Hellfighters (1968)

G | 121 mins | Melodrama | 19 December 1968

Director:

Andrew V. McLaglen

Writer:

Clair Huffaker

Producer:

Robert Arthur

Cinematographer:

William H. Clothier

Production Designers:

Alexander Golitzen, Frank Arrigo

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

Universal Pictures bought Clair Huffaker’s original screenplay, The Hellfighters, in early 1967, as announced in the 17 Feb 1967 DV and 20 Feb 1967 LAT. Robert Arthur was assigned by the studio to produce. Later that year, the 7 Dec 1967 DV reported that Andrew V. McLaglen had been hired to direct, with John Wayne set to star. The production budget was cited as $6 million in an 8 Jun 1968 LAT article.
       Principal photography began 14 Mar 1968, as stated in a 15 Mar 1968 DV production chart. Location filming took place in Houston, TX, according to items in the 20 and 21 Mar 1968 DV. Inclement weather delayed exterior filming at an oil field, but McLaglen kept on schedule by shooting interior scenes at a covered set in a warehouse. Cast and crew planned to move to Jackson Hole, WY, on 22 Apr 1968, as noted in a 19 Apr 1968 DV brief. By mid-May, production had moved again to Casper, WY, where an oil field fire sequence was shot in the absence of three technical advisors – “Red” Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews – who were called away to a “wildcat well blowout in Patterson, LA,” and a fire in Bolivia, as reported in the 16 May 1968 DV. On location in Casper, a catering truck overturned onto John Wayne’s dressing room trailer, smashing in windows and bending its steel frame, as reported in the 25 May 1968 LAT. Wayne and his makeup man escaped uninjured.
       Jill Donohue, Charles Brewer, and Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez were ... More Less

Universal Pictures bought Clair Huffaker’s original screenplay, The Hellfighters, in early 1967, as announced in the 17 Feb 1967 DV and 20 Feb 1967 LAT. Robert Arthur was assigned by the studio to produce. Later that year, the 7 Dec 1967 DV reported that Andrew V. McLaglen had been hired to direct, with John Wayne set to star. The production budget was cited as $6 million in an 8 Jun 1968 LAT article.
       Principal photography began 14 Mar 1968, as stated in a 15 Mar 1968 DV production chart. Location filming took place in Houston, TX, according to items in the 20 and 21 Mar 1968 DV. Inclement weather delayed exterior filming at an oil field, but McLaglen kept on schedule by shooting interior scenes at a covered set in a warehouse. Cast and crew planned to move to Jackson Hole, WY, on 22 Apr 1968, as noted in a 19 Apr 1968 DV brief. By mid-May, production had moved again to Casper, WY, where an oil field fire sequence was shot in the absence of three technical advisors – “Red” Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews – who were called away to a “wildcat well blowout in Patterson, LA,” and a fire in Bolivia, as reported in the 16 May 1968 DV. On location in Casper, a catering truck overturned onto John Wayne’s dressing room trailer, smashing in windows and bending its steel frame, as reported in the 25 May 1968 LAT. Wayne and his makeup man escaped uninjured.
       Jill Donohue, Charles Brewer, and Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez were added to the cast during filming, according to items in the 15 Mar 1968 LAT, 3 May 1968 DV, and 15 May 1968 Var. The 20 Mar 1968 DV stated that Wayne and co-star Bruce Cabot hoped to convince actress Gene Tierney, then living in Houston, to play a cameo.
       Although Katharine Ross was a relative newcomer to feature films, she was set to receive equal, “same size” billing alongside John Wayne’s name in advertisements and screen credits. The 20 Mar 1968 DV cited her recent Academy Award nomination for her role in The Graduate (1967, see entry) as a contributing factor to the terms of her billing.
       Hellfighters premiered in Houston on 19 Dec 1968. The 4 Dec 1968 Var noted Universal’s plans to release the picture in over 200 theaters in TX and surrounding states, to gain good word-of-mouth before opening in other parts of the country. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1968
p. 24.
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 1968
p. 8.
Daily Variety
3 May 1968
p. 6.
Daily Variety
16 May 1968
p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1967
Section D, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1968
Section C, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1968
p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jun 1968
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1968
Section F, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1969
Section F, p. 17.
New York Times
6 Feb 1969
p. 30.
Variety
6 Dec 1967
p. 7.
Variety
15 May 1968
p. 24.
Variety
27 Nov 1968
p. 6.
Variety
4 Dec 1968
p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Stunt coordinator
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Matte supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Dial coach
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1968
Premiere Information:
Houston premiere: 19 December 1968
Los Angeles opening: 1 January 1969
New York opening: 5 February 1969
Production Date:
began 14 March 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures
Copyright Date:
21 December 1968
Copyright Number:
LP37074
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
121
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
21851
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Chance Buckman is badly injured while fighting an oil well fire, his young associate, Greg Parker, takes it upon himself to send for Chance's daughter, Tish. At the hospital where her father is under heavy sedation, Tish learns that her parents separated when she was a child because her mother, Madelyn, found it impossible to adjust to Chance's hazardous occupation. Fascinated by stories of her father's business, Tish accompanies Greg when he is called away to fight a blazing oil well in Louisiana. Upon their return Chance bellows at Greg for summoning Tish but quiets down when Greg tells him that he married Tish that morning. With the arrival of Madelyn, Chance tries to protect Greg by not sending him on dangerous missions, but his son-in-law's arguments are so strong that Chance gives him the business as a wedding present, takes a desk job in Houston, and remarries his ex-wife. Although Tish is apprehensive about Greg's work, she finds it easier to bear if she is with him on his assignments; as a result, she goes with Greg when he is called to Venezuela to extinguish a string of five oil well fires started by guerrillas. Once Greg realizes how great the danger is, he insists that Tish leave the area and fly to Caracas. She instead takes a jet to Houston and asks her mother to permit the much-needed Chance to join in the fight. Aware that Chance detests his desk job, Madelyn not only allows him to go, but she returns to Caracas with Tish. Chance and Greg snuff out the fires while their wives watch from the sidelines. Although still terrified of firefighting, Madelyn, like ... +


When Chance Buckman is badly injured while fighting an oil well fire, his young associate, Greg Parker, takes it upon himself to send for Chance's daughter, Tish. At the hospital where her father is under heavy sedation, Tish learns that her parents separated when she was a child because her mother, Madelyn, found it impossible to adjust to Chance's hazardous occupation. Fascinated by stories of her father's business, Tish accompanies Greg when he is called away to fight a blazing oil well in Louisiana. Upon their return Chance bellows at Greg for summoning Tish but quiets down when Greg tells him that he married Tish that morning. With the arrival of Madelyn, Chance tries to protect Greg by not sending him on dangerous missions, but his son-in-law's arguments are so strong that Chance gives him the business as a wedding present, takes a desk job in Houston, and remarries his ex-wife. Although Tish is apprehensive about Greg's work, she finds it easier to bear if she is with him on his assignments; as a result, she goes with Greg when he is called to Venezuela to extinguish a string of five oil well fires started by guerrillas. Once Greg realizes how great the danger is, he insists that Tish leave the area and fly to Caracas. She instead takes a jet to Houston and asks her mother to permit the much-needed Chance to join in the fight. Aware that Chance detests his desk job, Madelyn not only allows him to go, but she returns to Caracas with Tish. Chance and Greg snuff out the fires while their wives watch from the sidelines. Although still terrified of firefighting, Madelyn, like Tish, finds that she can stand the pressure if she is with her husband. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.