In just five years, Anthony Mann directed James Stewart in no fewer than eight pictures, from The Glenn Miller Story to Bend of the River. Thunder Bay film is a minor work in the duo’s canon but is still an enjoyably muscular movie set in post-war Louisiana.
Steve and Gambi (Stewart and Dan Duryea) are two ex-GIs determined to find oil in the Gulf of Mexico. But their drilling rig riles the local shrimpers, who fear that their livelihood will be at risk from any successful strike. And, to complicate matters, Steve and Gambi fall for Stella and Francesca Rigaud (Joanne Dru and Marcia Henderson), who happen to be the daughters of the most militant boat captain, Dominique Rigaud (Antonio Moreno). As tempers rise between the oilmen and the shrimpers, the boats set out to attack the rig just as the first gusher blows. But just as bloody conflict seems inevitable, a chance discovery proves that it isn’t just black gold that’s in the Gulf but an invaluable golden harvest for the boats.
Stewart’s role as the steadfast member of the pair is matched by Duryea’s wisecracking yet heroic character and the two female leads match them superbly. Largely shot on location, the on-water scenes are dramatically realised and if the script is occasionally a little wordy, the action more than makes up for it.
USA / 1953
Director: Anthony Mann
Writers: Gil Doud, John Michael Hayes
Cast: James Stewart, Dan Duryea, Joanne Dru, Marcia Henderson, Antonio Moreno