Cast & Crew
Robert D. Webb
When logging partners Jim Hadley and Monty Welker arrive in the Northwest frontier town of Deep Well, the townspeople greet them with disdain, including general store owner Peterson, who reluctantly sells Jim provisions, and the livery stableman, who refuses to rent him horses. The sole person to befriend Jim is teenager Bert Harvey, who offers him a ride to the Riley ranch, where he works, suggesting that he might be able to rent horses there. When they reach the ranch, however, owner Laura Riley curtly tells Jim that the logging will cause their topsoil to be washed away, destroying their range for the cattle. After Jim claims that the watershed is not his problem, Laura orders him off her land. With only nine weeks to fill a government lumber contract for the railroads, Jim and his men begin cutting trees. One day Bert arrives at the work site and, awed by the fearless lumberjacks scaling gigantic trees, tells Jim he wants to be a lumberjack to pay back Laura and Aunt Sarah for taking him in after his father died. Meanwhile, Laura gathers the ranchers together to formulate a plan to thwart the loggers while they are diverted by the Saturday night dance. On Saturday night, the drunken lumberjacks head for the dance hall, and when the townsmen prevent them from entering, a brawl ensues. Hearing several explosions, everyone rushes to the lumberjack camp, where an avalanche of rocks, caused by the explosions set by the ranchers, now blocks the logging road. The townsmen and ranchers laugh at how easily they have thwarted the loggers. Because the only other existing road to the logging area runs through Laura's ranch, Jim decides to build a new road, but the difficulty of the task disgruntles his men, including Monty, who is losing faith in Jim. Later in town, Jim ignores the townspeople's mocking jeers and, determined to "win," tries to buy Laura's ranch and accuses her foreman, Clay Bell, of blowing up the mountain. After Laura refuses Jim's offer, she takes him to nearby Green Meadow to explain Clay's extreme action. Green Meadows was once a thriving town where Clay was raised, but he never got a chance to be a rancher like his father because logging destroyed the watershed and the now deserted town. Laura tells Jim that he cannot hate them for fighting for their lives, but Jim, far from hating her, takes Laura in his arms to kiss her. Later, under pressure from Monty, Jim applies for a temporary easement which will allow him passage through Laura's ranch; however, when Jim and his men arrive at the ranch gate, Clay orders the surrounding trees cut, blocking Jim's path. When the sheriff shows Laura the legal documents, she asks where permission to log is written in the document, forcing Jim and his men to await the clearing of the road. Later in town, the sheriff asks Jim to try to understand the damage that logging will cause to the town and to give him time to speak with Laura. After Jim gives him until noon the next day, the sheriff comments, "For a lumberjack, you sure don't know much about roots." Meanwhile, Bert tells his girl friend Jane, Peterson's daughter, that he intends to become a lumberjack, prompting the young woman to slam the door on him. Having witnessed the argument, Jim suggests to Bert that he remain in Deep Well to help the women who need him. When he returns to camp, Jim discovers that Monty and a few men have taken off with the dynamite and plan to stop Laura. Meanwhile, Monty is preparing the dynamite near the Riley ranch gate when Bert, hearing a noise, decides to investigate. Desperate to break through the roadblock, Monty beats Bert unconscious then flees into the hills with his men to set off the explosives. Jim approaches just after the explosion and finds Bert badly injured. After Jim carries the boy to the ranch house, Aunt Sarah caustically states, "I hope your timber is worth it." Jim apologizes to Laura and later confronts Monty, warning him that if Bert dies the town will lynch them. When Monty refuses to stop his violent tactics, Jim and Monty fight. Throwing the last punch, Jim then crawls away and orders Monty to leave. Deciding to leave town the next day, Jim goes to see the recovering Bert, and after advising him to become a ranchhand, wishes Laura farewell, telling her that he found something more important than timber in Deep Well. When Jim walks out Laura's front door, Monty, Vince and several other men shoot at him. Laura throws him a loaded gun, which he uses to shoot Vince and wound Monty, while the others flee. An obsessed Monty races into the nearby forest and sets fire to the trees to prevent anyone else from taking the timber. As the flames quickly spread, Jim sends Laura to Deep Well to fetch the townsmen and his lumberjacks while he and Clay set dynamite around the edge of the fire, hoping to isolate the flames from the rest of the forest. Remembering Monty is trapped in the burning timber, Jim runs into the forest to find him, while Clay is forced to set off the explosives to stop the hillside fire. As the trees fall around them, Jim rescues the badly wounded Monty and carries him out to the fire's edge, where the lumberjacks and townspeople watch as Monty asks for forgiveness and dies. Later, as the train pulls out with the lumberjacks, the townspeople thank them for saving the watershed as Laura jumps on board with her bag to join Jim. When Jim teasingly warns her that she will not have a home and that he is the boss, Laura tells him she has given Aunt Sarah the ranch and gladly submits to his authority.
Robert D. Webb
Noah Beery [jr.]
Paul E. Burns
George C. Bertholon
William Robey Cooper
Emile La Vigne
Frank M. Miller
Maurice De Packh
Francis M. Stahl
Guns of the Timberland
Crain plays Laura Riley, a rancher who is opposed to the actions of logger Jim Hadley (Ladd) and his crew near the Northwest village of Deep Wells, where they have a government contract to fell a prime stand of trees in a dense mountain range. Riley is convinced this will cause devastating ecological damage including mudslides that could destroy local homes and livestock. As her foreman, Clay Bell (Lyle Bettger, playing a good guy for once), puts it, the cattle could soon be eating mud. Despite some literally explosive fighting between the two factions, Hadley and Riley fall in love. Hadley eventually sees the error of his ways, but his partner, Monty Walker (Gilbert Roland) refuses to give up the fight until the bitter end.
Appearing in their movie debuts as a pair of young lovers are Alana Ladd (Alan's daughter) and Frankie Avalon, a then-current teen heartthrob. Avalon sings a couple of ditties by Jerry Livingston and Mack David including one called "Gee Whizz Whilikens Golly Gee." Filling other supporting roles are such reliable character actors as Noah Beery, Jr., Verna Felton and Regis Toomey. Ladd reportedly had originally wanted his costar from Shane (1953), Van Heflin, in Roland's role, and for a time also considered casting Edmond O'Brien and Tony Martin in other parts.
The Technicolor Western was the final credit as cinematographer for the celebrated, Oscar®-nominated John Seitz (1944's Double Indemnity, 1950's Sunset Boulevard). The handsome landscapes were shot in and around Blairsden and Graeagle and other locations in Plumas County, Calif. The scenes involving a steam engine and railroad cars are set on the Western Pacific Railroad right-of-way, while a scene where the steam engine goes over a tall bridge was filmed using the Clio Trestle, located on the Union Pacific's Feather River Route in the Sierra Nevada. Additional filming was done in Williams, Ariz.
Although the action of Guns of the Timberland is set in 1895, there's little in the costuming or atmosphere - and certainly not in Avalon's songs - to indicate that this is anything other than a contemporary Western. This was Ladd's last film under a contract with Warners that had begun with The Iron Mistress in 1952. He had formed Jaguar Productions two years after that; his first movie under the Jaguar banner was Drum Beat (1954). Robert D. Webb, director of Guns of the Timberland, was experienced with Westerns, having such other credits as White Feather (1955) and Love Me Tender (1956), plus TV's Rawhide. Screenwriter Petracca's other credits include another Ladd Western, The Proud Rebel (1958).
L'Amour historian Ed Andreychuk credits Crain with giving the best performance in Guns of the Timberland. In her most effective scene she takes Ladd to a ghost town and explains to him that, with the harvesting of the trees, Deep Wells could come to be the same. Crain, then 35, still looks fresh and beautiful. But Marilyn Henry writes in The Films of Alan Ladd (1981) that "The dissipation in Ladd's appearance by this point in his career made obvious his increasing dependency on alcohol. His puffy, waxen face projects only exhaustion, which is matched by his listless performance."
In his 2004 book, Westerns for a Rainy Saturday, John Howard Reid praises the movie's action sequences including a "rip-roaring forest fire." But he also comments on Ladd's "jaded appearance," adding, "No wonder the distributor didn't dare open the movie in New York, the home of critical antipathy to Mr. Ladd. What a roasting he would have received from The New York Times." Reid surmises that the 5'6" Ladd cast Lyle Bettger "because of his small size," but notes that "with his distinctive voice and forceful manner he's a guy you remember long after Ladd's more routine dramatics have faded from memory." Alana Ladd would appear in another film with her father, 1961's Duel of Champions; ironically, his performances in these two movies are considered by many to be the worst of Alan Ladd's career.
By Roger Fristoe
Guns of the Timberland
According to a November 29, 1955 Los Angeles Examiner article, producer Alan Ladd first considered Van Heflin for the role of "Monty" in the film, which at the time had a working title of Shasta. Although an August 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item states that David Dortort would write the screenplay, he is not included in the writing credits and his contribution to the completed film is unknown. A August 10, 1956 Los Angeles Examiner article noted that Ladd was then considering Edward O'Brien for a role. On September 23, 1957, Los Angeles Times reported that Ladd was considering Tony Martin for a role.
Although Alan Ladd's Jaguar Productions was prepping the film for production in 1957, and a June 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item reported it would start on 1 Sep, the picture did not begin until April 1959. A April 9, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Verna Felton replaced Charlotte Greenwood as the character "Aunt Sarah."
May 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Rudy Friml, Dan Borzage and Steve Pendleton. A modern source adds George J. Lewis to the cast. Ladd's sixteen-year-old daughter Alana made her screen debut in Guns of the Timberland. Popular singer Frankie Avalon also made his acting debut in the film, although he first appeared onscreen as himself in the 1957 film Jamboree! (see below). Portions of the film were shot in Quincy, which is located in Northern California and, according to a May 1959 LA Mirror News article, in Reno, NV.
Guns of the Timberland was the first feature film produced by former actor Aaron Spelling (1923-2006). At the time of Spelling's death, he was acknowledged by many sources as the most successful producer in television history, having produced such popular television series as Love Boat, Dynasty and Beverly Hills 90210.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960