Rancho Notorious (1952)

86 or 89 mins | Western | March 1952

Director:

Fritz Lang

Writer:

Daniel Taradash

Producer:

Howard Welsch

Cinematographer:

Hal Mohr

Editor:

Otto Ludwig

Production Designer:

Wiard B. Ihnen

Production Company:

Fidelity Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Chuck-a-Luck . An unidentified, contemporary source in the AMPAS Library production file for the film lists the title of Silvia Richards' screen story as "Gunsight Whitman." In a modern interview, director Fritz Lang claimed that RKO head Howard Hughes changed the title from Chuck-a-Luck to Rancho Notorious because he felt that European audiences would not be familiar with the casino game. The ballad "The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck" is heard over the opening credits and intermittently throughout the picture, and its lyrics comment on the action of the story. Rancho Notorious was the first American film to use a song in this manner. Although Lang recalled in the modern interview that the picture was shot on the General Service Studios lot, HR production charts and news items indicate that it was filmed at the Motion Picture Center Studios. According to Lang, Republic Studios' Western street was also used.
       According to DV news items, Twentieth Century-Fox originally was to distribute the film. Fidelity Pictures, which was in need of cash after spending $900,000 on the production, backed out of the deal when it learned that Fox would not release or pay for the film until 1952. In mid-1951, RKO paid Fidelity between $700,000 and $780,000 in advance for distribution rights. DV notes that Hughes approved the sale in part because it featured one of his contract stars, Mel Ferrer. An Oct 1951 Var news item states that RKO also agreed to give Fox a sixteen percent interest in the picture's profits. According to the same item, Lang ... More Less

The working title of this film was Chuck-a-Luck . An unidentified, contemporary source in the AMPAS Library production file for the film lists the title of Silvia Richards' screen story as "Gunsight Whitman." In a modern interview, director Fritz Lang claimed that RKO head Howard Hughes changed the title from Chuck-a-Luck to Rancho Notorious because he felt that European audiences would not be familiar with the casino game. The ballad "The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck" is heard over the opening credits and intermittently throughout the picture, and its lyrics comment on the action of the story. Rancho Notorious was the first American film to use a song in this manner. Although Lang recalled in the modern interview that the picture was shot on the General Service Studios lot, HR production charts and news items indicate that it was filmed at the Motion Picture Center Studios. According to Lang, Republic Studios' Western street was also used.
       According to DV news items, Twentieth Century-Fox originally was to distribute the film. Fidelity Pictures, which was in need of cash after spending $900,000 on the production, backed out of the deal when it learned that Fox would not release or pay for the film until 1952. In mid-1951, RKO paid Fidelity between $700,000 and $780,000 in advance for distribution rights. DV notes that Hughes approved the sale in part because it featured one of his contract stars, Mel Ferrer. An Oct 1951 Var news item states that RKO also agreed to give Fox a sixteen percent interest in the picture's profits. According to the same item, Lang and stars Marlene Dietrich and Arthur Kennedy protested the sale, because they feared that additional production costs incurred by RKO would lead to the loss of their partially deferred salaries, which could not be paid out until the film showed a 2.5 million dollar profit.
       In the modern interview, Lang commented that Rancho Notorious "was conceived for Marlene Dietrich" as a picture "about an ageing (but still very desirable) dance hall girl." According to Lang, Dietrich "resented going gracefully into a little, tiny bit older category" and fought with the director throughout the production. Lang also noted that after he delivered his cut of the picture, the "producer" re-edited the film without Lang's approval. Another modern source notes that because actor Lloyd Gough, who plays "Kinch" in the picture, refused to answer questions before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, his name was removed from the screen credits by Hughes. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Feb 1952.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1951.
---
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1951.
---
Daily Variety
6 Feb 52
p. 3, 8
Film Daily
7 Feb 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 50
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 51
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 52
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Feb 52
p. 1229.
New York Times
15 May 52
p. 39.
Newsweek
24 Mar 1952.
---
Variety
24 Oct 51
p. 5, 15
Variety
6 Feb 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Ed supv
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Miss Dietrich's ward des
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair stylist for Miss Dietrich
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Legend of Chuck-a-Luck," music and lyrics by Ken Darby, sung by William Lee
"Gypsy Davey" and "Get Away Young Man," music and lyrics by Ken Darby.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Chuck-a-Luck
Release Date:
March 1952
Production Date:
mid March--early June 1951 at Motion Picture Center Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Fidelity Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 March 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1632
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
86 or 89
Length(in feet):
8,005
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15331
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Moments after her fiancé, cowboy Vern Haskell, presents her with a jewel-studded brooch and rides out of town, Beth Forbes is raped and killed in her father's general store by an outlaw named Kinch, who also steals the brooch. Upon seeing his slain sweetheart, Vern seethes with outrage and joins the sheriff's posse. Although the posse stops pursuing Kinch and his cohort, Whitey, when it reaches the boundary of its jurisdiction, Vern, bent on revenge, pushes on alone. Not wanting to share his loot, Kinch, meanwhile, shoots Whitey, then leaves him for dead. Soon after, Vern finds Whitey and demands to know where Kinch has gone, but Whitey can only mutter the word "chuck-a-luck" before expiring. Sure that chuck-a-luck, a casino game, is the key to finding Kinch, Vern queries a barber about it. The man in the next chair overhears Vern and, once alone with him, nervously asks why he wants to know about chuck-a-luck. When Vern refuses to say, the man jumps him, and a vicious fight ensues, ending in the man's death. Vern is arrested, but is released after the sheriff learns that the man, Ace Maguire, was a wanted outlaw. Free but still clueless, Vern then undertakes to discover the whereabouts of Altar Keane, a name mentioned by Ace during the fight. His inquiries eventually lead him to Baldy Gunder, a former saloon owner for whom Altar once worked. The down-and-out Baldy tells Vern about his last encounter with Altar, a former belle of the West: After Baldy fires her for not smiling enough, Altar decides to gamble her last pay on chuck-a-luck. Because the croupier thinks she is shilling, ... +


Moments after her fiancé, cowboy Vern Haskell, presents her with a jewel-studded brooch and rides out of town, Beth Forbes is raped and killed in her father's general store by an outlaw named Kinch, who also steals the brooch. Upon seeing his slain sweetheart, Vern seethes with outrage and joins the sheriff's posse. Although the posse stops pursuing Kinch and his cohort, Whitey, when it reaches the boundary of its jurisdiction, Vern, bent on revenge, pushes on alone. Not wanting to share his loot, Kinch, meanwhile, shoots Whitey, then leaves him for dead. Soon after, Vern finds Whitey and demands to know where Kinch has gone, but Whitey can only mutter the word "chuck-a-luck" before expiring. Sure that chuck-a-luck, a casino game, is the key to finding Kinch, Vern queries a barber about it. The man in the next chair overhears Vern and, once alone with him, nervously asks why he wants to know about chuck-a-luck. When Vern refuses to say, the man jumps him, and a vicious fight ensues, ending in the man's death. Vern is arrested, but is released after the sheriff learns that the man, Ace Maguire, was a wanted outlaw. Free but still clueless, Vern then undertakes to discover the whereabouts of Altar Keane, a name mentioned by Ace during the fight. His inquiries eventually lead him to Baldy Gunder, a former saloon owner for whom Altar once worked. The down-and-out Baldy tells Vern about his last encounter with Altar, a former belle of the West: After Baldy fires her for not smiling enough, Altar decides to gamble her last pay on chuck-a-luck. Because the croupier thinks she is shilling, Altar wins big on two tries. Baldy intercedes, but to keep his crooked operation from being exposed, allows her one last bet. At that moment, handsome gunslinger Frenchy Fairmont steps in and insists on spinning the chuck-a-luck wheel himself. Frenchy also manipulates the wheel, and Altar wins a huge sum. Frenchy then persuades Altar to run away with him. Back in the present, Baldy reveals that, while Altar's whereabouts are unknown, Frenchy is now in the Gunsight jail. To meet Frenchy, Vern gets himself arrested on election day and, when Gunsight's crooked sheriff frees some corrupt, incarcerated politicians, Vern takes advantage of the commotion and helps Frenchy to escape. Grateful, Frenchy takes Vern to a secluded horse ranch near the Mexican border, which is run by Altar. After a wary Altar explains to Vern the ranch's "no questions" rule, she introduces him to a group of outlaws who use the ranch, called Chuck-a-Luck, as a hideout. Vern is immediately suspicious of outlaw Wilson, as he is an unabashed ladies man and has a scar down his cheek. Kinch, in turn, has uneasy feelings about the curious newcomer. On the night of her birthday, Altar startles Vern when she appears in a fancy gown, adorned with Beth's brooch. Before Vern can act on his discovery, Marshal Donaldson and Deputy Warren arrive at the ranch, looking for Frenchy. The outlaws manage to hide, and Vern cleverly deflects the lawmen's suspicions. Vern then flirts with Altar, who has since removed her jewels, and kisses her. Later, after Vern shows off the shooting skills he learned from Frenchy, Frenchy informs Altar that he is planning a bank robbery. Altar begs Frenchy not to involve Vern, who she senses is not a hardened criminal, but Frenchy is noncommittal. Kinch then realizes who Vern is when he sees him get on his horse using the same unusual mounting technique he observed outside Beth's general store. Kinch resolves to kill Vern and volunteers to act as a sniper during the robbery. Kinch then convinces Frenchy to bring the unsuspecting Vern along and shoots at him as he is exiting the bank. The shot misses Vern, but a gunfight erupts, and the surviving outlaws are forced to scatter. Later, Vern returns alone to Chuck-a-Luck with Altar's share, and she finally gives in to her attraction. At Vern's urging, Altar dons her gown and jewels and reveals that Kinch sold her the brooch. Enraged, Vern tells her about Beth's murder and rips the brooch off her dress. Vern then finds Kinch at a border cantina and challenges him to a gunfight. Outmatched, Kinch refuses to draw, but before Vern forces the issue, the sheriff shows up. After the bartender confirms that Kinch admitted to Beth's murder, the sheriff arrests Kinch. Meanwhile, a wounded Frenchy arrives at Chuck-a-Luck to find Altar packed and ready to depart. Altar turns the ranch over to Frenchy without explanation, but denies that she is running away with Vern. Just then, Wilson and the other outlaws ride up with Kinch, having freed him from the sheriff, and demand money from Altar for betraying their trust with Vern. A tense showdown ensues, until Vern appears, taking them all by surprise. In a flash, Frenchy kills Kinch, while Vern's quick draw fells Wilson. The remaining outlaws surrender, but after Frenchy orders them to leave, he and Vern discover that Altar took a bullet meant for Frenchy. Altar dies in Frenchy's arms, and now alone, Frenchy rides off with Vern. +

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

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