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Kansas Pacific (February 22, 1953)

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Kansas Pacific

Released on February 22, 1953: The American Civil War had not begun yet, but Kansas was almost torn in half by the two feuding sides, as the north tried to build a railroad from Kansas to the west, and Confederate sympathizers tried to sabotage it.

Directed by Ray Nazarro

The Actors: Sterling Hayden (Captain John Nelson), Eve Miller (Barbara Bruce), Barton MacLane (Cal Bruce), Harry Shannon (Smokestack, train engineer), Tom Fadden (Gus Gustavson, train fireman), Reed Hadley (Bill Quantrill), Douglas Fowley (Max Janus), Robert Keys (Lieutenant Sam Stanton), Irving Bacon (telegrapher Casey), Myron Healey (Morey), James Griffith (Joe Farley, railroad guard), Clayton Moore (henchman Stone), Jonathan Hale (railroad President Sherman Johnson), Lane Bradford (henchman), Bill Coontz (henchman), Roy Gordon (General Winfield Scott), Fred Graham (Corvin, railroad construction boss), Frank Hagney (railroad worker), Carol Henry (henchman), Riley Hill (henchman), I. Stanford Jolley (railroad worker recruit / poker player), Lee Roberts (railroad worker).

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When I was a kid we celebrated Christmas just about like everyone else, with a decorated fir tree, and a wrapped gift on Christmas morning. I can only remember one Christmas morning with absolute clarity, when I was 11 or 12 years old. At the time we were living in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and I was earning extra money by cleaning the church across the street each week. Dad made sure that I saved a part of each week's earnings, and I had a little stash of money in my room. My gift that Christmas morning was a Lionel Electric Train set. I was standing at the piano bench at the piano in the living room with the freshly unwrapped train set on the bench. Dad sat down on the end of the bench next to my new train, and explained that the train set had cost much more than they were able to spend on my sister Carol, so I would need to pay for part of it from my savings, so that we got equal gifts that Christmas. I remember that Dad told me the train cost $13. I do not remember what I needed to pay him to make it equal with Carol's gift, but I know that I paid it with joy - the only thing that mattered was my electric train. I enjoyed many hours playing with that train over the next several years. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn and enjoy today's movie . . . we are going to build a railroad . . . and there will be trouble, big trouble!

Our movie takes place just before the beginning of the American Civil War, and even though fighting hasn't begun, Americans are lining up behind one side or the other. In Kansas, the loyalties of the people are almost evenly divided between the north and the south. A railroad man is trying to build a rail line from Kansas to the west coast, and the folks that lean towards the south believe that if the train is built it will help the north, so wealthy Bill Quantrill heads up a bunch of henchmen that are determined to sabotage the railroad at any cost. The railroad president gets a northern army tough guy to join his crew as an advisor to make sure that the train line gets built. We have a great love/hate sub-plot between the army man and the daughter of the train gang leader, and a lot of good old-fashioned gun-fighting, hard working cowboys determined to build a railroad across the great state of Kansas, versus the equally ambitious men trying to destroy the train. Note the telegraph man in the office when the new army man gets to town - that is Irving Bacon, veteran character actor that appeared in more movies than most stars did. And if you think you recognize the voice of one of Quantrill's henchmen, you are correct, it is Clayton Moore, the man behind the mask in the Lone Ranger television series from the 1950's.