Duel at Diablo (1966)

103 mins | Western | 11 May 1966

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HISTORY

The 2 Sep 1964 DV announced United Artists (UA) Corporation’s purchase of 29 to Duell, a screenplay by Marvin H. Albert and Michael Grilikhes, based on Albert’s 1957 novel, Apache Rising. UA vice-president David Picker made no comment on his plans for the property. On 8 Jan 1965, DV reported that star James Garner recommended actress Shirley MacLaine for the female lead. Although Anne Bancroft was being considered because of her contractual obligation to UA, the producers chose Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, marking her U.S. film debut. The picture also offered the first western role for co-star Sidney Poitier, and a return to the genre for Garner, who vowed “never to go ‘west’ again,” after the cancellation of his television series, Maverick (ABC, 22 Sep 1957—22 Apr 1962). Although Poitier’s character was Caucasian in the novel, producer-director Ralph Nelson told the 12 Mar 1965 DV that he was inspired to cast the actor after reading The Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham, published earlier that year. Nelson and Poitier had previously worked together in Lilies of the Field (1963, see entry).
       On 8 Mar 1965, Nelson and fellow producer Fred Engel moved to their new headquarters at Goldwyn Studios in West Hollywood, CA, as stated in that day’s DV. The 7 Apr 1965 Var identified Haskell Wexler as director of photography; he was later replaced by Charles F. Wheeler. Plans to film on location in Durango, Mexico, were abandoned after vandals destroyed sets constructed for The Sons of Katie Elder ... More Less

The 2 Sep 1964 DV announced United Artists (UA) Corporation’s purchase of 29 to Duell, a screenplay by Marvin H. Albert and Michael Grilikhes, based on Albert’s 1957 novel, Apache Rising. UA vice-president David Picker made no comment on his plans for the property. On 8 Jan 1965, DV reported that star James Garner recommended actress Shirley MacLaine for the female lead. Although Anne Bancroft was being considered because of her contractual obligation to UA, the producers chose Swedish actress Bibi Andersson, marking her U.S. film debut. The picture also offered the first western role for co-star Sidney Poitier, and a return to the genre for Garner, who vowed “never to go ‘west’ again,” after the cancellation of his television series, Maverick (ABC, 22 Sep 1957—22 Apr 1962). Although Poitier’s character was Caucasian in the novel, producer-director Ralph Nelson told the 12 Mar 1965 DV that he was inspired to cast the actor after reading The Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham, published earlier that year. Nelson and Poitier had previously worked together in Lilies of the Field (1963, see entry).
       On 8 Mar 1965, Nelson and fellow producer Fred Engel moved to their new headquarters at Goldwyn Studios in West Hollywood, CA, as stated in that day’s DV. The 7 Apr 1965 Var identified Haskell Wexler as director of photography; he was later replaced by Charles F. Wheeler. Plans to film on location in Durango, Mexico, were abandoned after vandals destroyed sets constructed for The Sons of Katie Elder (1965, see entry), which Nelson intended to use in his film. Location shooting was planned for Kanab, UT, as stated in the 17 Aug 1965 and 1 Sept 1965 issues of DV, which referred to the picture by its official title, Duel at Diablo. The 7 Sep 1965 edition reported that the 130-member company was scheduled to leave that day for Kanab, and was expected to return to California in late Nov 1965. Principal photography began the next day, according to a 10 Sep 1965 DV production chart.
       Discussing his first western in the 17 Jul 1966 LAT, Nelson determined that head wrangler Bill Jones was the most important member of the company. In addition to his command of the 100 horses used in the film, Jones was reportedly better acquainted with the screenplay than some members of the cast, and had the ability to match each actor with the ideal horse. He also assigned each of the principal horses a similar-looking understudy. Nelson discovered that the horses were responsive to the word “action,” and tended to wander into scenes uninvited.
       Nelson recalled several incidents involving the Native American background actors, comprised of forty-nine Navajos and one Sioux, “none of whom regarded cinema as an art form.” He identified two unrelated Navajo infants, who appeared on screen as Bibi Andersson’s children, as “Dennis” and “Clarence.” Although he had no complaints with the boys, he was exasperated by their parents’ demands of equal screen time for their sons. Because James Garner’s character was supposed to speak Apache, a conference was called among the Navajos to determine the appropriate command for stopping a horse. The group decided on “whoa.” Native Americans were paid $10 per day, and an additional $2.50 for horse riding. Nelson offered a bonus for the first Navajo to quickly mount his horse and ride away. He claimed that four “vaulted completely over their horses,” and another mounted backward. Although three played the scene correctly, none had remembered to remove his wristwatch. Noting that some of the Navajos doubled as U.S. soldiers, Nelson mentioned the mysterious disappearance of one cavalry uniform and two Apache costumes. Shortly after the theft, citizens of nearby Canyon City, UT, reported seeing a nineteenth-century cavalryman being pursued through town by a pair of Apaches. The 6 Jan 1967 DV revealed that Nelson made a cameo appearance as a cavalry officer.
       As stated in the 29 Sep 1965 DV, actor Bobby Crawford left the production after contracting mononucleosis. Although he was supposed to appear in the final scene as a bugler playing “Taps” for his fallen comrades, it was decided that killing the character in battle would be more considerate to the ailing actor. The 7 Aug 1966 LAT and 8 Oct 1965 DV reported that actor Bill Travers sustained a dislocated shoulder and a broken leg during a fight scene with the company’s lone Sioux, Eddie Little Sky. He was given sixteen days to recuperate before returning to work on 10 Oct 1965. An item in the 2 Nov 1965 DV noted that the company faced additional danger from the presence of deer hunters, who were reputed to “shoot at anything that moves.”
       According to the 5 Nov 1965 DV, the production was currently on hiatus, allowing cast member John Hoyt to make guest appearances on the television series, Tammy (ABC, 17 Sep 1965—11 Mar 1966) and The Beverly Hillbillies (CBS, 26 Sep1962—23 Mar 1971). Twelve days later, DV reported that Nelson and Garner were unable to return to Kanab because they were “rained in” at the Las Vegas, NV, airport. However, Utah was experiencing similar weather, so the delay could not have been avoided. The 16 Nov 1965 issue noted that theater students from nearby Orderville High School visited the set. Sidney Poitier lamented that the outing had no educational value, as that day’s shoot involved the destruction of an ammunition truck.
       Additional cast members included Tim Carey (9 Sep 1965 DV), Boyd “Red” Morgan (4 Oct 1965 DV), and African American rodeo star Roy Quirk (14 Oct 1965 Los Angeles Sentinel). The 19 Jan 1966 DV identified George Rubine as coordinator of publicity for the film. The 14 Sep 1965 DV noted that Buster Matlock was assigned to the production by the American Humane Association.
       Photography was nearing completion by 6 Jan 1966, as stated in that day’s DV. One month later, the 7 Feb 1966 issue reported that Poitier was rerecording portions of dialogue. According to the 29 Apr 1966 DV, Nelson was in New York City to screen the film for UA executives.
       Box-office reports in the 18 May 1966 Var indicated that Duel at Diablo debuted in Denver, CO, one week earlier. Openings followed on 15 Jun 1966 in New York City and 20 Jul 1966 in Los Angeles, CA. Although critics in the 16 May 1966 DV and 16 Jun 1966 NYT were impressed with the filmmakers’ unique approach to traditional western themes, the 22 Jul 1966 LAT complained that the picture strained “to be utterly ruthless and realistic.” On 1 Jun 1966, Var ranked the film ninth among the highest-grossing current releases. As of 3 Jan 1968, rentals of the picture totaled approximately $1.5 million, according to that day’s Var.
       The 25 May 1966 and 12 Apr 1967 issues of Var noted that United Artists Records released at least two versions of the title theme: one by guitarist Al Caiola, the other by Neal Hefti, who composed the film score.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Jan 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Sep 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
10 Sep 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
29 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
8 Oct 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Nov 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Nov 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Nov 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1966
p. 10.
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 May 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1967
p. 2.
Los Angeles Sentinel
9 Sep 1965
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Sentinel
14 Oct 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jul 1966
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1966
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jul 1966
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
7 Aug 1966
Section B, p. 10.
New York Times
15 Jun 1966
p. 43.
New York Times
16 Jun 1966
p. 53.
Variety
7 Apr 1965
p. 24.
Variety
21 Apr 1965
p. 23.
Variety
27 Oct 1965
p. 19.
Variety
18 May 1966
p. 8.
Variety
25 May 1966
p. 8, 50.
Variety
1 Jun 1966
p. 4.
Variety
12 Apr 1967
p. 54.
Variety
3 Jan 1968
p. 25.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Ralph Nelson-Fred Engel-Cherokee Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Music ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Asst to the dir
Head wrangler
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Apache Rising by Marvin H. Albert (Greenwich, Connecticut, 1957).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
29 to Duell
Release Date:
11 May 1966
Premiere Information:
Denver opening: 11 May 1966
New York opening: 15 June 1966
Los Angeles opening: 20 July 1966
Production Date:
8 September 1965--early January 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Rainbow Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 May 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32947
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
De Luxe
Duration(in mins):
103
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Scout Jess Remsberg rescues Ellen Grange, who had been a captive of the Apaches for more than a year, and takes her back to her husband at Fort Creel. When her husband denounces her for not killing herself when captured by the Apaches, Mrs. Grange rides off during the night. The next morning Lieut. Scotty McAllister and a troop of raw recruits set out for Fort Concho with Jess as scout. Jess is seeking to avenge his Comanche wife's murder by finding the unknown white man who profited from her death by selling her scalp. Also in the party are Grange, who is taking a wagonload of goods to Concho, and Toller, a Negro ex-cavalryman who now makes his living breaking in horses for the cavalry. Moving out ahead of the troop into Indian country, Jess finds Mrs. Grange in an Apache camp. As he once more carries her away, he sees that she has a child bundled in her arms. She explains that he is her half-breed son, born out of a union between herself and the Apache chief's son. Returning with Mrs. Grange to Scotty's troop, Remsberg finds they have been ambushed by Apaches; casualties are heavy and the water supply has been destroyed. After outwitting and routing the Indians at Diablo Canyon, where there is fresh water, Remsberg rides off for reinforcements. At Fort Concho he learns that the unknown white man he is seeking is Will Grange. Riding back to Diablo, Jess joins in the savage fighting, during which Scotty is killed and Grange is captured. When reinforcements arrive and the Apaches surrender, Jeff, Toller, Mrs. Grange, and four soldiers are all that remain of ... +


Scout Jess Remsberg rescues Ellen Grange, who had been a captive of the Apaches for more than a year, and takes her back to her husband at Fort Creel. When her husband denounces her for not killing herself when captured by the Apaches, Mrs. Grange rides off during the night. The next morning Lieut. Scotty McAllister and a troop of raw recruits set out for Fort Concho with Jess as scout. Jess is seeking to avenge his Comanche wife's murder by finding the unknown white man who profited from her death by selling her scalp. Also in the party are Grange, who is taking a wagonload of goods to Concho, and Toller, a Negro ex-cavalryman who now makes his living breaking in horses for the cavalry. Moving out ahead of the troop into Indian country, Jess finds Mrs. Grange in an Apache camp. As he once more carries her away, he sees that she has a child bundled in her arms. She explains that he is her half-breed son, born out of a union between herself and the Apache chief's son. Returning with Mrs. Grange to Scotty's troop, Remsberg finds they have been ambushed by Apaches; casualties are heavy and the water supply has been destroyed. After outwitting and routing the Indians at Diablo Canyon, where there is fresh water, Remsberg rides off for reinforcements. At Fort Concho he learns that the unknown white man he is seeking is Will Grange. Riding back to Diablo, Jess joins in the savage fighting, during which Scotty is killed and Grange is captured. When reinforcements arrive and the Apaches surrender, Jeff, Toller, Mrs. Grange, and four soldiers are all that remain of the original party. Jeff goes in search of Grange and finds him strapped to a wagon wheel hung over hot coals. He is barely alive and begs Jess to shoot him. Instead, Jess hands him a pistol, and as he walks away, a shot rings loudly. +

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

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