Cast & Crew
Although children throughout America are mesmerized by television broadcasts of old Western movies starring singing cowboy "Smoky" Callaway, Mike Frey and Deborah Patterson, partners in the advertising firm that resurrected the films, are frustrated, because Smoky, a notorious drunk and womanizer, disappeared ten years ago. Their sponsor, Tom Lorrison, demands to see Smoky to decide if he wants to finance some new pictures for television, so Mike sends Georgie Markham, Smoky's last agent, to look for the missing star. After weeks of Georgie following fruitless leads from California to Mexico, Mike and Debbie are about to admit defeat when they receive a letter from "Stretch" Barnes, a Colorado cowhand who chastises them for televising movies of a man who looks just like him. Seeing the photo Stretch has sent as proof of the uncanny resemblance, Mike decides to go to Colorado and lure Stretch to Hollywood. Mike and Debbie are impressed with the naive but rugged Stretch and convince him to impersonate Smoky by telling him that Smoky has died and that millions of children who idolize him would be devastated. The money also appeals to the frugal Stretch, who dreams of owning a ranch. Unknown to Mike, Georgie has just located the real Smoky in a South American dive and shanghaied him aboard a slow boat to Los Angeles. When the unsophisticated Stretch arrives at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Debbie and Mike prepare him to meet Lorrison and his wife at the Mocambo nightclub. Stretch fails to recognize movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable, and is shocked when Mrs. Lorrison reveals that she met a drunken Smoky years ago, but Mike convinces Lorrison that "Smoky" no longer drinks and he agrees to finance a screen test. Stretch is not a good actor and members of the crew and cast, thinking that he is Smoky, put him through his paces for not remembering them. The director and Lorrison like the innocence he brings to the role, though, and predict success. Stretch, who declined to watch the test, is packing to leave, but Mike convinces him it is his duty to "the children" and urges him to make a personal appearance at a children's hospital. The children love the affable Stretch, and Mike arranges for him to take a nationwide tour as Smoky. While Mike works on a merchandising and advertising campaign, Stretch begins to enjoy his role as Smoky and falls in love with Debbie, who is touring with him. She gently refuses his proposal, saying that she is merely fond of him, but he gives her a ringbox and asks her to keep it in case she decides to wear the ring. Debbie makes a call to Mike, begging him to change places with her, but he quickly gets off the telephone when Georgie and the real Smoky walk into his office. While Stretch and Debbie are in New York, he is deeply affected when a woman lambasts him for not using his money to help the real children who need him, those who are impoverished or ill. Unaware that Debbie has just learned that the real Smoky intends to take back his identity, Stretch goes to an attorney to set up the Smoky Callaway Foundation for disadvantaged children, intending it to receive all but a small portion of "Smoky's" sizeable earnings. When Debbie learns about his selflessness, she is touched and cannot bring herself to tell him that legally Smoky is entitled to all of the money. As she and Stretch travel back to Los Angeles, a reluctant Mike pays to send Smoky to a training camp to get him in shape. Because someone has been sneaking liquor to Smoky, he is not sound enough to appear at a contract-signing ceremony, so Mike and Debbie continue to keep Stretch in the dark while he signs Smoky's contract. That night, Lorrison takes Debbie, Mike and Stretch to a nightclub for dinner. There, Mike gets a call from Georgie saying that Smoky has run away and is heading to Hollywood. While Stretch is in the men's room, Mike sees the intoxicated Smoky at the bar and tries to get him to leave. A few moments later, Stretch and Smoky meet in the parking lot and an angry Stretch leaves after realizing that he has been duped. Even the remorseful Debbie cannot get Stretch to talk to her. When one of Stretch's lawyers comes to the hotel and confirms that if he signs the foundation papers, no one can use the money for anything but the intended purpose, Stretch calls Mike to say that he will appear at a charity event at the Coliseum for the offered $5,000, and secretly plans to reveal the truth. Before Stretch leaves the hotel, Smoky comes to his room and the two fight. When Mike arrives, he gets into the scuffle and he and Smoky are knocked unconscious by Stretch. When Smoky awakens, he has had enough of Hollywood and decides to return to South America. At the Coliseum, Debbie convinces Stretch that the children really need him and shows him that she is now wearing the ring. Stretch then rides onto the field and delights the audience as Mike wishes Debbie well.
B. G. Norman
A. Arnold Gillespie
Edwin B. Willis
Callaway Went Thataway
A visit to a genuine cowboy ranch in Colorado unearths a surprising find: "Stretch" Barnes (Howard Keel), a dead ringer for Callaway who's willing - after much protest and check writing - to relocate to sunny California. Soon the money and fame go to Barnes' head, resulting in another Hollywood-bred beast. Even worse, the real ¿Smoky¿ resurfaces from his south of the border hideaway, none too pleased about an impersonator swiping his newfound fame and income.
By the 1950s, Hollywood had progressed from occasionally poking fun at itself (The Stand-In) to full-blown postmodern studies of the cinema mythos. Although Singin' in the Rain (1952) and Sunset Boulevard (1950) remain the most famous examples, there were other worthy self-parodies throughout the decade. The studios' anxiety brought on by the advent of television created an even stranger situation as cinema and cathode fought it out on the nation's screens both large and small. Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) was famously turned into an attack on television during its transition from stage to screen, and a gentler but similar tack is taken by Callaway Went Thataway (1951). Though Hollywood is shown to be a corruptive influence for a weak personality, TV here is, by implication, something even more dangerous: all the gloss and ego of the big screen without the hard work and substance.
The entire caste system of Hollywood is represented here, with top MGM stars famously appearing as themselves (Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, and Esther Williams); however, movie cultists will also delight in spotting the "Venezuelan Volcano" Acquanetta, Mae Clarke (1931's Frankenstein), and future TV stars Hugh Beaumont (Leave It to Beaver) and Natalie Schafer (Gilligan's Island).
Western fans can have a field day trying to decipher which elements of Callaway and his imitator are based on real life personalities, with household names like Roy Rogers, William Boyd, and Gene Autry cited as the most obvious choices. Muddying the waters further, the film features some real-life Western actors including Don Haggerty (Rustlers, 1949), Gene Alsace (Wanderers of the West, 1941), Douglas Kennedy (Ranger of Cherokee Strip, 1949), Billy Dix (Red Rock Outlaw, 1950), and Harry Cody (Mark of the Lash, 1948).
Since the concept of singing cowboys in the Gene Autry mold was already considered outdated, savvy casting resulted in the casting of a musical star rather than a screen cowboy in the dual roles of Callaway and Barnes. The choice of Howard Keel, an untrained "natural talent" who first struck it big one year earlier in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), proved a savvy one almost immediately. His refrain of "(I'll Be Waiting For You) Where the Tumbleweed Is Blue" shows off his unique brand of musical machismo that came to define his later work in hits like Calamity Jane, Kiss Me Kate (both 1953), and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). When the demand for musical roles dried up, he ironically became a genuine cowboy actor in such late-hour Hollywood Westerns as Red Tomahawk, The War Wagon (both 1967), and Arizona Bushwhackers (1968).
Looking back, Keel regarded Callaway Went Thataway as one of his favorites and lamented its less-than-stellar box office fate: "The reaction at the sneak preview was excellent, but in theatres it laid a bomb. Television Westerns were too popular...the public wouldn't accept satirizing them." (Films in Review, November 1970). Interestingly, he and Elizabeth Taylor worked together a second time in 1951, in a manner of speaking, when he stood in for her screen test for MGM's Quo Vadis - a part she lost to Deborah Kerr.
Though the positive critical reception of Callaway Went Thataway did not translate to big money from the public, the film earned enough goodwill to become something of a cult favorite and, of course, turned into a television staple. Much of the film's praise centered on the pairing of charismatic reliables MacMurray and McGuire; both went on to become beloved parental figures in a string of popular Walt Disney films (The Shaggy Dog (1959), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)) during the late fifties and early sixties. Strangely enough, they were never paired together in any of the Disney films despite their inspired pairing in Callaway Went Thataway.
Producer: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Director: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Cinematography: Ray June
Film Editing: Cotton Warburton
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Music: Marlin Skiles, Charles Wolcott
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Mike Frye), Dorothy McGuire (Deborah Patterson), Howard Keel (Stretch Barnes/Smoky Callaway), Jess White (George Markham), Fay Roope (Tom Lorrison), Natalie Schafer (Martha Lorrison).
BW-82m. Closed captioning.
by Nathaniel Thompson
Callaway Went Thataway
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
Panama and Frank's credit reads: "Written, produced and directed by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank." Howard Keel is listed twice in the closing credits, first as "Smoky Callaway," then as "Stretch Barnes." The film ends with the following written statement: "This picture was made in the spirit of fun and was meant in no way to detract from the wholesome influence, civic-mindedness and the many charitable contributions of western idols of our American youth, or to be a portrayal of any of them." According to news items in Daily Variety and Variety, the disclaimer was added to distance the film from any known Western star, especially William Boyd, who portrayed "Hopalong Cassidy" in the television series of the same name, which ran from June 24, 1949 through December 23, 1951, was syndicated for many years and was one of the burgeoning television medium's first large-scale successes. Like "Smoky Callaway" in Callaway Went Thataway, Boyd was hired to make additional films for television after edited versions of his theatrical films of the 1930s and 1940s became national sensations. Also like the film's hero, Boyd made personal appearances, many for charitable causes, and numerous products featuring his likeness as Hopalong Cassidy, from lunch boxes to clothing, were sold during the early 1950s. A Daily Variety news item on November 15, 1951 stated that Boyd's manager, Ben Stabler, had demanded to see a preview of Callaway Went Thataway to "ascertain if it did reflect unfavorably on Boyd." The item noted that after Stabler saw the film he concluded that "the satire on the cowboy stars is a good, well-done picture."
Actor comedian Stan Freberg made his onscreen motion picture debut in Callaway Went Thataway. Freberg, who was a popular television and comedy recording performer, had previously provided voices to a number of animated and puppet characters for motion pictures and television, including the Time for Beanie television series. Although actress Argentina Brunetti is listed in the CBCS as "Irate Mother," she was not in the viewed print and her role May have been taken over by Louise Lorimer, who portrayed the angry woman in New York who criticizes "Smoky" for not giving more to disadvantaged children. According to news items, portions of the film were shot on location in San Francisco, CA. In addition, several interior and exterior scenes were shot in and around the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Released in United States Winter December 28, 1951
Released in United States Winter December 28, 1951