December 3, 1955, Season One, Episode Ten, of "GUNSMOKE", "The Queue", featured Keye Luke. The name on the screenplay was SAM PECKINPAH, his first for television, or motion pictures.
I love Westerns and some of my favorite characters are associated with a "Writer", a "Director", or both named DAVID SAMUEL PECKINPAH.
He was born on February 21, 1925, in Fresno, California. He was supposed to attend "Fresno High School", but like Elementary, Sam skipped school to be with his Maternal Grandfather, Lawyer and Congressman, Denver S. Church. So that he could live the "Cowboy Life" on Church's ranch and listen to his grandfather tell him the history of the mining towns around Fresno. For Sam's senior year, his parents enrolled him in the "San Rafael Military Academy", in an attempt to reign in his lifestyle.
In 1943, Sam Peckinpah joined the "United States Marine Corps", and later would find himself stationed in China, disarming and repatriating Japanese soldiers. Peckinpah claimed to have witnessed acts of violence between the Japanese and Chinese, that according to others, included acts of murder by sniper fire. Sam would further claim to have been shot during a "Chinese Communist" attack on the Marines.
What he saw, while stationed in China, would affect the young man and influence his views toward violence. That would be reflected in the television shows and motion pictures Sam Peckinpah would make.
After his discharge, he enrolled at "CAL State Fresno", as a "History Major". It was there that Sam Peckinpah met Drama student, Marie Selland She introduced him to the "Theater Arts Department" and two things followed; Sam would direct a one-hour version of playwright Tennessee Williams', "The Glass Menagerie", and in 1947 the two would be married in a marriage that lasted for the next 13-years.
In 1954, Sam Peckinpah was hired by Director Don Siegel as both a "Dialogue Coach" and "Production Assistant", on "Riot in Cell Block 11". The motion picture was to be shot at "Folsom Prison" and, according to legend, the Warden didn't want to permit the film to be shot in the prison proper. However, after being introduced to David Samuel Peckinpah, the Warden changed his mind, as he knew the family.
Sam Peckinpah would work on four other Siegel productions, 1954's, "Private Hell 36", 1955's, "An Annapolis Story", 1956's, "Crime in the Streets", and the Cult Science Fiction Classic, 1956's, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Peckinpah portrayed, "Charlie, the Meter Reader", in the picture, besides being the dialogue coach. However, his claim of doing an extensive re-write of the screenplay, remains controversial, because no one else connected with "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", has ever supported him on that claim.
In 1956, Sam Peckinpah was also the "uncredited", "Dialogue Director", for another outstanding, but forgotten Science Fiction feature, "World Without End", that starred Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates and Rod Taylor.
However, it is only Sam Peckinpah's "Westerns", that I'm interested in for this article.
Westerns came to the new medium of television, on June 24, 1949, with William Boyd as "Hopalong Cassidy". Before the decade of the 1950's had ended, in one week, a television viewer had the potential of watching 46 different Western series, if they had enough television sets.
Sam Peckinpah would become part of the television Western craze, starting with his first episode on "Gunsmoke". I look at some of the Western shows of my youth in my article, "HI HO SILVER, AWAY: The 1950's When WESTERNS Dominated the Air Waves", found at:
Between 1955 and 1958, Sam Peckinpah wrote 11 screenplays for "Gunsmoke", his last two as David S. Peckinpah, rather than just Sam.
On, January 9, 1957, an episode of the anthology series, "The 20th Century Fox Hour", "End of a Gun", was televised, written by Sam Peckinpah. He had to condense the 85-minute, 1950, feature film. "The Gunfighter", starring Gregory Peck, into a one-hour screenplay, minus commercial breaks.
Also, in 1957, Sam would write one episode of, "Tales of Wells Fargo", starring Dale Robertson, one for "Trackdown", starring Robert Culp, and two for "Broken Arrow", starring Michael Ansara, plus another in 1958. That one 1958 episode of "Broken Arrow", "The Transfer", Season Two, Episode Thirty-nine, was also the first time Sam Peckinpah Directed.
Additionally in 1958, Sam Peckinpah, wrote an episode of the Western, "Man Without a Gun", starring Rex Reason, but he also created a major television series.
Although the series was set in the 1880's, the rifle was not. It's a "Winchester Model 1892", customized to permit repeat firing by cycling its lever action. Further, a second modification was made, to permit the user to fire with only one hand.
Above the actual "Winchester" as sold, and below, the rifle from the television series.
The producer of the series was the uncredited Arnold Laven, one part of the production company, "Levy-Gardner-Laven".
Sam Peckinpah met with Laven, to propose his idea for a 1880's Western series about a widower and his son. Peckinpah wanted to take a story, he had written for, Season Two, Episode Twenty-one, of "Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre", "The Sharpshooter", just shown on May 7, 1958, and turn it into the pilot for his Western series.
After negotiating with producer Aaron Spelling, "The Sharpshooter", become, Season One, Episode One, of "The Rifleman", first shown on September 30, 1958.
Episodes One, Two, and Four, were written by Sam Peckinpah with a "Real Old West Tone" and their content led to him up and walking away from the series he created. After which, his reality would be replaced with "Eisenhower Era" family values.
That first episode introduced "Lucas McCain", played by Chuck Connors. The timing to promote the series was just right. Connors had just portrayed, "Buck Hannassey", in Director William Wyler's, major hit, the 1958 Western, "The Big Country", starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charleston Heston, Burl Ives and Charles Bickford.
Johnny Crawford portrayed his son, "Mark McCain". Twelve-years-old Crawford had just been in another Cult Science Fiction, 1958's, "The Space Children", and, an episode of "Tales of Wells Fargo".
"The Sharpshooter" has "Lucas" and "Mark" finding the perfect small ranch, but the town and "Sheriff Tomlinson", played by R.G. Armstrong, are "Owned" by, "Jim Lewis", portrayed by Leif Erickson. There's a shooting match and the prize money would be a good down-payment to purchase the ranch. One of the competitors is a young gunfighter named, "Vernon 'Vern' Tippert", portrayed by Dennis Hopper, and "Lewis" has bet heavily on him to win the match. Boss "Lewis", tells "Lucas" to lose, or he will kill "Tippert" for not winning and harm "Mark", a threat he shouldn't have made. The outcome is obvious and "Lucas McCain" wins the match and drives "Jim Lewis" out of the county.
Anyone familiar with the series knows the opening with Chuck Connors. The actor holding the modified Winchester rifle, looking directly into the camera, and followed by his walking and rapidly firing it.
What most of my readers may not realize, is the "Lucas McCain", in those first four episodes, has no compulsion against killing anyone first, to protect his son and their ranch. Look into the eyes of Chuck Connors and you see this during that opening title sequence.
The second episode, "Home Ranch", first shown on October 7, 1958, begins with the arrival at their new Ranch, of "Lucas" and his son "Mark". There, they find two of the hired hands of rancher, "Oat Jackford", played by Harold Stone, waiting for them. The two are, "Sam Montgomery", played by Lee Farr, and "Billy Lehi", played by Lee Rowland. The two men tell "Lucas" that he's not wanted on "Jackford" grazing land and to immediately leave. When "Lucas" refuses, the two hired hands make two mistakes, first, they severely beat him up, and, second, they burn the ranch house down.
As I said, Sam Peckinpah did not write the third episode, but the fourth, "The Marshall", first shown on October 21, 1958, introduces the character of "Micah Torrance", played by Paul Fix, and was Directed by Peckinpah. "Torrance" isn't anything close to the character must viewers of "The Rifleman" know.
To start out, "Micah" is the town drunk, and will do anything to get drinking money.
The three set up a trap to get at "Micah", by using "Lucas", but it will backfire as the old "Marshall Micah Torrance" is reborn and comes to his friend's rescue.
Paul Fix's acting career goes back to 1925, he was close friends with "B" Cowboy star, Harry Carey, Sr. and Director John Ford. Fix has the little-known distinction of teaching the young John Wayne how to walk like a cowboy. The two became close friends and Paul Fix appeared in many of Wayne's feature films. My article, "PAUL FIX: The Character Actor Who Taught John Wayne to Walk", may be read at:
The four main cast members, were headed by Ralph Taeger. Who would go into obscurity, but starred in the one season, television version of John Wayne's, "Hondo". After being on television and in movies since 1953, James Coburn was about to be, "Discovered", in 1960's, "The Magnificent Seven". Joi Jansing had been acting since 1947, but is best remembered for the opening tracking shot of Orson Welles', 1958 crime drama, "Touch of Evil", and, the television series, "The Beverly Hillbillies", as "Blue Grass" singer and composer, Lester Flatt's wife. Mari Blanchard had portrayed "Queen Allura", in 1953's, "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars", and, "Brandy", the Marlene Dietrich role, in the 1954, Audie Murphy remake of James Stewart's "Destry Rides Again". Blanchard, also portrayed the title character of the 1957, Horror movie, "She Devil".
Arguments are still being made that the series was cancelled, because "NBC" placed the program in the same time slot as "The Flintstones", and, "Route 66". Low Ratings are always a good excuse for a cancellation, but the truth was that Sam Peckinpah had made the show he had planned "The Rifleman" to be.
The settings were real and at times unpleasant compared to "Bonanza", or other television Westerns of that year. The characters were real, and included obvious prostitutes. The dialogue was also real, and came as close to cussing, in some instances, as Peckinpah thought he could get away with, and not just from "Bassingame". The critics and Western historians praised the series for its realism.
On "The Dick Powell Theatre", January 15, 1963, was the Sam Peckinpah directed and co-written with Bruce Geller, "The Losers". This was a failed attempt to bring "The Westerner" into the modern West, with Lee Marvin as "Dave Bassingame", and, Keenan Wynn as "Burgundy Smith".
THE MOTION PICTURES:
There was a novel, "The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones", written by Charles Neider, that was adapted by Rod Sterling into a workable motion picture story. Next, his story was turned into a screenplay by Sam Peckinpah. The screenplay was for a Western motion picture that was to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, but disputes with "Paramount Pictures" resulted in Sterling and Peckinpah's names being dropped from the final credits of "One-Eyed Jacks", released March 30, 1961.
THE DEADLY COMPANIONS released June 6, 1961.
"The Deadly Companions" was based upon the novel of the same name by Albert Sidney Fleischman, who wrote the screenplay.
This was the first Western motion picture directed by Sam Peckinpah and this came about, because of Brian Keith. Keith approached actor turned producer Charles B. Fitzsimons, who was looking for a director, to hire Peckinpah,
Maureen O'Hara portrayed widowed "Dance-Hall-Hostess", my reader can fill in her actual occupation, "Kit Tilden". In her 2004 memoir, "Tis Herself", O'Hara had the following comments about working with Sam Peckinpah, he:
didn't have a clue how to direct a movie
one of the strangest and most objectionable people I had ever worked with.
Brian Keith portrayed the ex-Northern Army Sergeant "Yellowleg". Both Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith had just finished shooting Walt Disney's original, 1961, "The Parent Trap".
Steve Cochran portrayed "Billy Keplinger". "B" actor Cochran had appeared in Don Siegel's, 1954, "Private Hell 36", with dialogue coach, "David" Peckinpah, but afterward appeared extensively on television dramas.
Chill Wills portrayed "Turk". Character actor Wills had just been in singer, Jimmie Rodgers, civil war drama, 1961, "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come", and would follow this feature with, 1962's, "Young Guns of Texas", starring Robert Mitchum's son James, Alan Ladd's daughter Alana, and Joel McCrea's son Jody.
During a bank robbery, "Kit Tilden's" young son is accidently killed by "Yellowleg".
"Kit" is determined to cross the desert to the town of Siringo, now deep in Apache territory, to have her son buried beside his father. She refuses his help, but forcing it upon her, "Yellowleg" accompanies "Kit" on her journey. A short time later, both encounter the other two bank robbers, "Billy", a gunfighter, and "Turk", a Confederate deserter. "Yellowleg", over "Kit's" objections, has "Billy" and "Turk" accompany them as further protection against the Apaches.
"Billy" attacks "Kit", "Yellowleg" throws him out of camp, but "Turk" does the expected, and deserts the other two. "Yellowleg" and "Kit' reach Siringo to find the town a ghost and, next, "Billy" and 'Turk" show-up. A gunfight follows and the two will be killed, as "Yellowleg" and "Kit" realize their love for each other.
The two young people are quite good, especially Miss Hartley, a newcomer with real promise. R. G. Armstrong and Edgar Buchanan also contribute telling bits. We know little about the director and scenarist, but Mr. Peckinpah and Mr. Stone certainly have what it takes. And so, if anybody ever doubted it, do a couple of leathery, graying hombres named McCrea and Scott.
According to producer Richard E. Lyons, as related in Garner Simmons', "Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage", published by the "University of Texas Press", in 1982. Lyons mentioned to writer William Roberts of the need for a new film property. Roberts suggested a screenplay a friend of his, N.B. Stone, Jr, had written years ago. Kept from the producer, was the fact that Stone was an alcoholic and in no condition to rewrite a 145-page screenplay. However, the idea of two old friends and gun hands coming together one last time was an interesting twist to the typical Western and Lyon's acquired the Stone screenplay. William Roberts offered to do the rewrite, insisting the only credit go to N.B. Stone, Jr, but his rewrite still didn't seem to work. Meanwhile, Richard E. Lyons had hired Sam Peckinpah to direct. The screenplay, according to Roberts, was entirely rewritten, again, by Peckinpah to the better. Who also received no on-screen credit for his work!
Randolph Scott was cast as "Gil Westrum". Scott had last been seen in the 1960, "B" Western, "Comanche Station" with Nancy Gates.
Joel McCrea was cast as "Steve Judd". McCrea's 1959 through 1960, television series, "Wichita Town", was the last time he had been seen on-screen.
OR, according to legend, the casting was the other way around and Sam Peckinpah flipped a coin to determine which actor got top billing. After the two actors decided to do a Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, from 1957's, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", and switch roles.
The two young people referred to by Bosley Crowther:
Mariette Hartley portrayed "Elsa Knudsen". This was Hartley's first on-screen appearance and over her career she would be seen mainly on television with the occasional movie. Such as the final picture in the original "The Magnificent Seven" series, 1972's, "The Magnificent Seven Ride", starring Lee Van Cleef. The two had appeared in an overlooked Western, 1970's, "Barquero".
For those of my readers interested in "The Magnificent Seven", may article, "THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: The Four Original Films and the Japanese Source Film", is available for your reading pleasure at:
Ron Starr portrayed "Heck Longtree". Crowther's prediction aside, this was Starr's ninth role out of fifteen, before he left acting.
Director John Ford had a group of character actors and others that were known as "The John Ford Stock Company". Watch his films and you'll see many of the same faces. What Sam Peckinpah was starting to do was form his own "Stock Company", from the actors he worked with on television.
Among these, are R.G. Armstrong as "Joshua Knudsen", James Drury, three months away from the first of 249 episodes of televisions, "The Virginian", as "Billy Hammond", L.Q. Jones as "Sylvus Hammond", and Warren Oates as "Henry Hammond".
The screenplay, as would be seen again in Sam Peckinpah's Western motion pictures, deals with the end of the myth of the "Wild West". It's built around one-time lawman, "Steve Judd", whose clothing is threadbare and he needs reading glasses to see. "Judd" has been hired by a group of mine owners to take gold from their camps to the California town of Hornitos. Everyone they have previously sent were murdered. Before he leaves, "Judd" encounters the "Famous Gun Fighter, The Oregon Kid".
The "Famous Gunfighter" turns out to be a fraud and is "Judd's" old partner, "Gil Westrum". "Westrum" and his sidekick, young "Heck Longtree", agree to go along, but "Gil" plans on stealing the gold.
Along the way, the three men stop at the farm of "Joshua Knudsen" and his daughter "Elsa".
Later, at the dinner table, after using the bible to tell the three men about what happens to those who "traffic in gold". "Knudsen" and "Judd" start trading quotes from the bible to see who can outdo the other.
Meanwhile, outside, "Heck" and "Elsa" secretly meet, but her father appears. Back in the house, he slaps his daughter for her behavior. The next day, as the three men are traveling to the mines, "Elsa" joins them, as she has decided to leave her domineering father and meet her fiancé at the mining camp. On the trail, "Heck" attempts to force himself on "Elsa", but is stopped by "Judd".
When they reach the mining camp, "Elsa's" fiancé turns out to be a drunken "Billy Hammond". His plans for his new wife are to prostitute her to his brothers.
"Judd", "Gil", and "Heck" rescue "Elsa" from the marriage and the four set out again with the gold. Along the trail, "Judd" starts talking to "Gil", who he suspects of wanting to go back to their old ways, of the difference between right and wrong. He adds how he's regained his self-respect after all these years and stated that with "Gil" and "Heck's" help, he'll keep it and going biblical again ads:
All I want is to enter my House justified
"Gil" now realizes that "Judd" will not go along with the gold robbery and with "Heck", the two start to take the gold. However, at gunpoint, "Judd" appears, slaps "Gil" on the face, and challenges him to a shootout. Surprising "Judd", "Gil" just drops his guns to the ground rather than drawdown on his friend. The ex-lawman, "Judd", still plans to take "Gil" and "Heck" into town to stand trial for attempted robbery. At which point, the "Hammond Brothers" arrive and a gunfight takes place.
When the shooting stops, both "Jimmy Hammond", played by John Davis Chandler, and "Sylvus" are dead and the other brothers run away. The four now set up camp away from the gunfight site in case the "Hammond's" return.
"Gil" sneaks out of their camp, returns to the site of the gunfight, takes a set of guns from one of the dead "Hammond Brothers", a horse, and rides out.
Back at the other camp, after discovering that "Gil" has left them, the three are about to set off. "Judd" has decided that "Heck" is trustworthy, and "Elsa" speaks to "Heck". She tells him, that although he probably will go to prison, she'll wait for him. The three ride back to the "Knudsen" farm to discover "Elsa's" father has been murdered and the remaining "Hammond Brothers" are there.
Another gunfight takes place and both "Judd" and "Heck" are wounded, but "Gil" rides in and that stops the "Hammond's". Next, "Judd" and "Gil", insult the brothers and challenge them to a face-to-face shoot-out in the open. When the shoot-out ends, the "Hammonds" are dead, but "Judd" is mortally wounded. He tells "Gil" that he doesn't want "Elsa" and "Heck" to see him like this and "Gil" promises to take care of everything. "Judd" tell him:
Hell, I know that. I always did. You just forgot it for a while, that's all."Judd" then looks at the mountains of the high country and dies. Fade-out!
MAJOR DUNDEE released on March 15, 1965.
There were apparently four versions of this motion picture, starting with the one Director Sam Peckinpah originally made at an estimated four-hours-and-thirty-eight-minutes.
Moby Dick on Steroids!
"Columbia" and Bresler still thought the picture was to long for a audience to sit through. Jerry Bresler over saw a new re-editing of the film down to two-hours-and-sixteen-minutes, for testing with "Preview Audiences". However, the audience comments were not good and Bresler re-edited the re-edit, releasing it at, two-hours-and-three minutes, as the "General Audience Version".
In April 2005, a re-stored, "Extended Version", was first shown in New York City. However, the running time was only two-hours-and-sixteen-minutes and was based upon producer Jerry Bresler's "Preview Audience Release". Although those involved with the restoration used the actual screenplay with Peckinpah's handwritten notes on it, but they faced locating missing pieces of film. This release removed the terrible soundtrack, by the then popular "Mitch Miller Sing-a-long Gang", and had a new one composed, that was closer to what Sam Peckinpah had wanted.
All the publicity for the "Extended Version" had the following tag line:
A Restored Masterpiece!
But, two-hours-and-sixteen-minutes is still two-hours-and-twenty-two-minutes shorter than what Sam Peckinpah had originally submitted to Bresler and "Columbia Pictures".
The Main Cast According to the Above Poster:
Charlton Heston portrayed "Union Major Amos Dundee". Heston had just portrayed "John the Baptist", in director George Stevens', 1965, "The Greatest Story Ever Told". The actor would follow this feature film portraying "Michelangelo", in director Carol Reed's version of the Irving Stone's bestselling biographical novel, 1965's, "The Agony and the Ecstasy".
Richard Harris portrayed "Confederate Captain Benjamin Tyreen". Harris had just been in the Italian comedy drama, "I tre volti (The Three Faces)". The picture never came to Harris' native Ireland, the United Kingdom, or the United States. He would follow this feature with director Anthony Mann's World War 2 story, 1965's, "The Heroes of Telemark", co-starring with Kirk Douglas.
Jim Hutton portrayed "Union Lieutenant Graham". Hutton had just co-starred with singer Connie Francis in 1964's, "Looking for Love". He would follow this picture, co-starring with Burt Lancaster, and Lee Remick, in director John Surges', irrelevant comic parody of every Western made, the 1965, Cinerama production, "The Hallelujah Trail".
James Coburn portrayed "Scout Samuel 'Sam' Potts". Coburn was just in 1964's, World War 2 comedy drama romance, "The Americanization of Emily", starring Julie Andrews and James Gardner. He would follow this feature, by co-starring with Anthony Quinn in the pirate adventure, 1965's, "A Fair Wind in Jamaica".
Michael Anderson, Jr. portrayed "Union Bugler Tim Ryan". Anderson had just portrayed "James the Younger", in 1965's, "The Greatest Story Ever Told". He would follow this picture with director Henry Hathaway's, 1965, "The Sons of Katie Elder", starring John Wayne and Dean Martin.
The Featured Players:
Mario Adorf portrayed "Union Sergeant Gomez". Switzerland born Adorf had just been in the, 1964, West German Western, "Die Goldsucher von Arkansas". West Germany loved American Westerns and made more than Italy with several starring Stewart Granger, or Lex Barker. My article, "American Western's European Style", can be read at:
Adorf followed this picture with a West German, United States, France and Italy, co-production, 1965's, "The Dirty Game", with cameos by Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan.
Brock Peters portrayed "African-American Soldier Aesop". Peters was just in an episode of Fess Parker's television series, "Daniel Boone", in 1964, and followed the film with a 1965 episode of televisions, "Rawhide", starring Eric Flemming and Clint Eastwood.
Senta Berger portrayed "Mexican Teresa Santiago". Berger had just been in a 1964 episode of the television series, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.", and would follow this picture with the Austria, West Germany and Italy, 1965 feature film, "Shots in Three-Quarter-Time".
Some of the Other Cast Members:
Ben Johnson portrayed "Confederate Sergeant Chillum". Johnson became a member of the "John Ford Stock Company", when nobody could stop a runaway wagon with featured actors on it. The man delivering horses to the shoot jumped into action, got on a horse, and stopped the wagon as filming continued at Ford's direction. My readers know Ben Johnson as "Ex-Confederate Sergeant Tyree", in Ford's, 1949, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", and, 1950's, "Rio Grande". He also starred in Merian C. Cooper and John Ford's, 1949, "Mighty Joe Young". My article, "Ben Johnson: Roping a 12 Foot Gorilla", can be read at:
Warren Oates portrayed "Confederate Private O.W. Hadley". Oates had just appeared in a 1965, crime comedy on the television anthology series, "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre". Warren Oates would follow this feature with an uncredited role in the James Stewart Civil War picture, 1965's, "Shenandoah".
R.G. Armstrong portrayed "Reverend Dahlstrom". Armstrong had just been seen in a, 1965, episode of televisions "Slattery's People". The character actor would follow this picture with his second appearance on televisions, "Death Valley Days".
Michael Pate portrayed "Apache War Chief Sierra Charriba". Australian actor Pate had a knack for portraying Native American's, just ask John Wayne. Pate was "Vittorio" in 1953's, "Hondo", which he repeated on the 1967 television show, and, "Puma", in 1963's, "McLintock". He has the distinction of portraying the first Western Vampire, in 1959's, "Curse of the Undead". He also appeared in the 3-D Horror film, 1953's, "The Maze", and the Richard Greene and Boris Karloff, 1952, Horror film, "The Black Castle". Michael Pate is part of my article, "Woody Strode and Michael Pate: Western Stalwarts", at:
Slim Pickens portrayed the "The Mule Skinner". Pickens had just appeared in the "Sam Houston" segment of the 1964 television series, "Profiles in Courage", and would follow this film with, director Otto Preminger's World War 2 epic, "In Harm's Way", starring John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.
The screenplay came from a story by Harry Julian Fink. Fink had written a screenplay in 1963 and shelved it. Sam Peckinpah had seen it back in 1963 and kept it in the back of his mind. When Harry Julian Fink stopped writing for motion pictures, he only had 25 credits to his name, but besides this picture. Those film credits included, Rock Hudson's, 1968, "Ice Station Zebra", John Wayne's, 1971, "Big Jake", and his, 1973, "Cahill, U.S. Marshall", along with every one of Clint Eastwood's, "Dirty Harry" movies.
The screenplay itself, was by both Oscar Saul and Sam Peckinpah. Saul had adapted playwright Tennessee Williams, "A Streetcar Named Desire", into the 1951, Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando Oscar Winning motion picture, and wrote the screenplay for Frank Sinatra's, 1957, "The Joker Is Wild".
The reason Sam wanted to work with Oscar Saul was to change Harry Julian Fink's screenplay into a more complex character driven story. The two would take the character of "Major Amos Dundee" and turn him into a glory-driven officer, who grabs at means that presents itself, without concern for the consequences of his actions, to get his failed career, he was sent to the New Mexico Territory as punishment, restarted with his superiors in the War Department.
In the screenplay, "Dundee" is blinded by his quest to capture, or kill the "Apache War Chief Sierra Charriba" and rescue three boys.
To use R.G. Armstrong's metaphor, "Major Dundee", has become "Captain
Ahab" and "Sierra Charriba", his "Moby Dick". Later, critics of the motion picture would point out more similarities to Herman Melville's novel, such as "Captain Tyreen" to "Starbuck", and, "Private Ryan" the obvious, "Ishmael". Who narrates the story, writes in his diary, and is a witness to all the events that transpire!
Why did Sam Peckinpah believe he needed a four-hour-and-thirty-eight-minute motion picture to tell his story? Which, compared to the two primary Civil War epics, is fifty-five minutes longer than "Gone with the Wind", and, one-hour-and-thirty-six minutes longer than "GWTW's" counterpart, "Raintree County".
The one-word answer, might be, "Scope"!
Peckinpah and Saul's screenplay is set during the American Civil War in the New Mexico Territory. The story begins at a Union prison for captured Confederate soldiers. A setting only seen previously once, in director John Sturges', one-hour-and-thirty-eight minute, 1953, "Escape from Fort Bravo".
As the search for the boys expands, the setting moves to Mexico under "Emperor Maximillian". Bringing the problems facing American soldiers illegally entering another country. Along with the conflict with the Mexican peasantry over "Maximillian's" rule and their budding "War of Independence" under Benito Juarez.
Adding to the overall plot, are the relationships between the Union Soldiers, the Confederate Prisoner's forced to volunteer, the Civilians, and the African-American soldiers, that make-up "Major Dundee's" military rescue force.
Not to forget, "Sierra Charriba" and his Apache renegades with the captured boys.
The Basic Screenplay:
The original screenplay, and the "Extended Version", have a double-opening. One part sees "Captain Ben Tyreen" and some other Confederate prisoners escaping and being recaptured. This was dropped from the "General Release" and led to confusion as to why "Tyreen" and some other Confederate prisoners are in chains, segregated from the main prisoner population, when "Major Dundee" first speaks to "Tyreen" after returning to the fort from the ranch massacre.
The other part of the opening, is where the "General Release" begins. "Major Dundee" and a patrol led by "Private Ryan", the lone survivor of a relief column of Cavalry that were massacred by "Sierra Charriba". Arrive at a small ranch, the site of the massacre of the Union soldiers and the ranch family.
They discover that the three young boys have been taken by "Charriba" and this gives "Major Dundee", in his mind, the chance to redeem himself and get away from running a prison in nowhere. On a hill overlooking the destroyed ranch is "Sierra Charriba".
At this point the audience learns that "Ben Tyreen" and "Amos Dundee" are West Point graduates and both Southerners. "Dundee" was born and raised in Davidson County, Tennessee, prior to the start of the American Civil War. After West Point, "Ben" got himself in trouble and was brought before a court-martial board and it was "Amos" that had the decided vote against him. When the war broke out, "Ben Tyreen" joined the Confederate Army, and his one-time friend, "Amos Dundee", stayed North.
"Major Dundee" wants to form a "Rescue" troop and asks "Captain Tyreen" to volunteer as his second-in-command and get some other Confederate prisoners to volunteer. Initially, this won't work and "Ben" is faced with being executed with the others involved in their escape attempt. An agreement will be reached that the Confederates will follow "Dundee" until "Sierra Charriba" is either:
Taken or Destroyed
At which point, "Ben's" promise to "Amos" ends and the Confederates can, in theory, go their own way.
"Major Dundee" will put together a group, that in itself, could explode at anytime, the Southerners and African-Americans an obvious problem. However, "Amos" will keep reminding "Ben" that he made that promise and puts the Confederate Captain in an awkward position with his own men.
"Amos" was forced to take as his third in command, "Lieutenant Graham". "Graham" is a bumbling, newly graduated, inexperienced officer, that wanted to be in artillery. When sent to "Commandeer" food and other equipment from a Union supply train, "Graham" returns with a "Baby Howitzer". That they will use later in the story on a "French Garrison", below.
Before the "Rescue Mission" leaves the prison, "Dundee" sends out Scout "Sam Potts" to locate "Sierra Charriba" and report back to him. When "Major Dundee's" diverse group exits, each faction sings a different song, especially the Confederates with "Dixie" and the African-American troopers with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". An interesting way for Sam Peckinpah to foreshadow the problems ahead.
Compare the look of "Dundee's" men as they ride out of the prison setting to the following shot later in the picture. When the reality of their hunt for "Sierra Charriba" has taken its tole. This is not the look of a "Hollywood Cavalry Picture", or in some respects, John Ford's cavalry trilogy starring John Wayne.
There will be that expected trouble between the Southerners and the African-American troopers. One of the Confederate soldiers wants "Aesop" to remove his boots, but this forces "Tyreen" to step in, swallow his pride, apologize to "Aesop", and commend him and the other African-American soldiers.
Meeting with "Samuel Potts", the troop cross the Rio Grande into Mexico, avoid a French cavalry patrol, and, after dark, meet with an old Apache, who brings them the three boys. It's all a trap and "Sierra Charriba" attacks and "Dundee" loses the majority of his supplies.
"Major Dundee" now orders an escort for the boys back to the United States. The remaining troopers come across a Mexican village and believe they can resupply there, but there is that blockhouse with a French garrison.
The Major drives the French out, liberates the village, but discovers the residents are more in need of food and supplies than his men. He divides their own meager supplies and as a result, the villagers declare "Major Dundee" a hero, and both "Dundee" and "Tyreen" find themselves fighting over "Teresa Santiago", whose husband, an Austrian doctor, was murdered by the French.
The village is an opportunity for everyone to clean-up and relax.
The egotistical, autocratic, "Major Amos Dundee", lets his own guard down and has a brief affair with "Teresa". Which leads to him being caught unawares as "Sierra Charriba" attacks and he finds an arrow in his leg.
"Dundee" is smuggled into the French held town of Durango for medical treatment and left there. "Amos" is tended to by aN Apache woman named, "Melinche", played by Aurora Clavel, and again the egotistical "Major Amos Dundee" lets his guard down and takes her to his bed. "Teresa" has dangerously gone into town to check on him, discovers the two, and their affair is over.
Next, "Ben", "Lieutenant Graham" and "Sergeant Gomez" sneak into town to get "Amos". Who has completely fallen from grace, is a drunk and whoring man, who believes he loves "Melinche", and wants to stay with her in Durango! It is up to his old friend, his second in command, "Ben Tyreen", to convince "Amos Dundee" to resume his mission to capture, or kill "Sierra Charriba".
The small command now discovers that the French have cut-off the Rio Grande River crossing point.
Returning to the screenplay, "Union Major Amos Dundee" and "Captain Benjamin Tyreen", with each officer's men, now charge the surprised French troops and a major skirmish in the Rio Grande River takes place.
"Ben Tyreen",sees the soldier holding the American flag start to go down and the West Point Confederate graduate shows his loyalty in the moment and saves the flag, but the French officer shoots him in the stomach, while, "Ben" passes the flag to "Amos". " Ben" turns, charges and kills the French officer as he dies heroically himself.
Once across the Rio Grande and onto American soil, only "Major Amos Dundee", "Lieutenant Graham", "Samuel Potts", "Sergeant Gomez", "Confederate Sergeant Chillum", and a few others are left alive.
Narration starts, in some versions, stating that none of these men knew that the date was, April 19, 1865, the Civil War had ended and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.
THE GLORY GUYS released July 7, 1965.
Sam Peckinpah returned to Arnold Laven for the "United Artists" production "The Glory Guys". The plan was for Peckinpah to write the screenplay, for a motion picture called "Custer's Last Stand". and direct the feature film. However, "20th Century Fox" announced they would make "The Day Custer Fell". So, "United Artists", decided to make a highly fictionalized story, with no real names, and based upon author Hoffman Birney's, "The Dice of God".
Sam Peckinpah started writing the screenplay, that covered the enlistments, the training, the assignments and the deployment of a group of cavalry men. In fact, his screenplay could have been set in an older war, the setting of the novel during the "Plains Indian Wars", or Vietnam.
Next, Peckinpah was informed that the producers, "Levy-Gardner-Lavin" decided not to use him to direct and Arnold Laven, himself, took over as director.
The "20th Century Fox" production would fall through and would become the "Cinerama Releasing Corporation's" "Custer of the West", starring British actor Robert Shaw, and not released, in "Cinerama" until November 9, 1967.
VILLA RIDES released May 29, 1968.
The problem with "Villa Rides" is that Sam Peckinpah wrote one very real biographical screenplay about "Pancho Villa" during the Mexican Revolution. He was set to direct the feature, but he ran up against the star, Yul Brynner, who didn't like Peckinpah's harsh description of "Villa". Brynner went to studio head, Robert Evans, and, Evans, hired his friend, Robert Towne, to "Script Doctor", Peckinpah's screenplay into more of an adventure picture. Sam Peckinpah was replaced as director by Yul Brynner approved, television director, Buzz Kulik.
Sam would disown the finished film, but received on-screen second credit for his screenplay anyway.
The second, became the more popular, because it appealed to the average movie goer and was the Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katharine Ross, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", released on September 3, 1969. The picture won Academy Awards for both "Best Song", and "Best Score" by Burt Bacharach, "Best Original Screenplay", by William Goldman. The picture was also nominated for "Best Picture", and "Best Director", George Roy Hill.
While, the first, did get nominated for the Academy Awards for "Best Original Screenplay", and "Best Original Screenplay".
THE WILD BUNCH released on June 18, 1969.
Meanwhile, producer Daniel Melnick needed a writer and director for a, 1966, episode the anthology television series, "ABC Stage 67". He knew of the unjust firing of Sam Peckinpah and hired him to do "Noon Wine". The story was based upon a short novel by Katherine Anne Porter, "Ship of Fools", and Peckinpah turned it into a 51-minute teleplay. Among his cast were, Jason Robards, Olivia de Havilland, Theodore Bikel, L.Q. Jones, and Ben Johnson.
William Holden portrayed "Pike Bishop". Holden had just appeared in the, 1968, true story of the American-Canadian World War 2 unit known as "The Devil's Brigade". Among the other actors considered for the role prior to Holden, were, Richard Boone, Sterling Hayden, Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, James Stewart and Lee Marvin. Marvin was actually cast, but left to appear in the musical "Paint Your Wagon".
Robert Ryan portrayed "Deke Thornton". Ryan had a cameo role in the Italian World War 2 picture, 1968's, "Anzio", and would play the title role in 1969's, "Captain Nemo and the Underwater City". For fans of Jules Verne's character, my article, "Captain Nemo Motion Picture Star", may be read at:
Sam Peckinpah's first choice for the role had been Richard Harris, but he was never "formally approached". Brian Keith was, and turned it down! Also considered, were Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Arthur Kennedy and Ben Johnson.
Edmond O'Brien portrayed "Freddie Sykes". At this time, O'Brien was guest-starring on several television programs.
Above Warren Oates on the left and Edmund O'Brien.
Ben Johnson portrayed "Tector Gorch". Johnson had just appeared in, "The Magical World of Disney's", two-part, "Ride a Northbound Horse", with Carroll O'Connor.
Jaime Sanchez portrayed "Angel". Sanchez is a Puerto Rician stage, film and television actor. At this time he appeared in director Frank Perry's, 1962, "David and Lisa", and. director Sidney Lument's, 1964, "The Pawnbroker", starring Rod Steiger. Otherwise Jaime Sanchez was appearing on both the Spanish and English language stage until this film.
Above left to right, Jaime Sanchez, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ben Johnson.
L.Q. Jones, left below, portrayed "T.C.", and, Strother Martin portrayed "Coffer".
Dub Taylor portrayed "Wainscoat".
Bo Hopkins portrayed "Clarence 'Crazy' Lee".
In "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", you almost have a "Family Film", about two-lovable, old fashion, outlaws, faced with progress. The setting is described as the "Turn of the Century" American West, in Wyoming, and the year is 1899.
The screenplay starts with "Butch", and his buddy the "Sundance Kid", played by Robert Redford, returning to the "Hole-in-the-Wall-Gang". There the two find out that "Harvey Logan", played by 6-foot 9-inch Ted Cassidy of televisions "The Adams Family", has taken over leadership. "Butch", played by 5-foot 10-inch, Paul Newman, uses trickery to win a comic knife fight to retain his leadership.
"Angel" asks "Pike" to keep his share of the gold, if he will send one crate of rifles to Pancho Villa. The group crosses the Rio Grande back into the United States and the hold-up of the train goes smoothly. Until it is revealed that "Deke" and his posse are on-board and a gun fight starts.
"Pike's" men are chased by "Deke" and his posse, but being slightly ahead. "Angel" plants dynamite on the train trestle, as they re-cross the Rio Grande, the trestle blows up, leaving "Deke" and his posse on the United States side for the moment.
Now comes a questionable couple of sequences about loyalty. "Dutch" reports back to "Pike" and the others about "Angel's" capture. "Sykes" is sent to get fresh horses and will be wounded in a confrontation with "Deke" and his posse. The rest of the gang returns to "Angel's" village, sees him being dragged behind the General's car, but choose to ignore what's happen and to celebrate the gold they received, from selling "General Mapache" the rifles, with prostitutes, and getting drunk.
The following morning, after reflecting on what they saw the General do to "Angel". "Pike" and the others have a change of heart and the remaining members of "The Wild Bunch" walk into that square.
"Pike" attempts to convince the General to let "Angel" go, but instead, "Mapache" cuts "Angel's" throat.
What follows is the bloodiest sequence, and most unexpected by the original audiences, since the ending to actor director Warren Beatty's, 1967, "Bonnie and Clyde", two years earlier.
The Mexican troops comes out of their trance and open gunfire on the last of "The Wild Bunch", and they return it in kind until no one on either side is left alive.
He sits himself down against a wall, speaks to "Sykes", who has arrived with some of Pancho Villa's rebels, and wonders what's become of the World he knew? "Sykles" invites "Deke" to join the revolution with him, "Deke" gets up, and the two leave together.
When is a Western not a Western?
Twenty-years-later on, June 11, 1972, Director Sam Peckinpah's, "Junior Bonner", starring Steve McQueen was released. The story is about an over-the-hill rodeo star going home, in 1972, to Prescott, Arizona, for the annual parade and rodeo. Again, because the film is about a rodeo, the critics decided this was a Western drama.
Sam Peckinpah's last real Western went back to the myth busting of "Ride the High Country" and "The Wild Bunch"!
The screenplay was by Rudy Wurlitzer, who would portray "Tom O'Folliard". This screenplay followed his critically acclaimed 1971 motion picture "Two-Lane Backstop". The screenplay was actually written specifically for director Monte Hellman of that 1971 production, but Sam Peckinpah became involved because of his friend, James Coburn, wanting to portray "Pat Garrett".
Although Wurlitzer gets the on-screen credit. Peckinpah rewrote the entire screenplay in his belief that this would complete his trilogy debunking the "Hollywood Myths" of the West and Outlaws.
As I said, James Coburn was "Pat Garrett". Acting mainly in television Westerns since 1953. It was the 1960 Western version of Akira Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai" now called "The Magnificent Seven",co-starring Steve McQueen, that started to move Colburn from television. His next feature was the Steven McQueen, Fess Parker 1962 World War 2 "Hell is for Heroes". The following year Coburn was reunited with McQueen for the third time in "The Great Escape". In 1965 James Colburn portrayed Scout "Samuel Potts" in Sam Peckinpah's "Major Dundee" starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris.
San Peckinpah initially wanted Bo Hopkins, below, for the role of "Billy the Kid". As mentioned above, Hopkins had played "Crazy Lee" in "The Wild Bunch".
Instead the role went to 36 year old country music singer Kris Kristofferson. This was only his third on screen role.
Don't look for the familiar names of the Lincoln County War, because Peckinpah's screenplay isn't about that. It's more the demons possessing "Pat Garrett" and the death of the Western gunfighter. not really signified by "William H. Bonney", but by "Garrett".
The few familiar historical names in the screenplay come and go:
Barry Sullivan was "John Chisum".From 1960 to 1962 Sullivan played "Pat Garrett" and Clu Gulager was "Billy the Kid" on the television series "The Tall Man".
Charles Martin Smith, in the middle, was "Charlie Bowdre".
Below the real Charlie Bowdre.
As I said the original screenplay writer Rudy Wurlitzer was"Tom O'Folliard".
Below the real Tom O'Folliard.
However, one of Kristofferson's suggested actors, was a singer and song writer Sam Peckinpah had never heard about. Who ended up writing the entire motion picture score. One song he wrote, became both the theme for the motion picture and a major hit, "Knockin' on Heavens Door".
Bob Dylan would portray the fictional "Alias" and at times steal the scenes from the two leads.
Four other real life characters in the motion picture are:
Richard Jaeckel as Sheriff "Thomas Christopher 'Kip' McKinney".
John Beck, the actor and not the producer of the American version of 1962's "King Kong vs Godzilla", portrayed "John W. Poe".
Jack Elam, portrayed the real life"Alamosa Bill Kermit". An outlaw alleged to have been associated with "Billy the Kid" and killed in April of 1888 in El Paso, Texas.
Mexican actress Aurora Clavel portrayed Pat Garrett's real life daughter "Ida".
Among the cast of familiar actors are:
Slim Pickens as "Sheriff Colin Baker".
Mexican actress Katy Jurado, below, 1952's "High Noon" and 1954's "Broken Lance", was Pickens' wife only identified as "Mrs. Baker".
Gene Evans, director Sam Fueller's 1951 "Steel Helmet" and Eugene Lourie's 1959 "The Giant Behemoth", was "Mr. Horrell".
Don't blink, or you'll mess Harry Dean Stanton, Dub Taylor, Elisha Cook Jr., Bruce Dern and even Sam Peckinpah.
As I said the year is 1881 and William Bonney is 21 year old at the time. His friend Pat Garrett is 31 years old. The setting is Old Fort Sumner, New Mexico and "Billy the Kid" and his friends are passing the time shooting chickens. Riding into town comes Pat Garrett and Deputy Sheriff J.W. Bell. Over drinks "Garrett" informs "Bonney" that in five days he will be the new Sheriff and the powers that be want "Billy" out of town.
On the six day "Pat Garrett" and his deputies surround a farm house. Inside are "Billy" and "Charlie Bowdre". When the gunshots end. "Charlie" and several men on both sides are dead and "William H. Bonney" has been arrested for the murder of "Buckshot Roberts".
"Bob Orlinger" torments "Billy" with a shot gun he filled with sixteen dimes. "Pat" visits "Billy" and the two play cards. While "Orlinger" makes comments about the dimes and what he wants to do with them. At other times "James Bell" intervenes on "The Kid's" behalf and treats him well.
"Billy" escapes the Lincoln County Jail by first killing "James W. Bell". His grave headstone gives us the exact date of the escape.,
Next "Billy" takes the shotgun full of dimes and from a balcony shots "Bob Orlinger" dead saying:
KEEP THE CHANGE BOB!"Garrett" returns to Lincoln and hires a new deputy "Alamosa Bill Kermit". "Pat" leaves "Alamosa" in Lincoln and rides to Santa Fe to meet with Governor "Lew Wallace". "Wallace" introduces him to some powerful men referred as the "Santa Fe Ring". The "Ring" offers him $1,000 to bring "Billy the Kid" in and gives him half as upfront money. "Garrett" tells him he'll do it, IF they don't start another Lincoln County War.
Meanwhile,."Billy" returns to Old Fort Sumner to relax with his old gang. Inside he meets three strangers who want to kill him. They're killed with the help of a fourth with a knife. His name is "Alias" and he had witnessed the Lincoln County Jail escape.
"Pat Garrett" locates "Sheriff Colin Baker" for help getting some of "Billy's" gang. "Baker's" wife goes along and the three confront "Black Harris" and some others. "Harris" is killed, but "Sheriff Baker" is mortally wounded.
"Garrett" is now joined by glory seeking "John W. Poe" who works for the "Santa Fe Ring". The two meet "John Chisum" and are informed that "Billy" has been rustling his cattle again and killed some of his men. According to "Chisum": "The Kid" claims he's owed $500 in back pay and that's his motive for the rustling.Anticipating the arrival of "Garrett" in Old Fort Sumner "The Kid's" friend "Paco" takes his family and leaves for Mexico with "Billy" shortly following.
On his way to Mexico "Billy" stops at "Horrell's Trading Post". "Horrell" is an old friend and "The Kid" finds "Alamosa Bill" there. The two step outside for a gun duel and "Billy" kills "Alamosa". A little impossible as the real "Alamosa" was killed 7 years later in 1888.
.Meanwhile, "Garrett" and "Poe" arrive in a small town and go into a saloon. "Garrett" tells "Poe", to get rid of him, to ride to Roswell and he'll join him in five to six days. After "Poe" leaves "Garrett" approaches some of "Billy's" friends.
Playing poker and drinking "Garrett" gets one named "Holly" drunk. When the other pulls a knife "Garrett" shoots him dead. He then approaches "Alias" and tells him to tell "Billy" they all had a drink together. "Garrett" leaves and rides to Roswell ahead of "Poe" to gather information and clues of the whereabouts of "The Kid".
"Garrett" is told that "Billy' has gone back to "Old Fort Sumner" and "Poe" arrives to confirm it.We now have the killing of "William H. Bonney".
"Garrrett", "Poe" and his posse arrive in Old Fort Sumner. After having sex with "Pete Maxwell's" daughter "Billy" goes to get something to eat. In the dark he notices two of "Garrett's" deputies, but they're afraid to shoot the outlaw. "Garrett" arrives and kills him. "Poe" starts to cut off "Billy's" trigger finger and is stopped by "Pat". The citizens of Old Fort Sumner find "Garrett" sitting on the front porch of the house with "The Kid's" body still within.
The film jumps to 28 years later to 1909, near Las Cruces, New Mexico. We see "Pat Garrett" riding with other members of "The Ring" into a ambush. Leading those in the ambush and death of "Pat Garrett" is "John W. Poe".
End of film.
Two problems with the murder of "Pat Garrett". The first is it occurred on February 29, 1908 and not in 1909. The second "Poe" was never considered as his murderer. As to what happened to "Poe" I quote the website "Legends of America":
In late 1882, Pat Garrett decided not to run for sheriff again, but rather than backing his deputy, John Poe, who was running, he instead backed a man named James Dolan, who had been one of the main perpetrators of the Lincoln County War. This would seemingly indicated that there was some friction between the two lawmen. In any event, Poe won the election and served as sheriff of Lincoln County until December 31, 1885. After resigning as a lawman, he moved to Roswell, where he operated a mercantile business and then in 1890 founded the Bank of Roswell and ten years later, the Citizens Bank of Roswell in 1900. He wrote several articles for newspapers and a book about the death of Billy the Kid. Poe died at Roswell, New Mexico on July 22, 1923.
If my reader is interested in the actual "Assassination of Pat Garrett". This link will take you to the website "True West" and a very detailed account of the events leading up to it, the reasons and the aftermath.