Minority Report Review: Spoiler
If you haven't seen it already, the 2002 futuristic thriller Minority Report is too good to miss. Tom Cruise is again at his best as Chief John Aderton with a brilliant supporting cast including Colin Farrell as Danny Witwer, Max von Sydow as Lamar Burgess, and Steve Harris as Jad. Director Steven Spielberg creates a surreal future world in the year 2054 in which a "Pre-Crime" police department has been created as an experiment in Washington D.C. The car pictured above is a Lexus 2054 concept car created expressly with Minority Report footage in mind. The film generates the same chillbumps as the 2004 dramatic film I, Robot and instills a conspiratorial air into the supposedly normal circumstances of everyday life.
The opening scene features a typical day in the life of Chief Anderton, in which he arrests Howard Marks for a murder that he has been predicted to commit just moments before the actual murder happens. Murders are predicted by "pre-cognitives," which are essentially children born to mothers addicted to an experimental street drug similar to heroin. These pre-cogs supposedly entered into an altered mental state because of the drugs in which they were able to sense the "shockwave" of violent urges like murder from the future, and regurgitate them into a computer system. Anderton was then responsible for interpreting those images in a very cool visual computer system. Anderton uses some electronic finger gloves with transmitters to essentially sort through the feed produced by the hive mind of Art, Dash, and Agatha, the three pre-cogs utilized by the Washington D.C. Pre-Crime Division. Anderton then takes his team and arrests suspects for their future crimes.
Shortly after the day's work pictured in the beginning of the film, Anderton goes home and reflects on the traumatic events of his own life, which included the abduction of his child. He is shown to abuse drugs in an attempt to ease his emotional pain. Anderton views interactive movies of his wife, who left him, and son while experiencing a high. These movies are a sort of three dimensional projection designed to imitate life. These circumstances play an important part in the later events of the movie.
The next day, Anderton arrives at work and receives a "brown ball," which is a uniquely carved wood ball denoting who the indicated murderer is along with the intended victim. Pre-meditated murders disappeared rapidly following the introduction of the Pre-Crime experiment, and this particular one comes as a bit of a shock. This is especially true before Anderton receives the ball, because as he examines the stream of images from the pre-cogs, he realizes that he is being portrayed as the murderer of Leo Crowe, a man that Anderton has never met.
Once Anderton receives this news, he goes on the run and evades capture by his own Pre-Crime unit. He then tracks down the creator of the Pre-Crime experiment, Dr. Iris Hineman (played by Lois Smith), to find out more information about his predicament. Anderton learns the deeper, darker details of the origins of the Pre-Crime experiment from Smith, who inadverdantly paralyzes him with an organic security vine at her backyard garden wall. He also learns that there exists such a thing called a "minority report," which is generated by the most talented of the three pre-cogs, Agatha. This report is generated when Agatha, who has a particularly refined sense of the future, disagrees with Art and Dash. The report is always catalogued and deleted, however, and is usually attributed to an "echo" of murderous intent. Anderton changes his identity, and his eyes, and seeks to track down Agatha and "download" his minority report.
As it turns out, no minority report exists for Anderton, so he continues to run from Pre-Crime policemen and evade the law. Eventually, he arrives at the location of the supposed murder of Leo Crowe, and the conspiracy plays out from there. Although Anderton learns he is being played, audiences will be shocked at the depth of the conspiracy and the actions of some of the actors. Revealing any more of the plot would be a travesty to the fantastic effort of Spielberg and company. Minority Report is an excellent thought-provoking film with lots of futuristic technology, minimal mindless violence, and a beautifully intricate plot. It is a great compromise film for those who have a significant other's movie preferences to consider.
Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon thrilled movie audiences in 1973. Steve McQueen has the title role, playing a resourceful prisoner who mounts several escape attempts from the brutal French Guiana penal institution better known as Devil's Island. Here are 21 amazing Papillon movie trivia items and fun facts...
1. Papillon is based on the 1969 book of the same name by Henri Charriere (1906-1973). Known as Papillon ("the Butterfly") in the Parisian underworld, Charriere had been sent to French Guiana in 1931 following his conviction for the murder of a pimp. Charriere had always maintained his innocence, and later made his successful escape from French Guiana in 1945.
Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973) - Heritage Auctions
2. Henri Charriere had begun writing his memoirs in July 1967. By early 1968, he had completed his work, written in longhand and housed in 13 spiral notebooks. The manuscript was then typed by several volunteers in Venezuela, where Charriere was now a citizen, and mailed to Paris literary agent Jean-Pierre Castelnau. In June 1970, Papillon was published in France by Robert Laffont, eventually becoming an international bestseller.
3. Charriere's memoirs have always been suspect, with many charging his book is largely fiction. One doubter was Papillon director Franklin J. Schaffner, as quoted by actor Don Gordon: "Schaffner told me that he never believed half the things he (Papillon) said in the book, that Charriere was a lying son-of-a-bitch."
4. The movie rights to Papillon were purchased by European producer Robert Dorfmann for $600,000. Dorfmann had originally envisioned French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role.
5. Steve McQueen was very wary when approached to play Papillon, changing his mind several times. Finally, McQueen consented to do the movie at a salary of $1.75 million (later upped to an even $2 million) along with a hefty percentage of the movie's gross.
6. Franklin J. Schaffner, who had won an Academy Award for the World War II epic Patton (1970), collected a salary of $750,000 for his services on Papillon.
7. Dustin Hoffman had caught wind of Papillon and was looking for a serious role in the production. Since no significant role existed at the time for Hoffman, producers basically created the co-starring role of Louis Dega, the frail, bespectacled counterfeiter of National Defense Bonds Series 1928. The consummate professional, Hoffman immersed himself in the history of French Guiana's penal colonies, reading everything he could find in the New York Public Library. Hoffman earned $1.25 million for Papillon.
8. Papillon proved to be a bear to make, initially budgeted at $4 million but eventually escalating to $14 million. Raising additional cash proved to be a problem. Don Gordon, a friend of Steve McQueen who plays Julot in the film, later recalled: "From what I understand, the producer would take a couple of reels of film, get on an airplane, go back to France, show them the reels of film, get money, get back on an airplane, and bring it back on a lease."
9. Producers had originally wanted to film Papillon in French Guiana, where the infamous prison had once stood. That idea, however, was quickly abandoned when it was discovered that many of the original buildings were either in ruins or had been reclaimed by the jungle.
10. Honduras, Guatemala and the Cayman Islands were all considered as location shoots. Winning out in the end, however, were Spain and Jamaica. An actual replica of the original prison at French Guiana was constructed in Spain. Visiting the set one day was the real Papillon – Henri Charriere. Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen's girlfriend (and later wife), was present on that day, and later described Charriere as "quite a charming character, but with a huge ego." Charriere died in Madrid on July 29, 1973, and never viewed the final print of Papillon.
11. Steve McQueen shut down the production for five days when he learned that other cast and crew weren't receiving their per diem living expenses, like himself and Dustin Hoffman were. The shutdown cost producers $250,000.
12. That's Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman actually wrestling a crocodile in the movie, "shot" by Vic Tayback who plays a guard. The "wounded" 22-foot croc used in the scene had been temporarily drugged with its deadly jaws wired shut. McQueen jumps on first, followed by a wary Hoffman.
13. Steve McQueen's love for Red Stripe Jamaican beer proved to be a problem. In order to mask the actor's weight gain, costumer Kent James outfitted McQueen in bigger and baggier prison clothes.
14. Papillon begins in a French prison yard populated by naked convicts, where screenwriter Dalton Trumbo plays the stern commandant, launching into his speech: "As of this moment, you are the property of the Penal Administration, French Guiana. After serving your full terms in prison, those of you with sentences of eight years or more, will remain in Guiana as workers and colonists, for a period equal to that of your original sentences. As for France, the nation has disposed of you. France has rid herself of you altogether. Forget France, and put your clothes on." The scene was actually shot at a school yard in Las Matas near Madrid, Spain.
15. Memorable scene: The assembled convicts are marched through the cobbled streets (not in France, as depicted, but actually in Fuenterrabia, Guipuzcoa, just across the border in the Spanish Basque country) in a long procession down to the harbor, guarded at all times – both front and back – by soldiers and policemen with drawn, bayoneted rifles. "You'll' be back, Papillon. Don't worry. You'll be back," a well-dressed woman calls out. "No, you won't," answers Julot softly as he marches to the right of Papillon.
16. Newly arrived on French Guiana, Dega bribes a trustee 2,000 francs so that he and Papillon can remain on Saint Laurent and given easy jobs. A guard hears Dega's name mentioned, introduces himself and states that his family lost everything in Dega's National Defense Bonds forgery scheme. He then assigns both Dega and Papillon to Kilo 40, a brutal work camp where cons cut and move logs in crocodile-infested waters.
17. On his first escape attempt, Papillon is sent to Reclusion on Saint Joseph, where the policy is total silence. Here he endures two years in solitary confinement in cell #234.
18. Anthony Zerbe plays Toussaint the Leper Chieftain. On Pigeon Island, the hideously deformed Toussaint offers Papillon a puff on his cigar, which the escaped con accepts. "How did you know I have dry leprosy, that it isn't contagious?" an amused Toussaint queries. "I didn't," Papillon replies.
19. Papillon debuted on December 16, 1973. Reported Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice: "Schaffner has really made an exhilarating movie out of the most dangerously depressing material."
20. Papillon was a hit, grossing $22.5 million at the American box office, earning the #4 position on the list of the top moneymaking movies of 1973.
21. The film ends with the narration: "Papillon made it to freedom. And for the remaining years of his life, he lived a free man. This, the infamous penal system in French Guiana, did not survive him."
Additional Reading & Top Image
- Ten Valuable Papillon (1973) Movie Posters & Collectibles
- Ten Best Steve McQueen Movie Roles
- Dustin Hoffman, left, and Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973) - Allied Artists
Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner
The heyday of the big band era of the 1930s and '40s was a special time in music history. Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Xavier Cugat and the Dorsey Brothers were just some of the big name swing artists leading the charge.
Here are ten big band movies that no fan of swing music should ever miss. Are you "In the Mood?"
New York, New York (United Artists, 1977)
Robert De Niro plays fictional bandleader Jimmy Doyle, who after V-J Day in 1945 forms his own orchestra. Joining the temperamental Jimmy in the band is his talented girlfriend/wife Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli), with the two carrying on their rocky romance amidst the constant travel, petty jealousies and artistic clashes of their entourage. Robert De Niro, the consummate method actor, learned to play the saxophone for his role as the egotistical, womanizing Jimmy.
Liza Minnelli as the perky girl singer Francine, of course, was already set in the music department from day one, with her rousing rendition of "New York, New York" one of the picture's true highlights. There are plenty of big band tunes in this one, including Tommy Dorsey's "Song of India," which kicks off the movie at a raucous New York nightclub where boozy, delirious patrons are celebrating the end of World War II.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Review: "The movie's a vast, rambling, nostalgic expedition back into the big band era, and a celebration of the considerable talents of Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (6/23/77)
On DVD: New York, New York Special Edition (MGM, 2005)
Insert movie poster: New York, New York (1977)
The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 1954)
James Stewart has the title role of Alton Glenn Miller (1904-1944), the fabled big band leader whose plane went missing over the English Channel in December 1944. There's more Hollywood hokum than actual Miller biography in this film, but the performances and especially the music will surely entertain both Glenn Miller and big band fans. June Allyson plays Helen Berger Miller, with a toothy Harry Morgan as Chummy MacGregor and Charles Drake as Don Haynes. Many of the Glenn Miller standards are here, including such gems as "String of Pearls," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "In the Mood," "Tuxedo Junction," "At Last" and of course the band's signature song "Moonlight Serenade."
Director: Anthony Mann
Review: "Sweet is the word the modern swingsters would apply to the type of music played in the Thirties and early Forties by the late Glenn Miller and his band. And that is the word, beyond question, for the picture that has been made by Universal-International about the bandsman, his wife, his music and career." - Bosley Crwother, The New York Times (2/11/54)
On DVD: The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 2003)
One sheet movie poster: The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
The Fabulous Dorseys (United Artists, 1947)
Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey suspended their sibling feud long enough to play themselves in this big band Hollywood biopic, with Janet Blair and William Lundegan in key supporting roles. Look for an impressive contingent of other big band artists, including Paul Whiteman, Charlie Barnet, Bob Eberly, Henry Busse, Helen O'Connell, Mike Pingatore, Stuart Foster, Art Tatum, Ray Bauduc and Ziggy Elman. The Fabulous Dorseys serves up such big band standards as "Tangerine," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Green Eyes," all of which make up for the movie's weak storyline and the Dorsey Bros', mediocre acting.
Director: Alfred E. Green
Review: "Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey are topnotch popular band leaders. That much we knew before seeing the story of their battling career acted out yesterday on the screen at Loew's State in 'The Fabulous Dorseys.' The picture naturally stresses their musicianship, with the result that Tommy's trombone and Jimmy's saxophone stand out from the dialogue, which is just as well. Whether the film is a fairly accurate account of their rise from humble beginnings we don't pretend to know, but it seems they were always scrapping as kids and the passing of years did not cool their tempers any." Bosley Crowther and Thomas M. Pryor, The New York Times (5/30/47)
On DVD: The Fabulous Dorseys (Quantum Leap, 2004)
Lobby card: The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)
Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1942)
George Montgomery stars as Bill Abbot, a trumpeter for the fictional Gene Morrison Orchestra, with Ann Rutherford as his romantic interest. As the title implies, the plot centers on the musicians and their bickering wives, the latter of whom almost tear the band apart. Glenn Miller plays bandleader Gene Morrison, with the rest of the Miller orchestra plus the Modernaires (Tex Beneke, Johnny Best, Ray Eberle, Billy May, Al Klink, Marion Hutton, Skippy Martin, Paul Tanner, Bobby Hackett, Ralph Brewster, et al.) along for the Hollywood party.
Glenn Miller and his band had arrived by train in Hollywood on March 17, 1942, beginning work on Orchestra Wives six days later. Johnny Best performed the trumpet work for George Montgomery while Chummy MacGregor tickled the ivories for Cesar Romero. Later, Ray Eberle quit the band, saying that Glenn Miller had failed to pay him for his appearance in Orchestra Wives, with Miller claiming that Eberle's contract hadn't called for any extra compensation for doing the picture. Orchestra Wives opened on September 4, 1942, featuring such Miller hits as "At Last," "Serenade in Blue," "(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Moonlight Serenade."
Director: Archie Mayo
Review: "Hep cats and other such fauna who are 'sent' by Glenn Miller's honeyed swing will be the most likely recipients of Twentieth Century-Fox's 'Orchestra Wives,' which was wafted into the Roxy on wings of song and little else yesterday. For once more the Hollywood tailors have draped the shivering shoulders of a popular band with a trifling little story which is as ridiculous as a zoot suit and has no more shape or distinction than one of those forbidden garbs. Mr. Miller and his assorted virtuosos are killers when it comes to making jive, but it takes more than wind and willingness to support a ninety-seven-minute film." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (9/24/42)
On DVD: Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005)
Three sheet movie poster: Orchestra Wives (1942)
The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 1956)
Steve Allen has the title role of Benny Goodman (1909-1986) – a.k.a. the vaunted "King of Swing" – in this spirited Hollywood biopic. Donna Reed plays Alice Hammond and Berta Gersten appears as Mama Goodman, with cameos from musicians Harry James, Ben Pollack, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Ziggy Elman, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and vocalist Martha Tilton. Although Steve Allen was already an accomplished musician and songwriter, the comic/actor/television host had to take instruction from Sol Yaged in order to convincingly mime the clarinet for the cameras.
Universal paid Benny Goodman $25,000 for the movie rights to his story, with Goodman also collecting another $10,000 for his role as consultant and for his musical contributions to the soundtrack. The movie, which chronicles the life of Goodman from age nine up to his historic 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, features plenty of tunes, including "Let's Dance," "Goody, Goody," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "And the Angels Sing," "One O'Clock Jump," "Avalon," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Don't Be That Way" and "Moonglow."
Director: Valentine Davies
Review: "Benny Goodman's swing music is so much a part of the familiar sounds of our times that just to hear it as Benny and his bandsmen used to play—and still do—is an experience of multiple charms...It's this music, delivered in abundance and in the genuine Goodman style, that makes the movie, 'The Benny Goodman Story,' at all worth going to see...Steve Allen, the TV actor who makes his screen debut in the role of the fictitious Goodman...is so tense and taciturn—or so timid and temperate—that the only personality he projects is that of an amiable wallflower. It isn't Benny—and it isn't good. Mr. Allen has picked a fine way to crimp his popularity on TV." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (2/22/56)
On DVD: The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 2003)
Half sheet movie poster style B: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)
Hollywood Hotel (Warner Bros., 1937)
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane and Lola Lane head the cast of this wacky musical comedy, with Powell playing Ronny Bowers, a saxophonist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra who wins a ten-week movie contract with Miracle Pictures in Hollywood. The big attraction in the film of course is Benny Goodman, whose clarinet wails as he leads his orchestra in such spirited tunes as "Hooray for Hollywood," "California Here I Come," "Let That Be a Lesson to You" and "Sing, Sing, Sing." Look for Goodman band members vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, drummer Gene Krupa and trumpeter Harry James. Raymond Paige and His Orchestra also appear, along with Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons, Hugh Herbert, Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell and Frances Langford.
Director: Busby Berkeley
Review: "Hollywood Hotel is a smash musical entertainment, with a lively and amusing story and some popular song numbers." - Variety (1937)
On DVD: Hollywood Hotel (Warner, 2008)
One sheet movie poster: Hollywood Hotel (1937)
The Gene Krupa Story (Columbia, 1959)
Sal Mineo has the title role of Gene Krupa (1909-1973), the popular jazz/swing drummer who plied his talents for such bandleaders as Red Nichols and Benny Goodman, later forming his own orchestra in 1938. Susan Kohner, James Darren and Susan Oliver also appear, with Red Nichols, singer Anita O'Day and comic Buddy Lester playing themselves. The movie candidly delves into Krupa's struggle with alcohol, drugs and fame, but on the whole Hollywood "artistic license" appears to be the order of the day. Gene Krupa himself provided the off-screen drumming, and one can't help but admire his immense talent playing the skins. Among the featured tunes are "Cherokee," "Memories of You" and "Royal Garden Blues."
Director: Don Weis
Review: "Columbia's film biography of the king of hot jazz drummers arrived yesterday at the Forum with Sal Mineo in the title role, some dandy musical sequences and a plot that, however authentic, plays like a familiar success story. As we meet the gifted Mr. Krupa here he is an out-of-town lad who conquers the jazz world, makes a bad mistake and finally comes back from oblivion to the right girl and the big tune." - Howard Thompson, The New York Times (12/26/59)
On DVD: The Gene Krupa Story (Sony, 2004)
Lobby card set: The Gene Krupa Story (1959)
Las Vegas Nights (Paramount, 1941)
Constance Moore, Bert Wheeler and Phil Regan head the cast of this musical, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Pied Pipers as the principal attractions. Frank Sinatra fans can view an uncredited Ol' Blue Eyes in his motion picture debut (earning $15 a day for the effort), singing his dreamy version of "I'll Never Smile Again" as a vocalist for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The Dorsey band also performs "Song of India," "The Trombone Man Is the Best in the Land" (with a manic drum solo by Buddy Rich), "Shadow Waltz," "On Miami Shore," "Dolores" and "Cocktails for Two." The movie's storyline involves an old vaudeville act who purchases a decrepit building and tries to turn it into a swinging nightclub, but watch this one for the big band music.
Director: Ralph Murphy
Review: "On account of Tommy Dorsey and his band being hopefully but vainly involved, there may be some mild jitterbug interest in Paramount's 'Las Vegas Nights,' which settled heavily upon the screen of the Paramount Theatre yesterday. But from every other possible source of friendship, its expectation of favor is virtually nil. For there is precious little humor, little life, little anything save an excess of dullness in this labored musical show about a troupe of indigent entertainers adrift in the Nevada gambling town." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, (3/20/41)
On DVD: Not commercially available
One sheet movie poster: Las Vegas Nights (1941)
Reveille with Beverly (Columbia, 1943)
Ann Miller stars as Beverly Ross, the spunky host of an AM radio show that caters to servicemen, with William Wright, Dick Purcell, Franklin Pangborn and Larry Parks also on board. Get set for big band/pop music in this baby, with appearances by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra ("Take the 'A' Train"), Bob Crosby and His Orchestra ("Big Noise from Winnetka"), Count Basie and His Orchestra ("One O'Clock Jump"), Frank Sinatra ("Night and Day"), the Mills Brothers ("Sweet Lucy Brown"), Freddie Slack and His Orchestra featuring Ella Mae Morse ("Cow-Cow Boogie") and the Radio Rogues ("Wabash Moon"). Made for $400,000, Reveille with Beverly was a big box office hit, particularly with the troops, raking in over $2 million. Look for Ann Miller's big, spectacular "Thumbs Up and V for Victory" number.
Director: Charles Barton
Review: "'Reveille With Beverly' opened with a thud yesterday at the Abbey. Dedicated to the hepcat element, which seemed to have stayed away in large numbers, it is a cheerless series of musical numbers strung together with a tired little story guaranteed to produce a severe case of ennui in record-breaking time. One by one, between smiles by Ann Miller, Duke Ellington, Bob Crosby, Count Basie and Freddie Slack stand up to wave their batons over some noisy demonstrations which resemble nothing so much as the left-over numbers from some old musical short subjects." - Theodore Strauss, The New York Times (4/24/43)
On DVD: Reveille with Beverly (MarsRising, 2010)
One sheet movie poster: Reveille with Beverly (1943)
Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 1993)
The sleeper in the genre, Swing Kids stars Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale as teenagers in 1939 Nazi Germany who use banned American swing music as a form of rebellion. Also in the cast are Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey, Tushka Bergen, David Tom and Noah Wyle. Swing Kids' soundtrack is loaded with big band tunes, including "Bugle Call Rag" (Benny Goodman), "Taint What You Do (It's the Way That Cha Do It)" (Jimmie Lunceford), "Harlem" (Teddy Foster) and "Goodnight, My Love" (Benny Goodman). "No one who likes swing can become a Nazi," Frank Whaley's Arvid proclaims. What a wonderful thought...
Director: Thomas Carter
Review: "'Swing Kids' is a bad idea whose time has not come. It's 'Cabaret' as Col. Klink might have envisioned it, a nutty anti-Nazi a go-go for teenagers, set to American music... 'Swing Kids' is another daft idea from Disney on the order of 'Alive,' the movie about really bad airline food. It's a moralistic muddle with only one message: If Disney wants to make movies about Germans, it should restrict its efforts to German shepherds." - Rita Kempley, Washington Post (3/5/93)
On DVD: Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 2002)
Ten More Big Band Movie Favorites
- Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
- Dancing Co-Ed (1939)
- That's Right - You're Wrong (1939)
- Hi-De-Ho (1947)
- Hollywood Canteen (1944)
- Birth of the Blues (1941)
- Beat the Band (1947)
- Thousands Cheer (1943)
- Hi, Good Lookin'! (1944)
- Best Foot Forward (1943)
Movie herald: Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
The notorious Al Capone (1899-1947) ruled the Chicago underworld during the Roaring Twenties. Big Al later ran afoul of the tax man in 1931, serving part of his seven-year prison stretch for income tax evasion at infamous Alcatraz Island. Capone died of complications from neurosyphilis at his Palm Island, Florida, home on January 25, 1947.
Here are ten movies featuring Al "Scarface" Capone that no film fan should ever miss. The screening room at the Lexington Hotel, Capone's old Chicago headquarters, is now open, with Geraldo Rivera as your genial host...
The Untouchables (Paramount, 1987)
Robert De Niro winningly plays Al Capone in this $20 million crime drama that also stars Kevin Costner as U.S. Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Set in 1930, the film is centered on Ness and his Untouchables, who work tirelessly to bring down the ruthless Capone and his criminal empire. One of the most memorable scenes – and certainly an extremely violent one at that – takes place at a gangster banquet where a baseball bat wielding Capone brutally eliminates one of his fellow mobsters who failed to protect a liquor warehouse from the police. The baseball loving Al didn't appreciate his own "players" exhibiting individualism over teamwork – as the bloody result so graphically illustrates.
Director: Brian De Palma
Review: "As Capone, De Niro's going for a broad, theatrical style of acting. He creates a satire on the idea of Capone. With his chest puffed out in front of him, he's a petty despot – Il Duce in spats. But because the crime boss is supposed to represent the force of evil in the film, the absence of any real violence in his characterization is a crucial miscalculation." - Hal Hinson, The Washington Post (6/3/87)
On DVD: The Untouchables Special Collector's Edition (Paramount, 2004)
One sheet movie poster: The Untouchables (1987)
Al Capone (Allied Artists, 1959)
Rod Steiger has the title role of Alphonse Gabriel Capone, charting his rise from New York City transplant to unchallenged czar of the Chicago underworld. Fay Spain plays Maureen Flannery, Capone's love interest and the widow of a man he murdered, with Nehemiah Persoff as Johnny Torrio, Murvyn Vie as George "Bugs" Moran, Robert Gist as Dion O'Banion and Joe De Santis as Big Jim Colosimo. Steiger excels in the "Scarface" role, effectively capturing the gangster's many moods, from violent hoodlum to charming benefactor. The final scene, in which the big shot Capone is attacked while an inmate at Alcatraz, serves as the movie's crowning sense of justice.
Director: Richard Wilson
Review: "A tough, ruthless and generally unsentimental account of the most notorious gangster of the prohibition-repeal era, Al Capone is also a very well-made picture. There isn't much 'motivation' given for Capone, at least not in the usual sense. But the screenplay does supply reasons and they are more logical than the usual once-over-lightly on the warped youth bit." - Variety (1959)
On DVD: Al Capone (Warner Bros., 2009)
Rod Steiger in Al Capone (1959)
Capone (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975)
Ben Gazzara enters the gangster cinematic sweepstakes, ably playing Al Capone in this somewhat forgotten entry from the Gerald Ford era. Susan Blakely plays Iris Crawford, Capone's main fictional squeeze. "There should be a law against women drinking," Capone tells Iris. "Well, I think there is," Iris smugly replies, correctly referring to the 18th Amendment that ushered in Prohibition. A parade of actors portray real-life gangsters, including Sylvester Stallone as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Harry Guardino as Johnny Torrio, John Cassavetes as Frankie Yale, Frank Campanella as Big Jim Colosimo, John Orchard as Dion O'Banion, Carmen Argenziano as Machine Gun Jack McGurn and John Davis Chandler as Hymie Weiss. Don't look to Capone for the historical facts – Frank Nitti, for example, is seen giving the eulogy at Big Al's funeral despite having died four years earlier. But for a good, violent gangster romp, Capone may just fit the bill, pallie.
Director: Steve Carver
Review: "Sad to say, 'Capone' isn't much fun. There's one good laugh and a lot of violence. And if you're ready for it, there is even a brief outdoor love scene in which Al Capone and his new girl friend run dreamily past soft-focus trees and flowers...But too much of the movie is devoted to a deadingly repetitious series of scenes in which men in overcoats drive up in cars and machine gun gangsters coming out of restaurants." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (4/18/75)
On DVD: Capone (Fox, 2006)
Lobby card: Ben Gazzara and Susan Blakely in Capone (1975)
Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (United Artists, 1932)
Paul Muni plays Antonio "Tony" Camonte, an extremely violent hood who claws his way to the top of the underworld. The principal character may be Antonio Camonte, but there's little doubt as to who producers had in mind when they filmed this baby during the Great Depression. Mr. Camonte shares the same initials with one Alphonse Capone, who was about to depart to the big house to serve an eleven-year sentence for income tax evasion upon the movie's release on April 9, 1932. Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins, C. Henry Gordon, George Raft and Boris Karloff appear in supporting roles. It's an over-the-top performance by Muni, featuring prominent use of the Thompson submachine gun – a.k.a. "tommy gun," "bean shooter" and "Chicago typewriter." Two of Capone's thugs visited the film's screenwriter Ben Hecht in Los Angeles, demanding to know if the movie was about their boss. When told that it wasn't, they were still curious as to why the picture was titled Scarface. "If you call the movie Scarface, people will think it's about Capone and come to see it. It's part of the racket we call show business," Hecht informed the two torpedoes. Satisfied, the bent noses left the hotel.
Director: Howard Hawks
Review: "The slaughter in 'Scarface, the Shame of a Nation,' the Howard Hughes gangster production which was launched yesterday at the Rialto, is like that of a Shakespearean tragedy, for after the smoke of machine guns and pineapple bombs has blown away and the leading killer has gone to his death on the gallows, the only one of a group of principal characters left is a blonde with carefully plucked eyebrows—she who had been the mistress of two underworld giants." - Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times (5/20/32).
On DVD: Scarface (United Artists, 2007)
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1967)
The infamous February 14, 1929, St. Valentine's Day Massacre garners the Hollywood treatment in this heavy-handed film presented in docudrama fashion. Jason Robards Jr. plays a swaggering, Irish-looking Al Capone, who orders the bloody hit on Bugs Moran's North Side Gang. A fine supporting cast appears, with George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Jean Hale, Clint Ritchie, Frank Silvera, Joseph Campanella and Bruce Dern filling the ranks of gangsterhood. When a newspaper reporter suggests that maybe cops were responsible for the massacre, Bugs Moran (Meeker) replies, "You must be new to this town, mister. Only Al Capone kills like that." Look for bit player Jack Nicholson, who appears as a gangster named Gino.
Director: Roger Corman
Review: "The only theatrical value and commercial purpose of this luridly publicized picture, which opened at the Warner and the 68th Street Playhouse yesterday, appear to me to be the callous horror and the morbid fascination of the terminal scene, in which those seven members of the Moran gang are trapped and mowed down by Capone machine-gunners in a North Side garage. For those who like blood and twitching bodies, there is plenty of that in this scene." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (7/27/67)
On DVD: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2006)
One sheet movie poster: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)
The Scarface Mob (Desilu, 1959)
The Scarface Mob is actually a compilation of ABC-TV's The Untouchables (1959-63) two-part pilot episode, which was first telecast via the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse on April 20 and 27, 1959, with host Desi Arnaz introducing each segment. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1960-62. Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his band of Untouchables move in on the Capone gang, hoping to crush Big Al's hold on the Chicago underworld. Neville Brand portrays a sneering Al "Scarface" Capone, with Bruce Gordon as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. Also appearing are Keenan Wynn, Pat Crowley, Barbara Nichols, Bill Williams, Joe Mantell, Peter Leeds, Robert Osterloh and Paul Picerni. One scene proved to be particularly racy, at least for 1950s television, whereby several Capone thugs pay a visit to Ness' innocent girlfriend Betty Anderson (Pat Crowley), breaking into her apartment, ripping open her blouse and leering at the "merchandise." I Love Lucy this wasn't.
Director: Phil Karlson
Review: "Originally the opening installments in the TV series, this crime drama of the Aspirin age still looks pretty good in feature form." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)
On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 1, Vol. 1, includes feature movie version of the pilot a.k.a. The Scarface Mob (Paramount, 2007)
One sheet movie poster: The Scarface Mob (1962)
Alcatraz Express (Desilu, 1961)
Alcatraz Express is the feature-length version of the two-part The Untouchables episode "The Big Train," first telecast over ABC-TV on January 5 and 12, 1961. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1962. With Walter Winchell providing the snappy narration, Alcatraz Express opens in 1931, with Al Capone (Neville Brand) having been convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to an eleven-year prison stretch at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Capone's cash bribes have made his stay in the Atlanta pen pretty comfortable, but when it becomes known that Big Al and other top name criminals are now headed to Alcatraz, the Chicago gangster and his mob conspire to spring him loose during the train journey. The old Untouchables gang is here, with Robert Stack as the tight-lipped Eliot Ness, Abel Fernandez as Agent William Longfellow, Nicholas Georgiade as Agent Enrico Rossi, Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman and Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson. Bruce Gordon plays Frank Nitti and Gavin MacLeod appears as gangster Three-Fingered Jack White. Watch Ness and his boys engage in a Wild West shootout with mobsters in a small desert town.
Director: John Peyser
Review: "It still looks like a TV show, but manages to whip up a good amount of suspense." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)
On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 2, Vol. 1, includes the original two-part episode "The Big Train" (Paramount, 2008)
Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (ABC-TV, 1988)
This made-for-TV movie stars Anthony LaPaglia as Frank Nitti (1881-1943), one of Al Capone's top lieutenants and the front man for the Chicago Outfit. Like his boss, Nitti was later found guilty of tax evasion and sent to infamous Alcatraz Island for a little 18-month government-sponsored "vacation." Vincent Guastaferro plays Capone, with Trini Alvarado, Michael Moriarty, Michael Russo, Hank Azaria and Bruce Kirby in support. LaPaglia as the feared "Enforcer", lights up the small screen, with Guastaferro's Scarface appearing as second banana.
Director: Michael Switzer
Review: "Al Capone may be the most famous Chicago mobster, but his successor, Frank 'The Enforcer' Nitti (Anthony LaPaglia), was just as ruthless. This biopic goes to great lengths to accurately trace Nitti's rise to the top of the Windy City's underworld, amid corruption, betrayal and violence. The result is an engrossing glimpse into mob life in the early 20th century." - TV Guide (2009)
On DVD: Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (Direct Source, 2006)
Road to Perdition (DreamWorks, 2002)
Good ol' Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan Sr., a hit man for the Chicago Irish mob seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and youngest son. Anthony LaPaglia plays Al Capone, whose single scene was axed in the final cut. In the subsequent DVD, however, the sequence was restored in the deleted scenes section. Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law and Stanley Tucci also appear in this classic gangster tale with plenty of bleak, film noir atmosphere.
Director: Sam Mendes
Review: "Filmed in a harsh winter of rain, snow and chilling darkness, Road will be long remembered for the artistry of cinematographer Conrad Hall. There are breathtaking scenes of shootouts and bank robberies, complimented by Thomas Newman's evocative score." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (8/1/02)
On DVD: Road to Perdition Widescreen Edition (Universal, 2003)
One sheet movie poster: Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition (2002)
The Untouchables (Paramount Television, 1993-94)
This syndicated television series stars Tom Amandes as fabled Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Appearing in 15 episodes is William Forsythe, who plays the role of Al Capone with hot-headed, tommy gun relish. The series wrapped up its two-season, 42-episode run with the two-part segment "Death and Taxes," telecast on May 15 and 22, 1994, with Forsythe's Big Al eventually running afoul of both. Also look for Paul Regina as a sinister Frank Nitti in 15 episodes.
Director: Tucker Gates, Vern Gillum, Charles Robert Carner, Steve De Jarnatt, Eric Laneuville, et al.
Review: "First installment in Paramount's latest attempt to mine the 'Untouchables' cash cow looks great, sounds trite. Figuratively speaking, at least, it's a return to black-and-white television. Problems may be that the story of Eliot Ness and Al Capone has been told so often, it's already part of the national consciousness." - Todd Everett, Variety (1/12/93)
On DVD: Not commercially available
The Untouchables: Capone Rising
- The Untouchables: Capone Rising, a prequel to the 1987 Brian De Palma movie, is now in pre-production. Nicolas Cage, slated to play Capone, had earlier withdrawn from the film.
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: Rod Steiger as Al Capone (1959)
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
ABC-TV's The Big Valley (1965-69) reigns as one of television's more popular westerns. The 1968 episode "Days of Wrath" guest stars Michael Strong as Cass Hyatt, an ex-con who plots his revenge against lawyer Jarrod Barkley.
The Big Valley's Days of Wrath: Cast & Credits
Ken Pettus penned the teleplay for "Days of Wrath," with Lou Morheim producing and Virgil W. Vogel directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:
- Jarrod Barkley (Richard Long)
- Nick Barkley (Peter Breck)
- Heath Barkley (Lee Majors)
- Victoria Barkley (Barbara Stanwyck)
- Cass Hyatt (Michael Strong)
- Beth (Sandra Smith)
- Sheriff Zack Fane (Kevin Hagen)
- Cliff Hyatt (Peter Hobbs)
- Silas (Napoleon Whiting)
- Doc Saxton (Jon Lormer)
- Stationmaster (Carl Prickett)
- Charles (Bobby Johnson)
- Sheriff Fred Madden (Douglas Kennedy)
Richard Long (1927-1974) as Jarrod Barkley - ABC-TV
Days of Wrath: Episode Synopsis
Jarrod Barkley returns from a trip to San Francisco with his new bride Beth in tow. The newlyweds have big plans, including building a house on a prime piece of Barkley real estate. While in town Jarrod once again encounters Cass Hyatt, a recently pardoned ex-con who seven years earlier had vowed revenge against Jarrod.
While out in the country one morning discussing their future plans, a shot rings out, killing Beth instantly. Jarrod suspects Cass Hyatt of the murder, with Sheriff Madden grilling Hyatt on his whereabouts the day of the killing. Unable to hold Hyatt for lack of evidence, Sheriff Madden is forced to release the ex-con.
A vengeful Jarrod takes up the trail of Hyatt, eventually tracking him to his brother Cliff's place in Rock Falls. Cass later bushwhacks Jarrod, creasing his head with a bullet fired from a .30-.30 rifle. A wounded Jarrod manages to get on his horse and ride into Rimfire, where he learns that Cass is serving a 30-day sentence for disorderly conduct.
Jarrod tells Sheriff Zack Fane that he aims to kill Hyatt, and offers the lawman a bribe of $1,200 if the latter will release his prisoner now. Meanwhile, a concerned Nick and Heath are hot on Jarrod's trail.
Days of Wrath: Air Date & Network Competition
"Days of Wrath" was telecast over ABC on Monday night, January 8, 1968, in the 10-11 (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was The Carol Burnett Show (CBS) and I Spy (NBC).
Days of Wrath: Analysis & Review
Richard Long's Jarrod Barkley was perhaps the most complex and interesting character on The Big Valley. In the 1968 episode "Days of Wrath" Long was given the opportunity to strut his remarkable talents, playing a grief-stricken, revenge-seeking Jarrod who discovers his dark, primitive inner self as he methodically hunts down the killer of his new bride.
"Days of Wrath" begins innocently enough, with Jarrod and his new wife Beth returning to Stockton following a whirlwind courtship. As Victoria plans a wedding reception and Jarrod and Beth map out their future, tragedy strikes when Beth is killed by an unknown assailant. Jarrod is convinced ex-con Cass Hyatt is the killer, eventually tracking down Hyatt to the town of Rimfire. Here, the action heats up to its climax, as a sympathetic Sheriff Zack Fane eventually accepts Jarrod's bribe of $1,200, releasing Hyatt early where Jarrod calls out the ex-con. The cowardly Hyatt throws down his gun and admits he accidentally shot Beth while trying to kill Jarrod. An enraged Jarrod says he will kill Hyatt with his bare hands, and tries to do so before an arriving Nick and Heath intervene.
Kevin Hagen (1928-2005) – perhaps best known for his role as Doc Baker on Little House on the Prairie – turns in an excellent performance as Sheriff Zack Fane, whose salary is "fifty dollars a month and all I can steal." Fane is sympathetic to Jarrod's cause, as he too had lost a young wife years earlier at the hands of a drunken cowhand.
Sandra Smith (1940-) has a good role as Beth, Jarrod's new bride whose life comes to an abrupt end at the hands of Cass Hyatt. Michael Strong (1918-1980) is excellent as the villain, the evil, cowardly Cass Hyatt whose own brother disowns him. Hyatt, for you trivia fans, is later sentenced to life in prison for Beth's murder.
"Days of Wrath," however, is basically Richard Long's show, with his Jarrod Thomas Barkley character flooring younger brother Nick in one scene and brandishing a hot poker in another as he tries to make Peter Hobbs' Cliff Hyatt talk.
"Days of Wrath" comes from The Big Valley's third season and is episode #77 of 112 in the series.
- L-r: Peter Breck, Richard Long, Barbara Stanwyck, Linda Evans, Lee Majors in The Big Valley - ABC-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
Mara Clara's finale is one of the most emotionally compelling last episodes on Philippine television. It features the conclusion of these storylines:
- Mara and Clara's exchange to prevent being hurt by Clara's crazed biological father known as Gary.
- Susan (Mara's pseudo-mother) gives birth to twins that belonged to Gary, yet he did not believe them to be his twins.
- The Amante-Alvira-Gary love triangle.
And since this is the finale, one person from the series would die and it would most likely be Gary.
As for the ending itself, it is summarized in these words:
- Amante and Alvira visit Gary at an abandoned warehouse with no cops.
- Mara gets locked up in a water tank by Gary after arguing with the antagonist for a while.
- Alvira was forced to choose between Amante or Gary, because Gary can only tell Alvira where Mara is unless she shoots Amante.
The climax arrived when Amanthe fought Gary and ended up falling down a few storeys from the building where they fought; Amante falls towards the ground but is only hurt, not dead. Then, Alvira wants Gary to kill her out of pity since this has caused Gary's obsession towards the young woman. As she was about to be shot, Gary fires a shot, but Clara takes the shot in exchange of Alvira. Because of this action, Susan attacks Gary with a pipe until she eventually stabs the crazed man with a stick. Gary dies due to the said pipe impaling, Clara was shot in the arm and survived. Mara was eventually saved, right before Clara took a bullet for Alvira.
After the climax, Clara was placed inside a mental institution for treatment because of her behavior disorder.
Time passed, the epilogue sets in:
- Susan gives birth to twins.
- Mara and Clara are in total friendship once more.
And eventually, they all lived happily ever after. It is a wonderful ending that can compel even the hardest of hearts. The actors have placed a lot of effort (especially for Kathryn Bernardo/Mara) replicating a dramatic scene with their own artistic flavour. The action scenes weren't much, even for the finale; in the words of some directors in an art class: "It's good, but not good enough", they could've hired trainers to do some fight scenes with basic grappling arts, given Amanthe is a "Privileged" man who can afford classes instead of a pistol, but we have to understand also that budget plays a role towards the finale. Overall, it's above average. The series ended with a bang, but the writers and producers could've developed the ending more to be an explosive and heartwarming closure to one of Philippine TV's best drama series'.
John Herbert Dillinger Jr. (1903-1934) was one of America's most notorious gangsters during the Depression-era 1930s. The scowling, flamboyant Dillinger, who met his bloody end outside Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934, at the hands of the FBI, has been featured in a number of movie and television productions through the years. Here are the ten best John Dillinger movies...
Public Enemies (Universal, 2009)
Johnny Depp stars as John Dillinger in Public Enemies, director Michael Mann's $100 million ode to the gangster era. Public Enemies focuses on Dillinger's final years of the early 1930s, where he is living in Chicago. G-man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) tracks down Public Enemy Number One, where the latter finally meets his bloody end outside the Biograph Theater after being betrayed by the infamous woman in red. James Russo (Walter Dietrich), David Wenham (Harry Pierpont), Christian Stolte (Charles Makley), Stephen Dorff (Homer Van Meter), Channing Tatum (Pretty Boy Floyd) and Marion Cotillard (Billie Frechette) also appear. Johnny Depp garnered a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actor.
Dillinger (American International Pictures, 1973)
Warren Oates plays John Dillinger in this bloody, violent gangster flick written and directed by John Milius. Oates' Dillinger hooks up with Baby Face Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), Pretty Boy Floyd (Steve Kanaly) and other hoods, trying to stay a step ahead of dogged pursuer Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson). Michelle Phillips plays Billie Frechette, Dillinger's beautiful gal pal, with Cloris Leachman as Anna Sage and Harry Dean Stanton as Homer Van Meter. "I rob banks for a living, what do you do?" Oates' John Dillinger declares in one scene.
Warren Oates in Dillinger (1973) - Heritage Auctions
Young Dillinger (Allied Artists, 1965)
Nick Adams comes out smokin' as John Dillinger in yet another extremely violent account of the gangster's bloody exploits. Directed by Terry D. Morse, the movie charts the first incarceration of Dillinger after he is convicted of robbing the father of his girlfriend Elaine Johnsyn (Mary Ann Mobley). While in prison, young Dillinger falls in the orbit of Pretty Boy Floyd (Robert Conrad) and Baby Face Nelson (John Ashley). There's plenty of action in this one, featuring bank robberies, shootouts and prison breaks. In one scene an angry Dillinger straps a quack doctor (John Hoyt) into a wheelchair and pushes him off a ramp into a lake. The doc had screwed up, botching Dillinger's plastic surgery. The movie's soundtrack is wild and brooding, ably capturing the bloody life and times of young Dillinger.
Dillinger (Monogram, 1945)
Lawrence Tierney has the distinction of first playing John Dillinger on the silver screen. Dillinger chronicles the rise and fall of Public Enemy Number One, with Anne Jeffreys (Helen Rogers), Edmund Lowe (Specs Green), Eduardo Ciannelli (Marco Minelli), Marc Lawrence (Doc Madison) and Elisha Cook Jr. (Kirk Otto) along for the violent ride into gangsterdom. Directed by Max Nosseck and made for $193,000, Dillinger went on to gross over $4 million, proving that crime does pay, at least at the box office.
Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger (1945) - Heritage Auctions
The Lady in Red (New World, 1979)
Robert Conrad – Pretty Boy Floyd in Young Dillinger (1965) – returns to the gangster era, this time as John Dillinger in The Lady in Red. In this outing written by John Sayles and directed by Lewis Teague, Dillinger acquires Polly Franklin (Pamela Sue Martin) as his gun moll, with the pair engaging in a life of crime. The Lady in Red is told through Polly's eyes, making for a different version of the John Dillinger story. Tough-guy actor Conrad carries the Dillinger role nicely, with Pamela Sue Martin making for a darned cute gun-toting accomplice.
Robert Conrad and Pamela Sue Martin in The Lady in Red (1979) - Heritage Auctions
Dillinger and Capone (New Concorde, 1995)
Martin Sheen plays John Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham appears as Al Capone in this wild gangster conspiracy film directed by Jon Purdy. As the story goes, the FBI gun down the wrong man outside the Biograph Theater in 1934, with the real Dillinger slipping away to a new life. Chicago underworld czar Al Capone, however, knows the true story, and forces Dillinger to pull one of the biggest bank heists in American history, hoping to retrieve the millions in cash which he, Scarface Capone, has hidden away. Roger Corman served as executive producer, with Stephen Davies (Cecil), Catherine Hicks (Abigail), Don Stroud (George) and Sasha Jenson (Billy) in support.
Baby Face Nelson (United Artists, 1957)
Mickey Rooney has the title role of Lester "Baby Face" Nelson in this low-budget gangster flick made for $175,000 and directed by Don Siegel. Playing the role of John Dillinger is tough-guy character actor Leo Gordon, who does a credible job as Public Enemy Number One and the "brains" of his own criminal enterprise. Carolyn Jones (Sue Nelson), Cedric Hardwicke (Doc Saunders), Anthony Caruso (John Hamilton), Jack Elam (Fatso Nagel) and John Hoyt (Samuel F. Parker) round out the supporting cast. The Mick and Gordon deliver the gangster goods big time in this mobster shoot-'em-up.
Dillinger (ABC-TV, 1991)
Mark Harmon of NCIS TV fame stars as John Dillinger in this made-for-television movie directed by Rupert Wainwright and first telecast on January 6, 1991. Sherilyn Fenn (Billy Frechette), Will Patton (Melvin Purvis), Bruce Abbott (Harry Pierpont), Tom Bower (Captain Leach) and Patricia Arquette (Polly) also appear. Dillinger recounts the life and death of the one-time Public Enemy Number One, including his famous demise outside Chicago's Biograph Theater. Dillinger was filmed in Wisconsin (Milwaukee, East Troy, Mequon) and features actor Lawrence Tierney, who starred as Dillinger in 1945, in the role of Sheriff Sarber. Also look for Vince Edwards of TV's Ben Casey fame in the role of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
Mark Harmon in Dillinger (1991) - ABC-TV
Dillinger (CBS-TV, 1960)
Ralph Meeker stars as John Dillinger in this made-for-TV flick directed by David Davidson and first telecast on June 24, 1960. Philip Abbott (Harry Pierpont), Steven Hill (Melvin Purvis) and Jane Rose (Anna Sage) round out the sparse cast.
Baby Face Nelson (Concorde-New Horizons, 1996)
C. Thomas Howell has the title role of Depression-era gangster Baby Face Nelson in this Roger Corman produced-flick directed by Scott P. Levy. Martin Kove appears as John Dillinger, with Lisa Zane (Helen Womack), Doug Wert (Paul Chance), F. Murray Abraham (Al Capone) and David Parry (Artie Folsom) along for the ride into gangster hell. As history it's pure Hollywood hokum, but for mindless entertainment Baby Face Nelson just may fit the bill. Watch an FBI agent fire 13 shots from a six-shot revolver without reloading!
More Best John Dillinger Movie & TV Favorites
- Crime Wave: 18 Months of Mayhem (TV, 2008), Lynn Bumgardner as John Dillinger
- The Kansas City Massacre (TV, 1975), William Jordan as John Dillinger
- The FBI Story (1959), Scott Peters as John Dillinger
- The Real Untouchables (TV, 2001), Michael Dailey as John Dillinger
- Guns Don't Argue (1957), Myron Healey as John Dillinger
John Dillinger on Episodic Television
- Gang Busters (NBC-TV, 1952): "Alvin Karpis" (4/17/52), "Homer Van Meter" (10/16/52), "Dillinger" (10/23/52), Myron Healey as John Dillinger in all three segments
- Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (ABC-TV, 1993-97): "That Old Gang of Mine" (11/13/94), Robert Clohessy as John Dillinger
- Night Man (Syndicated, 1997-99): "That Ol' Gang of Mine" (11/24/97), Brian Fitzpatrick as John Dillinger
- Johnny Depp as John Dillinger cradling a Thompson submachine gun in Public Enemies (2009) - Universal Pictures
Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner
CBS-TV's Gunsmoke (1955-75) is one of television's most revered westerns. The 1973 episode "The Widowmaker" guest stars Steve Forrest as Scott Coltrane, a legendary gunfighter who comes to Dodge City to live down his reputation as one of the Old West's fastest guns.
Gunsmoke's The Widowmaker: Cast & Credits
Paul F. Edwards penned the teleplay for "The Widowmaker," with Leonard Katzman producing and Bernard McEveety directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:
- Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
- Doc Adams (Milburn Stone)
- Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
- Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
- Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
- Scott Coltrane (Steve Forrest)
- Dad Goodpastor (David Huddleston)
- Kid Chama (Randolph Roberts)
- Teresa (Barra Grant)
- Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
- Nathan Burke (Ted Jordan)
- Hank (Hank Patterson)
- Buck Lennart (Jerry Gatlin)
- Preacher (James Chandler)
- Boy (Don Carter)
- Deak Towler (Rand Bridges)
- Sundog Wheeler (J.R. Clark)
- Townsman (Arthur Tovey)
Steve Forrest appeared in four Gunsmoke episodes (CBS-TV)
The Widowmaker: Episode Synopsis
The stage arrives in Dodge City carrying Scott Coltrane a.k.a. "The Widowmaker," reputed to be one of the fastest guns alive. Coltrane has come to Dodge to meet his young wife Teresa and settle down on a spread just outside town. Greeting Coltrane upon his arrival are three menacing gunmen – Buck Lennart, Deak Towler and Sundog Wheeler – who have combined forces to exact revenge against their adversary.
Coltrane attempts to place himself under the protection of the law, but the three gunslingers are having none of it. They face Coltrane down, drawing their six-shooters where they are immediately shot dead by Coltrane's lightning-quick gun hand. Witnessing the event is deputy marshal Festus Haggen, who deems Coltrane the fastest gun he's ever seen.
Although the killing of Buck Lennart and his compatriots was clearly self defense, Matt Dillon warns Coltrane that he may have to leave Dodge simply because of his reputation, which is sure to attract gunslingers from all over Kansas and beyond. Coltrane assures Dillon that he has come in peace, hoping to hang up his guns and settle down with his pregnant wife on his own farm outside Dodge.
Dad Goodpastor and his young protégé Kid Chama come to Dodge City looking for Coltrane. The Kid and his backer aim to goad Coltrane into a gunfight and add to the Kid's already sterling reputation as a fast gun. Coltrane obliges the Kid, making quick work of him in a pre-arranged gunfight down by a pond at sunrise.
Fearing that more gunfighters will follow, Matt Dillon orders Coltrane out of Dodge City, with the two eventually coming to blows in the marshal's office. A beaten Coltrane, however, has no intention of leaving.
The Widowmaker: Air Date & Network Competition
The Widowmaker was telecast over CBS on Monday night, October 8, 1973, in the 8-9 PM (ET) time slot. Network competition that evening was The Rookies (ABC) and Lotsa Luck and Diana (NBC).
The Widowmaker: Analysis & Review
For those TV western fans who enjoy stories about gunfighters, look no further than "The Widowmaker," one of Gunsmoke's finest episodes. Big Steve Forrest (1924-) has the title role of Scott Coltrane, whose well-deserved moniker "The Widowmaker" testifies to his deadly prowess as one of the fastest guns alive.
Steve Forrest, who appeared in a total of four Gunsmoke segments from 1969-73, bid farewell to the long-running CBS western via his final appearance in "The Widowmaker." And what a farewell it is, with Forrest turning in a bravura performance as a gunfighter trying to outrun his colorful, deadly past.
The action comes early when Forrest's Scott Coltrane steps off the stage in Dodge City, where he is immediately confronted by a trio of sinister gunmen. The latter go for their six-shooters, with Coltrane more than living up to his reputation as he sends all three men reeling into the dust.
Although many believe the legendary Coltrane had died some years back, Marshal Dillon immediately knows who he is, warning the gunfighter that his days in Dodge City are numbered if trouble comes looking for him. The wily Dillon believes Coltrane is sincere about hanging up his guns, and later devises a plan whereby the two brawl in Dillon's office. A beaten Coltrane later returns to Dodge, calling Dillon out. In the ensuing gunfight Marshal Dillon gets the upper hand, laying Coltrane out in the street, whereby Doc Adams pronounces him dead.
Scott Coltrane's funeral takes place, after which Matt Dillon rides out to the Coltrane farm where he is greeted by Teresa, Coltrane's "widow." A very much alive Scott also appears at the door, where Matt hands them some papers and addresses them as "Mr. and Mrs. Tyler." With Scott Coltrane officially dead, he and his pregnant wife can now bury the past and move on with their lives.
"The Widowmaker" is chock full of good performances, with the always dependable Steve Forrest leading the way. Barra Grant is excellent as Teresa, giving a moving speech in one scene on how they will raise their unborn son. David Huddleston shines as a sleazy ex-gunfighter-turned promoter named Dad Goodpastor. "Hey, little hefer," Huddleston calls it out in one rowdy saloon scene, "bring us another bottle of that bug juice." Look for Randolph Roberts as Kid Chama, a young buck looking to add to his gunfighting reputation but who instead winds up six feet under after challenging Coltrane's gun at sunrise.
"The Widowmaker" hails from Gunsmoke's 19th season and is episode #592 of 635 in the series.
- Gunsmoke's famous Dodge City logo - CBS-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
The infamous Jesse James (1847-1882) remains one of the Old West's mythic outlaws. Confederate guerilla, train robber, bank robber and killer, James was a featured character in a number of motion pictures dating back to Hollywood's Silent Age.
Here are ten Jesse James movies that no western film fan should ever miss. Some are good, some are so-so and some are just plain strange...
Jesse James (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1939)
Tyrone Power claims the title role, with Henry Fonda (Frank James), Nancy Kelly (Zerelda "Zee" Cobb), Randolph Scott (Marshal Will Wright), Henry Hull (Major Rufus Cobb), Slim Summerville (Jailer), Brian Donlevy (Barshee) and John Carradine (Bob Ford) along for the ride in this $1.6 million western. It's mostly fiction, as Jesse and brother Frank turn to robbing trains after an evil railroad agent murders their mother. Jesse later takes a mortal shot to the back from fellow gang member Bob Ford. "It's just like I always told you: I hate the railroads... and when I hate, I've gotta do somethin' about it," Jesse tells his future bride Zerelda.
Director: Henry King, Irving Cummings (uncredited)
Review: "It is historically inaccurate, since aside from their names and Bob Ford, it gets almost nothing right, but it is a very enjoyable film that moves along well and has a surprisingly bleak view of the price of the outlaw life." - Andrew Allen, History on Film (2010)
On DVD: Jesse James (20th Century Fox, 2007)
Insert movie poster: Jesse James (1939)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros., 2007)
Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James in this $30 million outing based on the novel by Ron Hansen. Other principals include Mary-Louise Parker (Zee James), Brooklynn Proulx (Mary James), Dustin Bollinger (Tim James), Casey Affleck (Robert Ford), Sam Rockwell (Charley Ford) and Sam Shepard (Frank James). Brad Pitt's Jesse James is a grizzled, depressed, confused but still murderous outlaw in his final days, with Casey Affleck's Bob Ford out to collect a reward and win fame by eliminating the man he once idolized. The movie earned two Oscar nominations: Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins) and Best Supporting Actor (Affleck).
Director: Andrew Dominik
Review: "'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' will drive a lot of people to distraction, if they’re even attracted to it in the first place. A meditation on celebrity, 19th Century frontier fan boys and the myths America feeds to its young, this superbly realized adaptation of Ron Hansen’s novel runs about 160 minutes, and while there aren’t many individual acts of violence, they are painful and, more importantly, carry a moral consequence." - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune (10/4/07)
On DVD: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner, 2008)
Advance one sheet movie poster: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
American Outlaws (Warner Bros., 2001)
Colin Farrell plays Jesse James, with Scott Caan (Cole Younger), Ali Larter (Zee Mimms), Gabriel Macht (Frank James), Gregory Smith (Jim Younger), Kathy Bates (Ma James) and Timothy Dalton (Allan Pinkerton) also on hand. Filmed in the Texas Hill Country, American Outlaws is more hip comedy/action than historical movie, with Farrell and his young guns taking up arms against a corrupt railroad baron. Kathy Bates has a field day as ol' Ma James.
Director: Les Mayfield
Review: "You can tell Colin Farrell is the star of the drab new Western 'American Outlaws' by the fact that he's the only one who's bothered to partially shave before the slaughter begins. As Jesse James, he hops on a steed, puts the reins in his mouth and shoots with a pistol in each hand. Though by the end of that sequence, his 5 o'clock shadow is about to strike 9. Irishman Farrell is Hollywood's new 'it' toy – according, at least, to Joel Schumacher, who directed him in last year's soggy boot-camp drama 'Tigerland.' But with a bland performance here, he's more persuasive as the next-big-thing-in-waiting." - Wesley Morris, San Francisco Chronicle (8/17/01)
On DVD: American Outlaws (Warner, 2001)
The Long Riders (United Artists, 1980)
The ultimate "brothers" movie, The Long Riders features four sets of siblings in the featured roles: David Carradine (Cole Younger), Keith Carradine (Jim Younger), Robert Carradine (Bob Younger); James Keach (Jesse James), Stacy Keach (Frank James); Dennis Quaid (Ed Miller), Randy Quaid (Clell Miller); and Christopher Guest (Charlie Ford), Nicholas Guest (Bob Ford). A tough, gritty oater, this $10 million effort traces the origins of the James-Younger Gang, highlighted by the disastrous 1876 Great Northfield Minnesota Raid where the boys are ambushed by the God-fearing townsfolk while trying to rob the local bank. The sight of the gang all decked out in their identical gray dusters and galloping down the trail is classic Hollywood western.
Director: Walter Hill
Review: "The Long Riders is striking in several ways, not the least of which in casting actor brothers as historical outlaw kin, but narrative is episodic in the extreme." - Variety (1980)
On DVD: The Long Riders (MGM/UA, 2001)
One sheet movie poster: The Long Riders (1980)
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Universal, 1972)
The bungled 1876 James-Younger Great Northfield Raid is the focus of this western, with Cliff Robertson (Cole Younger), Robert Duvall (Jesse James), Luke Askew (Jim Younger), R.G. Armstrong (Clell Miller), John Pearce (Frank James) and Matt Clark (Bob Younger) manning the principal roles. Robertson and Duvall are excellent in their respective outlaw characters. The film is a sympathetic portrayal of the James-Younger Gang, with the greedy railroads as the true villains.
Director: Philip Kaufman
Review: "Philip Kaufman's 'The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid' is a lovely, odd sort of middle Western. That is, it's neither conventional Western fiction nor completely documented fact, although it makes full use of history and is as crammed with the artifacts of 19th-century America—everything from dolls to a working calliope—as an especially splendid Third Avenue Shop." - Vincent Canby, The New York Times (6/15/72)
On DVD: The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Universal, 2007)
The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (NBC-TV, 1986)
This made-for-TV movie stars Kris Kristofferson (Jesse James) and Johnny Cash (Frank James), focusing on the final years of the James boys' lives. Also on hand are Marcia Cross (Sarah Hite), Gail Youngs (Anna), David Allan Coe (Whiskeyhead), Andy Stahl (Liddil), June Carter Cash (Mother James), Darrell Wilks (Bob Ford) and Willie Nelson (General Jo Shelby). Filmed on location in Tennessee, The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James was first telecast over NBC-TV on February 17, 1986.
Director: William A. Graham
Review: "This is a surprisingly fine motion picture. Well written with far more attention to historic detail in firearms, clothing and even saddles than I would have expected, excellent writing and fine acting from all involved." - skoyles, The Internet Movie Database (6/9/07)
On DVD: The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James (Lions Gate, 2003)
I Shot Jesse James (Lippert, 1949)
One of many confessional movies of the era with "I" in the title, this western features Reed Hadley in the role of Jesse James. Also in the cast are Preston Foster (John Kelley), Barbara Britton (Cynthy Waters), John Ireland (Bob Ford) and Tom Tyler (Frank James). Once again sneaky little coward Bob Ford ends Jesse James' life in St. Joseph, Missouri, shooting him in the back and collecting a $10,000 reward. The outdoor scenes were shot at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California. "I... I want to tell you something I ain't never told anyone. I'm sorry for what I done to Jess," a repentant Bob Ford tells Cynthy Waters in his final line. Well, this is a confessional movie.
Director: Samuel Fuller
Review: "I Shot Jesse James is a character study of the man who felled the west's most famous outlaw with a coward's bullet. It's an interesting treatment that doesn't overlook necessary plot and action." - Variety (1949)
On DVD: Eclipse Series 5 - The First Films of Samuel Fuller (Eclipse, 2007)
Alias Jesse James (United Artists, 1959)
A little "funnin'" never hurt anyone, and in this nearly forgotten comedy western Bob Hope plays insurance agent Milford Farnsworth, who sells a $100,000 life insurance policy to a stranger. The buyer turns out to be none other than Jesse James – played with gusto by Wendell Corey. The hapless Farnsworth is sent west by the home office in order buy back the policy, but ends up getting robbed and set up as the fall guy in Jesse's scheme to fake his own death and collect the insurance money. Rhonda Fleming (Cora Lee Collins), Gloria Talbott (Princess Irawanie), Jim Davis (Frank James), Will Wright (Titus Queasley) and Mary Young (Ma James) are also along for the ride. A fun role for Bob "I'm not Jesse James" Hope.
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Review: "...Mr. Hope strives valiantly to kid all the Western clichés. And he is professionally amiable about his trade. Falling into this gag bag are the traditional train robbery, the saloon drinking bit with tough, bearded hombres, the gun duel between the bad man and Jesse James and the climactic street battle between the James gang and our wacky hero, who happens to be aided at this juncture, through small, cute bit roles, by practically every noted Western hero and heroine in films and television." - A.H. Weiler, The New York Times (5/18/59)
On DVD: Bob Hope MGM Movie Legends Collection (MGM, 2007)
Lobby card: Alias Jesse James (1959)
The True Story of Jesse James (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1957)
Robert Wagner stars as Jesse James, with Jeffrey Hunter (Frank James), Hope Lange (Zee), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Samuel), Alan Hale Jr. (Cole Younger), Alan Baxter (Remington), John Carradine (Reverend Jethro Bailey), Rachel Stephens (Anne James) and Biff Elliot (Jim Younger) also dotting the western terrain. The movie follows the murderous exploits of James and his gang, using flashbacks to try and rationalize their outlaw behavior. And this is Hollywood, so don't put too much stock in the "true story" gracing the movie's title.
Director: Nicholas Ray
Review: "It is a remake of the Henry King production with Tyrone Power. Oddly enough, it is more accurate than the original but less enjoyable." - Andrew Allen, History on Film (2010)
On DVD: The True Story of Jesse James (20th Century Fox, 2007)
Half sheet movie poster: The True Story of Jesse James (1957)
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (Embassy, 1966)
Just by the title one strongly suspects that this entry is not your run-of-the-mill western. John Lupton, who starred as Indian Agent Tom Jeffords in ABC-TV's Broken Arrow (1956-58), plays Jesse James opposite Narda Onyx's Dr. Maria Frankenstein. The plot – such as it is – features the Missouri outlaw on the lam, where he takes refuge in a castle. The owner of said castle is Dr. Frankenstein's granddaughter, whose experiments turn Jesse's wounded sidekick Hank Tracy into a zombie. Also on hand are Cal Bolder (Hank/Igor), Estelita Rodriguez (Juanita Lopez), Jim Davis (Marshal McPhee), Steven Geray (Dr. Rudolph Frankenstein), William Fawcett (Jensen) and a body count of eight. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter was paired at movie theaters with Embassy's Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), making for a fine time at the old picture show. Perhaps your future husband "treated" you to this sensational double feature?
Director: William Beaudine
Review: "The title pretty much tells the story, as two historical characters – one real, one fantasy – collide in an awful mess of a plot that has Jesse James seeking medical help for his shooting buddy from the most unlikely doctor in town. The story, the acting, the dialogue – it's all a mess..." - Christopher Null, AMC Filmcritic.com
On DVD: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (Alpha Video, 2004)
Five More Jesse James Movie Favorites
- Frank & Jesse (1995)
- Young Jesse James (1960)
- The James Brothers of Missouri (1949)
- Best of the Badmen (1951)
- Days of Jesse James (1939)
One sheet movie poster: Days of Jesse James (1939)
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Top image: Lobby card: The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
The Big Valley ran on ABC-TV from 1965-69, generating 112 episodes. Barbara Stanwyck heads the clan as matriarch Victoria Barkley, with Richard Long (Jarrod Barkley), Peter Breck (Nick Barkley), Lee Majors (Heath Barkley) and Linda Evans (Audra Barkley) rounding out the regular cast.
Set in California's San Joaquin Valley of the 1870s near Stockton, The Big Valley debuted on September 15, 1965. Along with Gunsmoke (1955-75) and Bonanza (1959-73), The Big Valley is considered to be one of the Big Three in TV westerns. Here is a potpourri of interesting facts and TV trivia surrounding The Big Valley...
1. Charles Briles appeared in eight first season episodes as youngest brother Eugene Barkley. His character was later written out of the show – the storyline had him away attending law school – when the 19-year-old Briles was drafted into the United States Army in June 1965.
2. Richard Long's lawyer character – with offices in Stockton and San Francisco – was named Jarrod Thomas Barkley. The middle name of Thomas came from his deceased father, Tom Barkley. Tom Barkley's avenger was an old cuss named Handy Random (James Whitmore), who appeared as a hired gun specializing in range wars in "The Death Merchant" (2/23/66).
Cast of The Big Valley, l-r: Richard Long, Lee Majors, Linda Evans, Barbara Stanwyck, Peter Breck - ABC-TV
3. Jarrod, Nick and Heath Barkley had all served in the Union Army during the Civil War (1861-65). Nick had been a captain, Jarrod had been stationed in Washington, D.C. where he had been in intelligence and Heath had saw action at Chickamauga.
4. The idea for The Big Valley began with Lou Edelman, a producer on The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-62). For two years Edelman had tried to interest the TV networks in a western series starring Miss Stanwyck, but his efforts came to no avail. In late 1963 Edelman sold the property to the producing team of Jules Levy, Arthur Gardner and Arnold Laven, who struck a deal with ABC in late 1964 to bring The Big Valley to television.
5. Barbara Stanwyck originally voiced misgivings about playing Victoria Barkley. As originally conceived by Lou Edelman, Stanwyck's proposed character was just a little too tame for her. "I'm a tough old broad from Brooklyn," she informed the producers. "Don't try to make me into something I'm not. If you want someone to tiptoe down the Barkley staircase in crinoline and politely ask where the cattle went, get another girl. That's not me."
6. Like many television shows of the era, The Big Valley was cranked out in assembly line fashion. Each hour-long episode (with commercials) was filmed in approximately six days, averaging 12 pages of script per day. The series was in production for nine months every year, followed by a three-month hiatus. Hours on The Big Valley set were long, with cast and crew usually up at four in the morning, with filming sometimes lasting until nine at night.
7. Said Barbara Stanwyck of The Big Valley's production schedule: "We do twenty-six shows in twenty-six weeks, twenty-six very fast movies, and no one bothers counting the hours. The script is here, the cameras are there, and you are here. Late afternoons you feel you're so hot and tired – particularly on those hot locations – that you just can't do a thing. But somehow you always do. At night, you have a pot of soup and go to sleep. It's a brutal life."
8. Hollywood stuntmen were used extensively in The Big Valley – producers couldn't risk serious injury to the show's stars – particularly during the many fight and bronc-busting scenes. The stuntmen are rather easy to spot, with the camera going into a long shot during the violent fracas and then returning to a closeup view of the actor in the tamer proceedings. Nick Barkley's numerous saloon fights serve as a fine example of a stunt double being employed for Peter Breck and his flowing dark hair.
9. Barbara Stanwyck, by virtue of her vast Hollywood experience, was considered "the Queen" on the production. One time, when an assistant director was unable to bring order to the set, Queen Barbara (all 5'3" of her) stepped up and yelled "Qui-et!" in her booming, trademark voice, whereby the sound stage fell into dutiful silence.
10. Barbara Stanwyck had taken young Lee Majors under her wing during the show's first season because of his lack of experience. When Majors and guest star Peter Haskell returned late from lunch one day, Stanwyck lit into Majors, reminding him of her passion for punctuality.
11. Barbara Stanwyck also lent her experience to Linda Evans. During rehearsal, when it was determined that Evans' character, Audra, needed more presence in a scene, Stanwyck told the young actress that she would show her the inside ropes in achieving that goal. "As the rehearsal went on," Evans recalled for People magazine in 1990, "I waited for an explanation from Stanwyck about 'presence,' but she didn't say anything. I had to walk in this door and walk into the scene, but she didn't come over. Finally the director said, 'Action!' She came over behind me just as we were supposed to walk in the door. I thought, 'When is she going to tell me what to do?' Then, as I opened the door, she picked up her boot and kicked me in the butt! I went flying onto the set with my eyes wide open and she said, 'Now, that's presence.'"
12. Cast members of The Big Valley appeared on the cover of TV Guide twice: February 26, 1966 and July 20, 1968.
13. The Big Valley premiered on Wednesday night, September 15, 1965, with the episode "Palms of Glory. Network competition in the 9-10PM (ET) time slot was Green Acres and The Dick Van Dyke Show on CBS and Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater on NBC. Preceding The Big Valley on ABC in the 8:30PM time slot was Gidget starring Sally Field. The Big Valley moved to Monday nights, occupying the 10-11PM (ET) time slot, in July 1966. And there it stayed until its final episode on May 19, 1969.
Peter Breck and Linda Evans in a 1966 The Big Valley promotional still - ABC-TV
14. Variety previewed The Big Valley on September 22, 1965: "The Big Valley registers on the home screen as Bonanza in drag. It's a direct variation on the proven theme only with a femme (Barbara Stanwyck) at the head of the clan, a daughter included in the offspring, and of course, the name is changed to Barkley...There is good reason to expect it to command a respectable audience. The acting is strong, the cast attractive, and the production coffers opened wide, at least on the preem (premiere)."
15. Deceased The Big Valley cast members are Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), Richard Long (1927-1974), Peter Breck (1929-2012) and Napoleon Whiting (1910-1984). Whiting played the Barkleys' black servant/chef Silas in 36 episodes.
The Big Valley Top Image
- Lee Majors and Linda Evans in The Big Valley - ABC-TV
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
What happens when a child is deprived of love? What are the ramifications of a very young child be physically and sexually abused? What do you do when you are a naïve family who adopts a child who has been deeply damaged at a very young age? Can a young child really be capable of thoughts of murder? These are some of the issues which were addressed in the original HBO documentary Child of Rage which was produced in 1989.
Child of Rage is the story of Beth, an extremely disturbed six year old who has seen more horrors than any child should have to endure.
As the film opens, we hear the voice of a child screaming “I want to kill you mommy,” as the opening credits roll. This is the voice of Beth, a six-year-old child who had faced the loss of a mother, physical abuse, and sexual abuse all before the age of 19 months. Both Beth and her younger brother Jonathan were put up for adoption. They were adopted by a minister and his wife. This unsuspecting couple quickly learned that something was extremely wrong with Beth.
This terrifying and disturbing documentary traces Beth as she goes through therapy in Colorado. The video explains that Beth suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, an inability to trust and attach to others. This is frequently caused by severe abuse or neglect. As Beth is questioned about the things she has done. When asked if she has ever stuck pins in people, Beth answers that she has. The reason that she gives for doing this is, “I wanted him to die.”
She also confesses to wanting her mommy and daddy to die. Beth also answers questions about physically assaulting her brother and doing sexual things to him. What increases the twisted factor to this is Beth’s lack of any real emotion about what she is discussing. She is as laid back and nonchalant about these things as you would expect a child talking about there day at kindergarten to be. It is as if she has no conscience. Unfortunately, this is all too accurate of a way to look at it.
Beth’s early traumas, experienced before the age of five, have affected her ability to care about others. She is unable to trust others because she had that trust broken and abused at such a tender age when the bonds of attachment are being formed.
The good news is that RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), does not have to be permanent. Through intensive and exhausting therapy (both for the child and the adoptive, foster, or biological parent), a child can learn to love and trust again. As the video progresses, we see Beth beginning to feel remorse for the deeds that she has done.
This is a chilling video that is not for the faint of heart. Although the video is 30 years old, it is still relevant today. RAD still exists. Very young children are still traumatized by severe abuse and neglect. And unsuspecting families are still victimized by these tiny victimize children turned victimizer. Child of Rage should be required reading for all foster, foster/adopt and adoptive families. It is divided into three parts totaling a little over 27 minutes.
For more information on RAD go to RadKid.org. The diagnostic qualities of RAD can be found in the DSM-IV-TR for Diagnoses.
HBO: America Undercover