Cast & Crew
While looking for work in the Wyoming Territory in the late 1800s, young Steve Miller finds hard-bitten horse rancher Jeremy Rodock wounded after an attack by cattle rustlers Barjak and Hearn. Rodock accepts Steve's offer to help him back to his ranch and offers him a job as a ranchhand. After Steve makes camp and "cores" the bullet out of Rodock's wound, a horse carrying the body of Rodock's ranchhand Whitey approaches and Rodock vows to catch the rustlers who killed Whitey. The next day, upon reaching the ranch house, Steve meets Rodock's sweetheart, the generous and feisty Jocasta Constantine, daughter of a Greek scholar who fled war-torn Greece. Later, head wrangler McNulty warns Steve that Rodock has grown evil from "hanging sickness," Rodock's propensity to mete out punishment by hanging. When McNulty later tries to kiss Jocasta, she insists that she loves only Rodock, who took her in when she was a troubled, frontier, dance-hall prostitute in Cheyenne. That night after Rodock gives her a pair of sparkling earrings, Jocasta promises to stay by his side, but Rodock believes she will "stray" when someone better comes along. The next morning, after McNulty announces that the east range horses have been stolen, Rodock gathers his men to hunt down the thieves. When Jocasta protests that the hangings have corrupted him, Rodock suggests that she should leave if she cannot accept his methods. After following the thieves' tracks for days, Rodock rides to L. A. Peterson's ranch to ask his old horse trading partner if he has stolen the herd, but Peterson, who claims Rodock cheated him out of his share of the horse business, orders him off the land. Days later, after Jocasta rebuffs McNulty's advances, Rodock spies the two leaving the barn within minutes of each other. Suspecting foul play, a jealous Rodock fires McNulty and, after a fistfight ensues, orders him off the land. Rodock then asks Jocasta if she knew McNulty in Cheyenne, but she reminds him that he likes her because "she wasn't born yesterday." Later, when the illiterate Steve asks her to write a letter to his mother, Jocasta tries to convince him to leave the ranch before the hangings begin to haunt him. When she then pines openly for a peaceful life in town, Steve reaches out to comfort her but realizes she is Rodock's girl. Months later, Rodock discovers that Peterson, Hearn and Barjak are stealing his horses. Along with Steve and several other ranchhands, Rodock kills Peterson and captures and hangs Hearn, but Barjak escapes. Returning Peterson's body to his home, Rodock offers Mrs. Peterson and Peterson's son Lars money to maintain their ranch, but the insolent Lars promises to avenge his father's death. Meanwhile, McNulty and Barjak devise a plan to steal Rodock's herd and later enlist Lars in their scheme. At the ranch that night, Steve insists that because Rodock could not be sure who killed Whitey, he should not act as the judge and jury. In reply, Rodock reminds him that in unfenced, frontier territory one must make one's own law. Jocasta protests Rodock's vigilantism as well and leaves to comfort Steve, who professes his love for her and begs her to leave with him. After Jocasta returns to the house, a drunken Rodock jealously argues with her. Days later, Steve proposes to Jocasta, who confesses that she blames her own lack of fortitude for turning to prostitution after immigrating to America and again declares her love for Rodock. Suddenly, Rodock barges in and accuses Jocasta of having affairs with McNulty and Steve. That night, as Rodock and the ranchhands celebrate a large sale to the Fargo stagecoaches, Jocasta remains in her room preparing to leave the ranch. Days later, when Steve discovers that another herd has been stolen, he, Rodock and ranchhand Abe saddle up to track the thieves. Before Steve departs, Jocasta promises to leave the ranch with him upon his return. Successfully tracking the rustlers to a nearby valley, where they have hidden the stolen herd, Rodock, Abe and Steve hold the men at gunpoint. Rodock then learns that McNulty has filed the mares' hoofs to bloody stumps to keep them and their foals from wandering, thus allowing McNulty to leave them unattended while he returns to town and establishes an alibi. Once the foals have grown, he plans to flee with a herd of unbranded horses. Incensed by McNulty's cruelty, Rodock forces all three men to take off their boots and march through the rocky cactus terrain toward the Fort Whitney jail. After days of walking, the men's torn and bloodied feet horrify Steve, who begs Rodock to stop his cruelty. When Barjak finally passes out from the pain and McNulty falls to the ground begging deliriously for mercy, Rodock orders Steve to put them back on their horses. After the proud Lars accuses Rodock of living in a life grounded in greed and cruelty, Rodock, awakened by Lars' honesty, sets the other men free and takes Lars home, where Mrs. Peterson tells Rodock that she holds no grudge against him. When Rodock offers to give them some horses to start again, Lars bitterly refuses any help and tells him that Rodock has taught him to be compassionless. Filled with pity for the boy and for himself, Rodock returns to his ranch, where Steve tells him that he is leaving with Jocasta, who laments that Rodock knows nothing of human feelings. Crippled by her words, Rodock returns to the house and pounds out his sadness on the piano. After the couple leave, Rodock finds Jocasta's earrings and rides out to return them to her. Meanwhile, Steve tells Jocasta about Rodock's change of heart in dealing with the thieves and his promise to give up hunting and killing men. Just then, Rodock finds the couple and hands Jocasta the earrings as a gesture of goodwill. After Jocasta begins to cry, Steve realizes she still belongs to Rodock. Trading his favorite horse for the wagon, Rodock then proposes to Jocasta on the trail back home while Steve rides off, carrying only a memory of the couple that helped him become a man.
Lee Van Cleef
Charles K. Hagedon
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Edwin B. Willis
Ralph E. Winters
Robert Wise (1914-2005)
Born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Ind., Wise was a child of the Depression who quit college to earn a living in the movie industry. He began as an assistant cutter at RKO, where he worked his way up to the position of film editor and earned an Oscar® nomination for his bravura work with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane. He also edited The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for Welles, along with several other RKO films.
Wise became a director by default when RKO and producer Val Lewton assigned him to The Curse of the Cat People (1944) after Gunther von Fritsch failed to meet the film's production schedule. Wise turned the film into a first-rate psychological thriller, and enjoyed equal success with another Lewton horror film, The Body Snatcher (1945).
Critical praise also was showered upon Wise's Born to Kill (1947), a crime melodrama; and Blood on the Moon (1948), an unusual psychological Western starring Robert Mitchum. Even more highly regarded was The Set-Up (1949), a no-punches-pulled boxing drama that won the Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Wise moved on from RKO in the early 1950s, directing one of the movies' classic alien invasion films, The Day the Earth Stood Still, for 20th Century Fox.
At MGM he directed Executive Suite (1954), a compelling all-star boardroom drama; Somebody Up There Likes Me, a film bio of boxer Rocky Graziano that established Paul Newman as a major star; and The Haunting (1963), a chilling haunted-hause melodrama. His films for United Artists include Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), a submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster; I Want to Live! (1958), a harrowing account of a convicted murderess on Death Row, with Susan Hayward in her Oscar-winning performance; and the crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).
Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. He was awarded the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966, and the Directors Guild's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award, in 1988. He remained active as a director through the 1970s. His final film, Rooftops (1989) was a musical with an urban setting that recalled West Side Story.
The films in TCM's salute to Robert Wise are Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Body Snatcher (1945), Born to Kill (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948), The Set-Up (1949), Executive Suite (1954), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), B>West Side Story (1959), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and The Haunting (1963).
by Roger Fristoe
Robert Wise (1914-2005)
Tribute to a Bad Man
Tribute to a Bad Man marked James Cagney's final appearance in the Western genre but it is more infamous for the Hollywood legend it didn't star ╨ Spencer Tracy.╩ Originally titled Jeremy Rodock, the picture was first cast with Spencer Tracy and Grace Kelly in the leads. Reportedly, Tracy was looking forward to the production until he learned that Kelly didn't like the script and refused to accept the assignment. When her role was offered to Irene Papas, an actress Tracy didn't know, the actor lost all interest in the project. Besides, Tracy had no working knowledge of director Robert Wise and he secretly wanted to get out of his MGM contract so he could pick and choose his own movies like Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea (1958), a film adaptation he longed to do. Despite his true feelings about Tribute to a Bad Man, Tracy remained silent while Wise had a massive set constructed on location high in the Colorado Rockies. The actor then showed up for work six days late without offering an excuse and proceeded to behave in a thoroughly unprofessional manner, avoiding contact with his fellow cast and crew members and disappearing from the set when he was needed. The final straw was when he demanded that the current set be struck down and rebuilt at a lower altitude because his weak lungs couldn't take the thin mountain air. His demand resulted in MGM studio vice president Howard Strickling having to fly into Colorado to settle the matter. Between Strickling, Wise and MGM production chief Dore Schary, the decision was made to fire Tracy after four days of filming and on June 25, 1955, the Oscar-winning actor ended his relationship with MGM after having been a star at the studio for more than 20 years.
Other major stars were immediately sought as a replacement like Clark Gable but it was James Cagney who stepped in at the 11th hour. In his autobiography, Cagney by Cagney, he wrote, "Tribute to a Bad Man came in 1956 at a time when I was up on Martha's Vineyard. I had been working early in the summer, and I went up to take my ease there when Spence Tracy, then on location up a Colorado mountain, became ill. He couldn't go on with Tribute to a Bad Man, so Nick Schenck, the head of MGM, called and asked if I would jump in for him. There were some eighty people in Montrose, Colorado, waiting to get the job done. I was about as interested in working as I was in flying, which means a considerable level below zero, but after much gab, I agreed."
In Robert Wise on His Films, the director recounted what happened next: "I got a call from [executive producer Sam] Zimbalist saying that James Cagney had agreed to do it but wouldn't be available for a couple of months. There was nothing for us to do but fold everything up and return to Los Angeles. Then misfortune dogged us. During the layoff period, [actor] Bob Francis was killed in a plane crash. All the film I shot with him was now no good. We returned to the location and I shot around Cagney for about two weeks. Then Cagney came up and we went ahead with the film. He couldn't have been any more different in terms of his attitude than Tracy, but nothing was too rough for him. He took Don Dubbins, who was cast in the Bob Francis role, under his wing and was very helpful to Irene Papas. A complete reverse approach to the part, the picture, and the people he worked with."
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Director: Robert Wise
Screenplay: Michael Blankfort
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: Ralph Winters
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: James Cagney (Jeremy Rodock), Don Dubbins (Steve Miller), Stephen McNally (McNulty), Irene Papas (Jocasta Constantine), Vic Morrow (Lars Peterson), Lee Van Cleef (Fat Jones), Royal Dano (Abe), Onslow Stevens (Hearn), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Peterson).
C-96m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Michael T. Toole
Tribute to a Bad Man
You know, I ain't got you figured yet, McNulty. You act like a man with a lot of ideas. But all of them second rate...and not one honorable.- Jeremy Rodock
Spencer Tracy was cast as Jeremy Roderick, but after an argument with director 'Wise, Robert' he was fired and replaced by James Cagney.
The working title of the film was Jeremy Rodock. Although Irene Papas is listed fourth in the closing cast credits, she is listed after Vic Morrow in the opening credits. Voice-over narration provided by Don Dubbins as "Steve Miller" introduces the frontier territory known as "Rodock's Valley" at the beginning of the film, then closes the film with his appreciation for "Jeremy Rodock" and "Jocasta Constantine," who helped him become a man.
As noted in a June 20, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Spencer Tracy was initially cast as the lead role, but was considering leaving the picture due to illness. June 1955 Hollywood Reporter production charts reveal that Tracy was on location in Montrose, CO for initial shooting during that month. As of June 23, 1955, Hollywood Reporter reported that Gregory Peck and James Cagney were both being considered as replacements for Tracy. According to an July 18, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Tracy had just withdrawn from the film. The production resumed shooting August 15, 1955 with Cagney in the lead. Although production charts' initial cast list also included Emile Meyer and Robert Francis (1930-1955), Meyer was presumably replaced and Francis died on July 31, 1955 in a plane crash. Francis' last film was The Long Gray Line.
Several biographies of Cagney note that Tracy was having conflicts with M-G-M because he disliked the script and departed the studio shortly after leaving the set in Montrose. Tracy, who had been under contact to M-G-M for 21 years, made his final M-G-M film appearance in Bad Day at Black Rock (see entry above). Cagney, better known for gangster and musical comedy roles, had acted in only two previous Western films, The Oklahoma Kid in 1939 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40) and Run for Cover in 1955, but agreed to take over the role of Rodock to help Tracy and the crew, who were waiting in Montrose for the studio to find a new lead. Tribute to a Bad Man was Cagney's final Western.
According to a February 1956 American Cinematographer article about the film, Academy Awarding-winning director of photography Robert Surtees used photographs of the American West shot by photographer William H. Jackson as the basis for creating the film's period scenes. Surtees carefully planned the "hanging" scene at dusk during an overcast day, to create an ominous mood, insisting that the crew wait for four days for the right weather conditions. The article also noted that 90 percent of the film consisted of exterior shots, which were marked by a photographic realism.
The song "They Are Giving My Sweetheart Away" was sung by Irene Papas in Greek during the film. May and June 1955 Hollywood Reporter news items add David McMahon, Jay Brands, Gene Coogan, Tom McDonough, Danny Sands, Phil Schumacher and Jerry Schumacher to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In addition to Montrose, portions of the film were shot in Miller's Mesa, Ouray, Grand Junction and San Juan Mountains, CO. Additionally, according to the M-G-M pressbook found in the production file on the film at AMPAS Library, the numerous horses and trainers for the film were kept at Ridgway Fairgrounds, CO. Although Papas had appeared in the American-Italian co-production The Man from Cairo in 1953, Tribute to a Bad Man was the first film she made within the United States. Modern sources add Eugene Zador (Orchestrations) to the crew.
Released in United States on Video May 18, 1994
Released in United States Spring April 1956
Spencer Tracy was originally cast in the lead role, but was fired during preproduction over disagreements with the script, the director, and the locations.
Irene Papas makes her American film debut.
Released in United States Spring April 1956
Released in United States on Video May 18, 1994