Cast & Crew
J. Carrol Naish
In the rugged northern Rocky Mountains of the 1830s, mountain man and fur trapper Flint Mitchell is planning a hunting trek into the beaver-rich Blackhawk Territory, despite protests from his Indian friend, Brecan, who tells him that the land belongs to Indians. After narrowly escaping an attack by Ironshirt, a young Indian war chief, Flint finds himself imperiled by a pack of wolves. He is rescued by Pierre, a French Canadian fur trapper, and Captain Humberstone Lyon, a bumbling Scottish hunter who fought in the Battle of Waterloo. While Pierre and Humberstone decide to join Flint on the dangerous expedition into Blackfoot territory, Flint, hoping to ensure the group's safe passage, buys and marries Kamiah, the granddaughter of Blackfoot chief Bear Ghost. Though he marries Kamiah for reasons other than love, Flint eventually becomes smitten with her. Kamiah successfully guides Flint and his men on their trek through rough terrain and crippling snow drifts and finally delivers them to beaver country. As Flint and Kamiah's marriage takes an unexpected romantic turn, Flint and Bear Ghost become good friends. Bear Ghost keeps the warring Ironshirt from harming Flint and his men, but tragedy strikes when Roy DuNord, one of Flint's men, kills Bear Ghost to avenge his brother's death at the hands of Indians. Brecan then kills Roy, and Flint sinks into a grieving depression over the death of Bear Ghost. Soon after replacing Bear Ghost as chief of the tribe, Ironshirt resumes his campaign of terror against the white trappers. The attacks begin in earnest in the spring, when Kamiah, who had recently given birth to a boy, Chip, is killed in an ambush by Ironshirt and his men. With Chip strapped to its back, Kamiah's horse then bolts and heads for the Blackfoot camp. Flint manages to get his son back, however, in a counterattack, during which Ironshirt is killed. Years pass, and Flint takes Chip, who is now six years old, to live in the Blackfoot camp, where, Flint believes, Kamiah would have wanted him. With the menacing Ironshirt no longer a threat, the Blackfoot gladly take Chip and Flint into their fold.
J. Carrol Naish
María Elena Marqués
Nipo T. Strongheart
Ralph S. Hurst
Nipo T. Strongheart
Nipo T. Strongheart
Jimmy Van Horn
Edwin B. Willis
Across the Wide Missouri
To begin with, the source material was unusual. Bernard De Voto's book Across the Wide Missouri (1947) was not a novel but a lengthy and detailed historical study of the American fur trade from 1832 to 1838. When it became a surprise bestseller, MGM bought the book and threw away everything but the title and the concept of fur traders in the old West.
Screenwriter Talbot Jennings, with the help of Frank Cavett, devised an original story about trapper Flint Mitchell (Clark Gable) who marries a woman from the Blackfoot tribe (Maria Elena Marques) hoping to gain entry to their lands. This mercenary marriage evolves into a deeper love once his pregnant wife leads him over the mountains to her tribe's village.
William A. Wellman, director of such classics as The Public Enemy (1931) and The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), took on the project at the last minute. He imposed one condition: "I agreed, provided that they included all my family from the moment they left the house until they returned...This was an expensive agreement, for most of the picture was to be made on location at Durango, Colorado."
Taking along the family hardly seemed a trial at all compared with hauling a giant Hollywood production ten thousand feet up into the Rockies. As Wellman recalled, "For one sequence, we went in the way the trappers did, hacking a path with axes. Cables, lights and the Technicolor camera were packed in on muleback."
Wellman, Clark Gable and most of the cast adapted well to the rugged outdoor locations, but not so Gable's new wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley. She tried to introduce typical English country life to the cabin where she was staying with Gable, earning the derision of the crew by putting up "frilly curtains" and having their temporary shelter landscaped with trees, grass and a garden. She later provoked more embarrassment when she refused to eat with the crew outdoors because sunlight harmed her skin. Friends later said tensions between Gable and Lady Ashley on this trip brought his fourth marriage to an end.
When it was all over, Wellman delivered a picture that was a study of a white man coming to terms with the Native American world, more character-driven than action-packed. Preview audiences, not given what they expected, squirmed, so MGM boss Dore Schary chopped the movie down to its present 78 minutes and added a narration by Howard Keel. In spite of or perhaps due to the cutting, reviews were mixed and Wellman disowned the film. "I've never seen it and I never will."
Across the Wide Missouri, even in its truncated form, still remains a ravishing movie, filled with breathtaking Technicolor views of America's western wilderness. Fans of William Wellman's work can appreciate the look of the film while pondering how the director's original version might have played.
Director: William A. Wellman
Producer: Robert Sisk
Writer: Talbot Jennings, from a story by Jennings and Frank Cavett, inspired by the book by Bernard DeVoto
Cinematographer: William Mellor
Art Director: James Basevi, Cedric Gibbons
Editor: John Dunning
Music: David Raksin
Cast: Clark Gable (Flint Mitchell), Ricardo Montalban (Ironshirt), John Hodiak (Brecan), Adolphe Menjou (Pierre), Maria Elena Marques (Kamiah), Howard Keel (Narrator).
C-79m. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady
Across the Wide Missouri
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Trees lie where they fall, and men were buried where they died.- Narrator
My father told me that for the first time, he saw these Indians as he had never seen them before - as people with homes and traditions and ways of their own. Suddenly they were no longer savages. They were people who laughed and loved and dreamed.- Narrator
My dad wasn't just one man named Flint Mitchell. He was a breed of men... mountain men who lived and died in America. He used to tell me about these men he knew. Men who walked the Indian trails and blazed new ones where no man had ever been before. Men who found lakes and rivers and meadows. Men who found paths to the west and the western sea; who roamed prairies and mountains and plateaus that are now states. Men who searched for beaver and found glory. Men who died unnamed and found immortality. My father always began his story by telling me about the summer rendezvous of the mountain men. This is where they met every July after a year of trapping in the Rockies. Here they cashed in their furs, caught up on their drinking and the fighting and the gambling and the fun... and the girls. They lived hard and they played hard.- Narrator
During the filming, Ricardo Montalban received a spinal injury which required a 9 1/2 hour operation, and which left him in constant pain ever since.
Voice-over narration, spoken by Howard Keel as the adult "Chip Mitchell," is heard intermittently throughout the film. According to a December 17, 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M originally optioned Bernard DeVoto's novel as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. According to modern sources, the narration was added after principal photography was completed at the suggestion of M-G-M producer Sam Zimbalist. María Elena Marqués made her Hollywood screen debut in the picture.
Modern sources note that except for a small amount of studio interiors, the film was shot entirely on location in the Rocky Mountains, mostly at altitudes between 9,000 and 14,000 feet. According to Hollywood Reporter production charts, Durango, CO, was the main location site. To cope with fast-changing weather conditions, the crew prepared two stand-by set-ups for each scene, and were aided by a four-wheel drive camera car with a front-mounted hydrolic. Across the Wide Missouri marked the last screen appearance of well-known character actor Jack Holt (1888-1951).