Thunder Bay (1953)

Thunder Bay (1953)

“There’s oil out there; somebody’s got to get it!”

When an offshore oiling entrepreneur (Jimmy Stewart) and his friend (Dan Duryea) receive funding and support from an investor (Jay C. Flippen), they arrive in a Louisiana fishing town ready to employ its citizens — but a local patriarch (Antonio Moreno) is not happy about Duryea dating his daughter (Marcia Henderson), and Henderson’s sister (Joanne Dru) is cynical about outsiders interfering with their way of life.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anthony Mann Films
  • Dan Duryea Films
  • Fishermen
  • Jimmy Stewart Films
  • Joanne Dru Films
  • Oil Drilling

Jimmy Stewart’s fourth film with director Anthony Mann — after Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), and The Naked Spur (1953) — was this less engaging widescreen adventure flick. It takes place off the Gulf of Mexico, but otherwise follows the general themes of a western, with “boats and oil standing in for horses and guns” — or, as Stuart Galbraith IV proposes in his review for DVD Talk, miners and cattlemen replacing oilers and fishermen in an ongoing battle for land (water) use. Unfortunately, it’s especially challenging to relate to Stewart’s character given what we now know about the toxic outcome of mining the Earth’s resources; hearing him make speeches like the following to Dru, we can’t help cringing:

“Maybe you don’t know how oil was formed millions of years ago: it was formed by things dying and being held in the Earth. Well now, if I can reach down there, and bring up the results of all those millions of years, and make them work for the present and the future, then I’ve done something, haven’t I?”

Yes, Jimmy — you certainly are doing something, though we don’t blame you because you don’t yet understand the impact.

At any rate, the storyline is a rather standard melodrama of romantic entanglements:

… culture clashes, high hopes, and competing priorities, with a group of people at one point deciding to band together in a “Let’s put on a show!” type of endeavor (which conveniently leads to said “show” happening just in the nick of time).

This film will likely be of interest to fans of Mann’s work, but isn’t a must-see entry in his impressive oeuvre.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • William Daniels’ cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious.


One thought on “Thunder Bay (1953)

  1. First viewing. Agreed that this one can probably be skipped.

    Director Mann does an adequate job keeping the rhythm of the storytelling going – but then (as noted) there’s the troublesome basis of the story itself. On top of that, the overall blueprint of the screenplay’s complications feels a little too paint-by-number (sometimes awkwardly so)… and don’t get me started on the seemingly obligatory dual (!) love stories.

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