Southwest Passage 1954

Originally in 3 D and now to be released in that format on BluRay in the next year we are told. Also it is in PatheColor – maybe not the early tinted type but the later spin-off or re-name from Eastmancolour

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Joanne Dru, Rod Cameron, John Ireland, John Dehner, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Morris Ankrum

This was one of only two films for which the original 3-D elements were lost. However, 3D Film Archive founder Bob Furmanek confirmed that the four missing reels were located in a UK film lab in 2018. The UK lab had acquired the inventory of a bankrupt Italian lab, and the reels in question had been labelled as “Camels West”, which someone realised was the film’s UK title. The film is now in the process of being restored by the 3D Film Archive and released on Blu-ray 3D in 2024

Rod Cameron and the then married team of Joanne Dru and John Ireland star in Southwest Passage about an expedition to test the feasibility of using camels in the American Southwest. Apparently after the experiment was eventually dropped, the camels were turned loose on the Arizona desert – even now some of their decendants can be spotted to this day on occasions

Rod Cameron plays the real life character of western explorer Edward Beale

Here he’s on a surveying party with camels, mules, and horse and soldiers. Add to them a fugitive John Ireland posing as a doctor and his girlfriend Joanne Dru as someone they rescue in the desert you’ve got quite a mix facing the Apaches who eventually turn hostile.

John Ireland has just robbed a bank and one of the crew on the expedition, John Dehner, recognises him. He also quite fancies Joanne Dru who in turn has taken a liking to Rod Cameron. What a mixture !

There’s a desert shootout with the Apaches which must have been something to see in the original 3-D and on the big screen

Southwest Passage is a good action packed Western where the camel experiment is just a side issue.

Joanne Dru (the former Joanne Letitia LaCock) was unusually effective in westerns in a time when the casting of most female roles was a secondary consideration at best.   She married John Ireland in 1947, and one result was their collaboration in this cavalry and camels vs. Apaches story.

Although Rod Cameron seems to get top billing Joanne Dru is the best thing in the Film. 

Filmed on location in southern Utah, near Kanab. 

Joanne  Dru was good in Westerns, but she didn’t always enjoy them.  “I simply hated horses,” she said in a 1957 interview with Hedda Hopper.  “And those long gingham dresses with boned bodices are miserable things to wear.”  By the end of the 1950s she had drifted almost entirely into television work, and she and Ireland were divorced in 1957.

Edward Fitzpatrick Beale and his involvement with camels in the American southwest is based on actual history.  In 1857, Lt. Beale, with the support of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, used 25 camels to survey a route for a wagon road from Fort Defiance in Arizona to the Colorado River, then took the camels on to California.  The Santa Fe Railroad and U. S. Highway 66 subsequently followed this route.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Camel Corps was largely forgotten, although there were reports of feral camels in the southwest well into the 1900s—even as late as 1975 in Baja California.  Hadji Ali, an Ottoman citizen, was the lead camel driver of the Camel Corps beginning around 1856 and lived in this country until his death in 1902 in Arizona. 

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