'Whispering Smith': THR's 1948 Review

Photofest
Brenda Marshall and Alan Ladd in 1948's 'Whispering Smith.'
A first rate drama of the plains.

On Dec. 9, 1948, Paramount released the 88-minute Alan Ladd Western Whispering Smith. The Hollywood Reporter's original review, headlined "'Whispering' First-Rate Western Railroad Saga - Film Teeming With Realism, Activity," is below: 

It has been a long time since Western filmmakers tossed together a story of old railroading, and the fact that Whispering Smith takes up this neglected bit of subject matter is but one provocative element of a first-rate drama of the plains. 

The presentation of associate producer Mel Epstein not only gives the film a full quota of elegant action but offers a feast for the eyes in the atmospheric sets and the authentic railway equipment. To get the old rolling stock he must have tapped every source in Southern California, but the payoff lies in the grand Americana he has gotten on the screen.

Just as Epstein's work is head and shoulders above the usual sagebrush presentation so is the direction of Leslie Fenton. His characters emerge as real people, and his action sequences, especially the chase, have unusual credibility. To make the box-office payoff worthy of the meticulous production there is Alan Ladd in the top spot. His performance of Whispering Smith, rough and ready railroad detective, is one of his best. His fans will like this one — plenty. 

Preston's good guy turned wrong is a well-played performance, and Brenda Marshall brings dignity and sincerity to her spot of the wife. Donald Crisp, hiding his English accent behind a southern drawl, is a smoothly sinister heavy. William Demarest, playing an old-timer, is his usual reliable self. Fay Holden scores as his wife. Murvyn Vye, playing a desperado, and John Eldredge, in the part of a railway official, do excellent work. 

Ray Rennahan's photography is as exciting as his material, really magnificent in capturing the railroad atmosphere and colorful qualities of the pioneer western town. Robert Brower makes his associate Technicolor direction count as a major factor in the pictorial excellence of Whispering Smith. Hans Dreier and Walter Tyler are responsible for the extraordinary job of art direction, and the editing of Archie Marshek smoothly punctuates the action. 

When one sees such conscientious technical work implementing a thoughtful production and thoroughly fine performances one is made vividly aware of how fine a simple entertainment picture can be. — Staff review, originally published on Dec. 6, 1948.