Cast & Crew
As Catherine Morgan, a full-blooded Indian, is returning from the reservation at which she was visiting her parents, she and her nine-year-old son, Petey, are chased by two men on horseback. Catherine lashes one of the men, Rick Belden, across the face with her whip, but Rick and his friend, Lee Smithers, succeed in capturing her when her buggy overturns. Petey escapes on Rick's horse and rides into the town of Pawlee to get his father Matt, the town marshal. When they return, however, they discover that Catherine has been raped and murdered. The horse taken by Petey wears a distinctive saddle, which Matt recognizes as belonging to his old friend, Craig Belden. Meanwhile, at Belden's huge ranch outside the town of Gun Hill, Belden is infuriated when Rick, who is his son, and Lee tell him that the saddle was stolen by horse thieves. Rick also jokes that the cut on his face came from a romantic encounter. Belden, who bullies Rick relentlessly in an effort to "make him a man," orders him to retrieve the precious saddle. Deciding to question Belden about the saddle, Matt takes the train to Gun Hill and onboard meets cynical beauty Linda, who warns him that the town is controlled by Belden. Unknown to Matt, Linda is Belden's mistress, but when she arrives in Gun Hill, she refuses to go to the ranch, instead remaining in town. Matt travels to the ranch, where Belden is delighted to see his old friend. Believing that Matt has caught the horse thieves who stole his saddle, Belden chats amiably, relating that after the death of his wife, he was left with only his son. Matt interrupts Belden to tell him about Catherine's murder and upon questioning his friend, deduces that Rick has a cut on his face, and that he and Lee are responsible for the crime. Belden begs Matt not to arrest his son, but when Matt insists that Rick must pay, Belden then warns him that he "owns" the entire town, including the sheriff and town council. Matt again insists that he will be leaving on the last train from Gun Hill that night, and that both Rick and Lee will be in his custody. After Matt leaves to search the town for Rick, Belden orders Rick in from working the range and angrily confronts him. Although Rick attempts to justify his actions by pointing out that Belden himself has commented that there "ain't nothing prettier than a Cherokee squaw," Belden yells at his son for lying and killing his friend's wife. Belden fires Lee and orders him to leave the ranch, even though he knows that the hot-tempered Lee will probably get drunk and go after the fast-drawing Matt. Insisting that he can take care of himself, Rick heads to town with foreman Beero and henchman Skag, although Belden warns him to stay away from Matt until he organizes the rest of the men and follows them. In Gun Hill, the townspeople are belligerent to Matt, who punches a man for saying that "hereabouts" they give a man a bounty for killing an Indian rather than arresting him. Linda is upset by the town's animosity toward Matt, although she warns him to forget his ideals and leave before he is killed. After Linda informs him that Rick is at the neighboring saloon, Matt sneaks up to the building's upper floor. There, he knocks out and captures Rick, then carries him outside. Unable to get any help from the cowardly sheriff, Bartlett, Matt carries the unconscious Rick to a hotel room, where he cuffs the younger man to the bed. When Belden and his men arrive in town, they learn of Rick's predicament. Belden calls to Matt to turn his son loose, and when Matt refuses, the men shoot at him until Matt slides the bed in front of one of the windows and Rick screams at his father to cease firing. After the shooting stops, Belden and his men retreat to the Horseshoe Saloon, and find Linda there. Belden asks Linda why she did not go to the ranch upon her return to Gun Hill, and Linda reminds him that she was hospitalized because he had beaten her after Rick lied about her fidelity. Linda complains that he always takes Rick's word over hers, and when Belden hesitates after Linda asks him to marry her, she storms out. At the hotel, Linda visits Matt, who asks her to sneak in a shotgun to him. Although she is developing feelings for Matt, Linda states that she is too selfish to help him, and returns to the Horseshoe. Linda questions Lee about the killing and, when he says that Catherine was "just another Indian squaw," throws her drink in his face. The drunken Lee leaves, after which Belden goes to Matt's room to talk face-to-face. Although Belden appears to be pleading honestly for his son's life, Matt sees in a mirror that two of Belden's henchmen are sneaking down the hallway. Matt shoots them but refrains from killing Belden. Stating that they are now even, as Belden had saved his life long ago, Matt sends him on his way. Upset that no one will help Matt, Linda sneaks a shotgun into the hotel for him. Lee then sets fire to the back of the hotel, and while the men attempt to douse the blaze, Matt cuffs himself to Rick, then, with the shotgun planted under Rick's chin, walks slowly out into the street. Belden orders his men not to shoot as Matt makes his way to the train station, but there, Lee challenges Matt to draw. Matt is forced to go for his gun when Lee draws and although Matt shoots the younger man, Lee's bullet goes astray and kills Rick. After Matt un-cuffs himself from Rick's body, Belden rushes to the station. Grief-stricken, Belden also challenges Matt to draw, and although Matt replies that the matter is settled, Belden insists. Matt outdraws and mortally wounds his friend, and just before dying, Belden tells him to raise Petey right. Matt then boards the train to Pawlee and exchanges a glance with Linda as she holds Belden's lifeless body.
Lars Henderson Jr.
John R. Anderson
Raymond A. Mcwalters
Carl H. Saxe
Dante Charles Stradella
Robin L. Warga
Walter "tony" Merrill
John A. Anderson
R. D. Cook
John P. Fulton
Joseph H. Hazen
Charles Lang Jr.
Thomas "pep" Lee
L. D. Mcknight
D. Michael Moore
Last Train From Gun Hill
But Douglas ended up in the lead role with second billing going to Anthony Quinn in his third film with Kirk. Quinn's last film with the dimpled chin, Lust for Life (1956), earned him an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor. This was also Quinn's third film with character actor Earl Holliman. In addition to Last Train from Gun Hill, Holliman played Quinn's son in Hot Spell (1958). In an archival interview with TCM, Holliman recalled that "Tony (Quinn) once said to me...'if we play father and son again, I'm going to put you on an allowance.'"
Last Train from Gun Hill also features Carolyn Jones in a supporting role as an unexpected friend to Douglas' Marshall Morgan, who passes along little tokens of her friendship, like a loaded shotgun, for instance. Jones happens to be Quinn's long-suffering and possibly abused mistress, a woman who has lived a lifetime of being 'the other woman.' To a man who tries to pick her up in one scene, she responds, "I hadn't been lonesome since I was twelve years old."
Last Train from Gun Hill begins with the brutal rape and murder of a young Indian woman (Ziva Rodann) by two drunken cowthugs, Rick Belden (Holliman) and his loyal friend Lee Smithers (Brian G. Hutton). But the woman isn't alone; her young son witnesses the initial assault, and escapes on Holliman's horse. The little boy heads to town for his father, Marshal Matt Morgan (Douglas). The grief stricken Morgan vows to bring the killers to justice, and he finds just the way to do it when he correctly identifies the saddle on Holliman's horse as belonging to an old friend of his, Craig Belden (Quinn), a powerful cattleman who lives some distance away in a town called Gun Hill. Morgan and Belden have a history together and had been close friends at one time. They eventually went their separate ways but remained tight. When Douglas accuses Belden's son of rape and murder, however, their friendship is severely tested.
Director John Sturges had just completed The Old Man and the Sea (1958) and was on his way to big success with The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). As he did with almost every genre picture he made, he takes routine and formulaic material and turns it into something interesting and unique. For instance, the violence in Last Train from Gun Hill doesn't follow the clichés of the typical western with the obligatory shootouts. In one unexpected scene, Holliman's villainous character is shown handcuffed to a bed. After he sarcastically suggests Douglas stand close to the hotel window where Quinn's men stand ready to shoot him, Douglas viciously shoves Holliman, bed and all, right into the window to possibly receive Quinn's bullets instead. The threat of violence, in fact, pervades the movie and gives it an underlying tension particularly in the scenes where Douglas holds a shotgun under Holliman's chin or gives a methodical description of a public hanging. As for the tragic rape and murder of Douglas' wife that opens the film, it mostly takes place off screen but Sturges fashions it into a visually disturbing sequence that hangs over the entire movie and drives the narrative. There must been an even more explicit version of it at one point: An April 18, 1958 item in Hollywood Reporter 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that for the European version of the film, Ziva Rodann, who played the murdered wife, would be "nude from the navel." (In the assault scene, Catherine's bare back is exposed, but the front of her body is not visible.)
Stylistically, Last Train from Gun Hill is a compelling contrast of widescreen vistas and silhouetted psychological turmoil. Sturges splashes his action across the VistaVision canvas, but keeps the camera low to the ground to heighten the expansive compositions, but also to convey a sense of unease and foreboding. To illustrate Quinn's inner turmoil, Sturges bathes him in shadow, often in profile. Yet Sturges isn't showy in his technique, using relatively simple camera movements and an editing style that doesn't call attention to itself. Even the climax avoids overstatement; instead of a melodramatic music cue by composer Dimitri Tiomkin, there's just the quiet crackling sounds of a building on fire, as all of Gun Hill awaits the final outcome of the inevitable showdown.
In its review Variety said that "Last Train from Gun Hill is a top western...a film that plays for almost pure action." But the reviewer singled out praise for the cinematography of Charles Lang, commenting, "Lang has one technique, opening on a background with a medium shot and then pulling back to bring in the scene's central character, that seems fresh and effective...None of this is conspicuously 'arty', but acts as an imperceptible aid in heightening tension and involvement."
Producer: Paul Nathan, Hal B. Wallis
Director: John Sturges
Screenplay: Les Crutchfield, James Poe
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Film Editing: Warren Low
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Marshal Matt Morgan), Anthony Quinn (Craig Belden), Carolyn Jones (Linda), Earl Holliman (Rick Belden), Brad Dexter (Beero), Brian G. Hutton (Lee Smithers).
by Scott McGee
Last Train From Gun Hill
The working titles of this film were Last Train from Harper's Junction, Last Train from Laredo, One Angry Day and Showdown at Gun Hill. The original motion picture story by Les Crutchfield, a television writer, was entitled Showdown, which was also an early working title for the film. According to a Daily Variety news item, the story was purchased by producer Hal Wallis in March 1954 as a possible starring vehicle for Burt Lancaster or Charlton Heston. Studio publicity noted that the film was patterned in some ways after Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a 1957 Western which also was produced by Wallis, directed by John Sturges, photographed by Charles Lang, Jr. and starred Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.
Although a April 4, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item included newspaper columnist Lucius Beebe in the cast, his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to information in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, one week of location shooting took place near Tucson, AZ. The town of "Gun Hill" was created on the Paramount backlot, and additional shooting was done at the Monogram Ranch in Placerita Canyon, Newhall, CA.
Studio records indicate that a title song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster, and sung by Kitty White, but was ultimately dropped from the film. An April 18, 1958 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that for the "European version" of the film, Ziva Rodann, who played "Catherine Morgan," would be "nude from the navel." In the assault scene, Catherine's bare back is exposed, but the front of her body is not visible. "Rambling Reporter" also noted in January 1958 that Douglas was to receive a salary of $325,000 against ten percent of the gross.
Variety praised the cinematography of Lang, commenting, "Lang has one technique, opening on a background with a medium shot and then pulling back to bring in the scene's central character, that seems fresh and effective...None of this is conspicuously 'arty', but acts as an imperceptible aid in heightening tension and involvement." The film was reissued by Paramount in 1963.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959