The Comancheros (1961)

107 mins | Western | 1 November 1961

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HISTORY

Filmmaker George Stevens optioned Paul Wellman’s 1952 novel, The Comancheros, sometime before late Sep 1957, according to a 26 Sep 1957 DV news item, which noted that Stevens had recently forbidden actor Marlon Brando from using the title Comanchero on another project. On 2 Jan 1958, DV reported that Fred Guiol was hired to adapt the screenplay. Although Stevens was set to produce and direct, a news item in the 22 Jan 1959 DV announced that he stepped down from the project after Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. offered him a co-production and directing deal on The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965, see entry), in exchange for rights to The Comancheros. Twentieth Century-Fox also paid Stevens $300,000 for the property, according to a 22 Dec 1959 LAT brief.
       When the project moved to Twentieth Century-Fox, David Weisbart was brought on as producer, as stated in the 20 Nov 1959 DV, and novelist Clair Huffaker was hired to write the screenplay. The following year, a 17 Dec 1960 NYT item stated that Gary Cooper would star as part of a newly signed three-picture deal with Twentieth Century-Fox. The film was set to begin production in Jan 1961. Robert Wagner was under consideration to co-star with Cooper, according to a 21 Jan 1961 NYT item. Meanwhile, in late 1960, David Weisbart left Twentieth Century-Fox after completing his five-year producing deal there, and was replaced by producer Charles Brackett. John Wayne and Charlton Heston were subsequently named as co-stars in a 4 Apr 1961 DV news brief. At ... More Less

Filmmaker George Stevens optioned Paul Wellman’s 1952 novel, The Comancheros, sometime before late Sep 1957, according to a 26 Sep 1957 DV news item, which noted that Stevens had recently forbidden actor Marlon Brando from using the title Comanchero on another project. On 2 Jan 1958, DV reported that Fred Guiol was hired to adapt the screenplay. Although Stevens was set to produce and direct, a news item in the 22 Jan 1959 DV announced that he stepped down from the project after Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. offered him a co-production and directing deal on The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965, see entry), in exchange for rights to The Comancheros. Twentieth Century-Fox also paid Stevens $300,000 for the property, according to a 22 Dec 1959 LAT brief.
       When the project moved to Twentieth Century-Fox, David Weisbart was brought on as producer, as stated in the 20 Nov 1959 DV, and novelist Clair Huffaker was hired to write the screenplay. The following year, a 17 Dec 1960 NYT item stated that Gary Cooper would star as part of a newly signed three-picture deal with Twentieth Century-Fox. The film was set to begin production in Jan 1961. Robert Wagner was under consideration to co-star with Cooper, according to a 21 Jan 1961 NYT item. Meanwhile, in late 1960, David Weisbart left Twentieth Century-Fox after completing his five-year producing deal there, and was replaced by producer Charles Brackett. John Wayne and Charlton Heston were subsequently named as co-stars in a 4 Apr 1961 DV news brief. At the time, Douglas Heyes was attached to make his feature film directorial debut. Heyes was also said to be revising Huffaker’s script in a 16 Mar 1961 DV article. By 25 Apr 1961, Heyes had been replaced by veteran director Michael Curtiz, according to a DV item published that day.
       Charlton Heston, who was set to play “Paul Regret,” was replaced by Tom Tryon, as noted in the 26 Apr 1961 LAT. Tryon was then forced off the project due to a previous commitment to Walt Disney Pictures’ Moon Pilot (1962, see entry). The 1 Jun 1961 DV announced that Tryon’s role would go to Stuart Whitman.
       The following actors were listed as cast members in various DV news items published between 30 Dec 1960 and 9 Aug 1961: Steve Forrest, Juliette Gréco, John Gavin, Mickey Shaughnessy, Cornel Wilde, Jeno Mate, Mario Costello, Rosa Rey, and Scott Seaton. Peter Falk was also said to be under consideration for a role in the 18 May 1961 DV.
       According to a 23 Jun 1961 DV production chart, principal photography began on 19 Jun 1961 in Moab, UT. Navajo Indians were hired to portray Comanche Indians, as stated in a 9 Jul 1961 LAT brief. Producer George Sherman reportedly arranged for the transportation of “an entire tribe of Navajos” from Monument Valley to Moab, and the 27 Jun 1961 DV noted that they spoke their lines in Navajo instead of Comanche.
       Following location shooting in Moab, filming continued on the Twentieth Century-Fox studio lot in Los Angeles, CA. There, as stated in the 5 Jun 1961 DV, a western village on the studio backlot, previously due to be demolished by bulldozers, was set to be burned during filming. Principal photography ended on 9 Aug 1961, according to a DV item the following day.
       Two months after filming was completed, a 6 Oct 1961 DV item noted that composer Elmer Bernstein finished scoring the picture that day. A 26 Jun 1961 DV item previously stated that Harry Harris, a former songwriter for the Twentieth Century-Fox music department who left his post in late Jun 1961, wrote an original song for the film.
       Following its 1 Nov 1961 release in New York City, the picture was said to be “doing better than many Fox [pictures] in many months,” according to a 20 Dec 1961 Var article, which listed The Comancheros as the eighth-highest grossing picture “in key cities covered by Variety.” On 21 Mar 1962, Var noted that, partly due to John Wayne’s popularity there, the picture set a house box-office record at the Hibiya Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, where it grossed $225,000 in sixty-three days of release.
       The film won the second annual Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Western Motion Picture of 1961, and was nominated for Best Sound Edited Picture of 1961 by the Motion Picture Sound Editors organization, according to items the 12 Jan 1962 and 14 Jan 1962 LAT.
       The Comancheros marked Michael Curtiz’s final theatrical motion picture before his death on 10 Apr 1962. According to his 12 Apr 1962 LAT obituary, Curtiz discovered he had cancer during filming, after suffering a broken rib on location in UT. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Sep 1957
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Jan 1958
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1959
p. 1.
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1959
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1960
p. 1.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Apr 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Apr 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Jun 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1961
p. 14.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1961
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1959
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
26 May 1961
p. 30.
Los Angeles Times
26 Apr 1961
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jun 1961
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1961
Section R, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
11 Nov 1961
Section A, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 1962
Section A, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jan 1962
Section H, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
12 Apr 1962
Section A, p. 1.
New York Times
17 Dec 1960
p. 19.
New York Times
21 Jan 1961
p. 18.
New York Times
24 Oct 1961
p. 41.
New York Times
30 Oct 1961
p. 34.
New York Times
2 Nov 1961
p. 42.
Variety
20 Dec 1961
p. 10.
Variety
21 Mar 1962
p. 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Action seq dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Orch
Orch
DANCE
Dances staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Comancheros by Paul I. Wellman (Garden City, N. Y., 1952).
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 November 1961
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 November 1961
Los Angeles opening: 15 November 1961
Production Date:
19 June--9 August 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 November 1961
Copyright Number:
LP20766
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
107
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1843 Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret in Galveston and heads for Louisiana. There Paul is wanted for killing a man in a pistol duel. En route, Paul catches Jake off guard, clouts him with a shovel, and makes his escape. Jake returns to Ranger headquarters and is ordered to impersonate a gun smuggler in order to ferret out the secret stronghold of the Comancheros, a band of white renegades selling liquor and guns to the marauding Comanches. While stopping off at a small town, Jake again runs into Paul and again takes him into custody. After helping some ranchers ward off an Indian attack, the two men reach the Comancheros' hideout, where Paul encounters Pilar, an adventuress he knew and loved in Galveston. Aware that Jake is a Ranger, Pilar decides to join him and Paul in their fight against her father, Graile, the Comanchero leader. Early one morning, they sneak out of the stronghold and set fire to the gun powder magazines. Before they can reach safety, however, they are attacked by bloodthirsty Comanches, but the Rangers ride to the rescue and repulse the attack. After saying goodbye to Pilar and Paul, Jake rides off into the ... +


In 1843 Texas Ranger Jake Cutter arrests gambler Paul Regret in Galveston and heads for Louisiana. There Paul is wanted for killing a man in a pistol duel. En route, Paul catches Jake off guard, clouts him with a shovel, and makes his escape. Jake returns to Ranger headquarters and is ordered to impersonate a gun smuggler in order to ferret out the secret stronghold of the Comancheros, a band of white renegades selling liquor and guns to the marauding Comanches. While stopping off at a small town, Jake again runs into Paul and again takes him into custody. After helping some ranchers ward off an Indian attack, the two men reach the Comancheros' hideout, where Paul encounters Pilar, an adventuress he knew and loved in Galveston. Aware that Jake is a Ranger, Pilar decides to join him and Paul in their fight against her father, Graile, the Comanchero leader. Early one morning, they sneak out of the stronghold and set fire to the gun powder magazines. Before they can reach safety, however, they are attacked by bloodthirsty Comanches, but the Rangers ride to the rescue and repulse the attack. After saying goodbye to Pilar and Paul, Jake rides off into the sunset. +

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

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