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DANA ANDREWS STARS IN 'SMOKE SIGNAL' WITH WILLIAM TALMAN

Dana Andrews with William Talman YEAR: 1955
Dana Andrews was both right and wrong for SMOKE SIGNAL, an Western Adventure where the good guys must survive against advancing and surrounding Indians while battling a formidable water-splashing menace called a Wild River...

Originally, Charlton Heston was intended to play the part of Brett Halliday, a Calvary deserter who'd previously sided with some good Indians, which these particular antagonists are not...

Actually, they're the same tribe whose minds have been changed, and it's blood they're after in a group of Calvary men led by an extremely determined and stubborn William Talman, who does have some reason for bitterness and resentment: because of Halliday's help with the Redskins, his brother had been killed...

Dana Andrews and William Talman... SMOKEScore: ***1/2
Visually, Andrews fits okay, standing firm and wearing the Indian garb with grungy class, but his character is simply too "right" and idealistic to be interesting...

Heston would have obviously "chewed the scenery," and for this one-dimensional role, it needed some major chewing beyond Dana's subdued performance that isn't too shabby, but isn't very memorable either. Leaving all the work for Talman, who... just as he'd stolen a Film Noir titled THE RACKET from Robert Mitchum... is the true main character with his hands full: needing to survive Indians and the rapids while keeping an eye on Dana's Halliday for a trial at the end of the journey — if they survive...

"For drinking on set, like Piper Laurie claims, Marshall Dillon'll get ya!"
Piper Laurie plays the ingenue, warming up to Dana's handsome, misunderstood idealist like most cinematic ingenues melt for the goaded puppy — but there's a snag: Her initial love interest, played by a surprisingly peppery Rex Reason, winds up madder at Andrews than even Talman is...

And while it doesn't make Dana more energetic or desperate in the role, the man who's been deemed "The Greatest Minimalist Actor" delivers sturdy dialogue with finesse, and does alright in the nail-biting river sequences occurring between pockets of downtime during "shoreline" overnights, wherein, at one point, GUMSMOKE Doc Adams (the same year the famous series began), Milburn Stone, eventually takes a bigger risk than anyone: Which is one of the problems: the characters never seem in the amount of trouble that would push this vehicle into a bonafide Action Western instead of a Western with some action on the side...
Dana Andrews in SMOKE SIGNAL
Dana Andrews, Piper Laurie, Rex Reason, Milburn Stone facing William Talman in Smoke Signal
Rex Reason, Dana Andrews and William Talman
Dana Andrews in SMOKE SIGNAL directed by Jerry Hopper
Dana Andrews scopes the canyon for vicious Indians in SMOKE SIGNAL
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