It must have seemed a bit of deja vu for Randolph Scott, in starring in this yarn about some major problems encountered on the western prairies and in the Rockies, in building the Canadian transcontinental railway(CPR). A decade earlier, he had costarred with Shirley Temple, in "Suzanna of the Mounties". He played a Mountie, in a screenplay that featured problems surrounding the building of the CPR across the western prairies, including hostilities with the Blackfoot. The present film deals with the same basic historical subject, including Native American hostilities, but focuses much more on the rail-building aspect, and is a longer film. Thus, this film much more reminds us of the earlier de Mille-produced "Union Pacific" : another flag-waving epic, centered around obstacles, real and imagined, in the earlier building of a US transcontinental railway. The aspect of trapper-trader Rourke trying to sabotage rail constructions reminds us of the de Mille film "Unconquered", released a few years earlier. Yet another de Mille film: "Northwest Mounted Police" also shows some similarities to the plot. The dramatized resistance of the mixed race frontiersmen Metis, as well as the Native Americans , to the building of the railway, may also be interpreted as an unhistoric reason for the approximately contemporary and disjointed uprising of the Metis, Cree, and Assiniboine in Saskatchewan against the Canadian government, in which the nearly completed railway played an important role in quickly transporting troops to quell the uprisings.
Randy plays Tom Andrews, who, in the first portion of the film, finds the pass through the Rockies that will be used by the railway. He is shown alone, scrambling over dangerously slippery steep rocky riversides. The historic Rogers, who was given this assignment, certainly was no lone wolf in this endeavor. In the screenplay, this makes him more vulnerable to being shot by Rourke and Cagle, who are leading the anti-railroad verbal and physical campaign in this region. Before this, we are treated to a brief debate in the Canadian parliament about the practicalities and urgency of building such a railway. The historical person of Cornelius Van Horne, as head of this enterprise, is included. We will meet him again periodically at the railhead. His finishing rallying cry is "If Hannibal crossed the Alps, we can cross the Rockies".
After finishing his job of finding the pass, Tom declines Van Horne's expectation to continue on as troubleshooter, something he is renowned for in past rail-building projects. Tom goes to see his young French-derived Metis girlfriend, who is greatly impressed with his qualities, giving a warm reception. But when he later changes his mind, and goes back to the unsettled and dangerous job of rail building troubleshooter, she says their relationship is finished. Rourke is also interested in her, providing a second reason to want to be rid of Tom. For most of the rest of the film, Tom deals with various chronic problems that threaten to end completion of the track. The Metis, some of whom are working in building the track, continue sabotage operations, including blowing up track with dynamite stolen from the worker camp(actually unnecessary in this prairie section!), and payroll delays. Rourke finally convinces the Native Americans(who look real) to join in the fight against the railway. This causes Cecille to change sides again, running to the worker camp to warn of a planned 'Indian'-Metis attack.
Meanwhile, Tom has developed a relationship with another woman: Dr. Edith Cabot(Jane Wyatt). She is also a pacifist, who advocates trying to solve personal and political problems by diplomacy, rather than by Tom's shooting and knock them down style of dealing with troublemakers. Tom is overly impressed by Edith's saving of his life with a personal blood transfusion, after he is nearly killed in a dynamite explosion. This sparks a romance during the winter layoff. Come spring, he agrees to try her diplomacy method of dealing with troublemakers. But, is not working. So, he puts his guns back on to back up his demands, to her displeasure. We get the impression that their romance is finished. In the finale, we have a standard happy ending: the workers get paid, Rourke and Cagle are dead, the Native Americans apologize for their brief hostility, sabotage stops, and Tom feels he can finally retire from his dangerous job. He just has to decide whether to accompany the middle-aged Edith on a train east, or start a settled life with his vivacious 'barefoot' Metis girl.
It's not a bad screenplay, for interest. However, the cheap Cinecolor filming has some obvious drawbacks, As usual, Randy makes a charismatic, likable, hero, who should have died in that dynamite explosion. Wyatt's Edith is basically a cold fish, behind her doctoring. Cecille(Nancy Olson) makes a winsome passionate 'native' girl for Scott's character, their very different cultural backgrounds providing some tension in their relationship. However, they look more like a romantic father-daughter pair, with Scott 50, and Nancy only 21. I'm surprised the strict censorship board didn't nix such relationships....J. Carrol Naish often served as Scott's colorful sidekick.. Partly filmed on an 'Indian' reservation near Banff.