Silver Lode (1954)

Silver Lode (1954)

“Mob violence is the death of any town.”

As he’s about to marry his sweetheart (Lizabeth Scott), a rancher (John Payne) is falsely accused by a newly arrived “marshal” (Dan Duryea) of murdering his brother, and relies on help from a friendly bargirl (Dolores Moran) in keeping his name clear.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Allan Dwan Films
  • Dan Duryea Films
  • Falsely Accused
  • John Payne Films
  • Lizabeth Scott Films
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Westerns

Allan Dwan directed this compact, fast-moving western thriller set in real-time — just like its more celebrated counterpart, High Noon (1952). The movie opens on a wedding-interruptus, and we’re never clear from then on — intentionally so — about the true motives and realities behind the main characters. We know we’re supposed to believe that the protagonist (Payne) is telling the truth — but is there more to his story? Adding interest to the storyline is the fact that a beautiful bargirl (Moran, always feisty) is resentful about Payne’s marriage to the local rich-girl (Scott) — will she try to help or hinder him in his efforts? — and that Payne can’t seem to stop causing deaths all around him as he attempts to clear his name. The final unexpected sequence is a true humdinger, calling into question what we thought was a fairly standard end-of-a-western resolution. This one remains worth a look, especially given John Alton’s fine cinematography.

Note: Much has been made about the fact that Duryea’s character is named “McCarty” and that nearly the entire town gives into hysterical beliefs about sudden accusations made towards a man they otherwise trusted and respected for the past two years; the timeliness and parallels with HUAC couldn’t be clearer.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Payne as Dan Ballard
  • Dolores Moran as Dolly
  • Dan Duryea as Fred McCarty
  • John Alton’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a fine western by a hard-working director.


  • Good Show

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Silver Lode (1954)

  1. First viewing (5/9/21). A once-must, as a particularly solid western.

    This Allan Dwan-directed flick put me in mind of Budd Boetticher’s approach to westerns:
    – Keep the running time around 78 minutes.
    – Keep the storyline simple but with enough impact.
    – Make characterizations strong.
    – Shake up the dynamics among the various characters.
    – Make sure the action is varied and interesting (Dwan makes good use of his camera, esp. when panning during action scenes).

    This might fall slightly below Boetticher quality but not by much. It also has a lot to say about challenged loyalty and how people go about arriving at the truth.

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