolen gold inside. Haven dumps the box into a ravine and returns to town, where he forces Charlie’s weak-willed lawyer, Mark Bristow, to notarize a statement concerning his recent activities. Haven then has Bristow give the sealed statement to Mrs. Caslon for safekeeping, but she and Iles read the statement and replace it with blank paper. Soon after, Haven approaches Charlie and Prince, Charlie’s partner, and offers to retrieve the gold for a part of its worth. Charlie accepts Haven’s offer and admits that she is falling in love with him.

When Haven returns to the ravine, he is held up by Mrs. Caslon, who reclaims her gold. At the saloon, Haven reports the loss to Charlie and Prince, who then conclude that Haven and Bristow, who is heavily in debt to Charlie, are planning to blackmail them. Charlie orders Bristow to kill Haven, but Haven convinces the terrified lawyer that Charlie intends to murder both of them. As Bristow attempts to flee town, Mick and Prince shoot him in the back, and Haven sneaks back to the saw mill. After overwhelming a guard and searching the mill, Haven sets fire to a building to create a distraction, then kills Mick. At Mrs. Caslon’s, Haven tells Iles that Charlie planted false reports concerning Indian uprisings in order to draw troops away from the fort, where much of Mrs. Caslon’s gold is being kept. Haven adds that Charlie intends to steal the gold by having her men pose as soldiers while wearing pilfered army uniforms. Finally trusting Haven, Iles leaves to apprehend the bandits, while Haven goes to town to arrest Charlie.

After Charlie offers him a bribe, Haven outdraws Prince during an ambush attempt. Charlie is fatally wounded by Prince’s bullet, and as she lays dying, Haven grants her final request, declaring his love for her.

There is some sharp dialogue between Powell and Greer, which compensates (up to a point) for the complicated but not very involving plot.

Burl Ives plays a small role and sings the songs on the soundtrack: “A Stranger in Town,” “The Sun’s Shining Warm,” and “A Man Can’t Grow Old.”

 

Cast

Dick Powell as Haven

Jane Greer as Charlie

Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Caslon

Burl Ives as Hotel Clerk (Balladeer

Tom Powers as Capt. George Isles

Gordon Oliver as Prince

Steve Brodie as 2nd Lt. Stellman

Guinn Williams as Mick Marion

Raymond Burr as Mark Bristow

Regis Toomey as Jim Goddard

Olin Howland as Cook