Copper Canyon (1950) stars Ray Milland (Johnny Carter) and Hedy Lamarr. One might also add Macdonald Carey as Travis, who, despite a deputy badge, is something of a professional troublemaker. As is the case in so many westerns, this one is yet another set in post-Civil War America. Southerners working the copper mines -- still a major industry in the West -- are being denied their just deserts. They cannot transport ore to Mesa City for smelting. With every single try, they are sabotaged. Business should not be war, a character complains. Enter Johnny Carter, a trick-shot entertainer, whom a handful of men recall as Colonel Desmond, an officer on the losing side of the war, wanted by the law.
It sounds complicated, but all will be settled and explained satisfactorily by the end of the film. Copper Canyon contains features found elsewhere, sharing elements in common with many westerns like it. The lead has two names, a plot twist that has been done before -- it is a red flag, sure, but not necessarily bad. Also the heroine, as it were, speaks with a European accent, something more characteristic of older westerns than those more current. She wears long ravishing dresses, plays cards, and otherwise serves as a magnet in the scenes in which she appears.
One could see how this potboiler might have been a stage play. So much dialogue betrays a coexistent passion for the theater as well as radio. But since it is a movie, there are mandatory scenes involving galloping horses, shooting, pursuits, and moving cameras. It is not that the chase and ambush scenes are overdone. Only that they are standard fare in westerns. Carter rides a white horse while those who go after him -- gallantly standing up for the besieged southerners -- are seen astride black and brown horses. They cross streams, yell at and spur their horses, make use of multiple camera positions, and in the background, there is not much to complain about. The movie was made mostly in Sedona, Arizona.
The situation of the main plot is actually fairly serious. The smelter is willing to personally help finance the ex-rebs. But his refusal to side against them gets him shot dead. In the meantime, Carter or Desmond, since the rumor turns out to be true, seizes the opportunity to clear his sullied name of the theft for which he is being hounded. In 1950, it was still good guys versus bad, and to make for even more nostalgia, the movie ends with a kiss. To be sure, this is giving it away, but considering that the film is over sixty years old, it is by now a known entity.