Red Skies of Montana (1952)

98-99 mins | Drama | February 1952

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Smoke Jumpers , Fire , Fire Devils , Hellfire , Wild Winds and Wildfire . Although a 6 Aug 1948 HR news item announced that Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased the novel Fire , by George R. Stewart, and would receive cooperation from the U.S. Forest Service in filming a picture based upon it, no source from that time confirms Stewart's contribution to Red Skies of Montana . LAT reported that Wanda Tuchock would be writing the screenplay, with Linda Darnell set as the film's star. The project was put on hold until Aug 1949, however, according to a HR news item, and later 1949 LAT news items announced William Lundigan and Stephen McNally as possible co-stars.
       Active pre-production of the picture did not begin until Jul 1950, as noted in HR . The picture began production in Missoula, MT in Sep 1950, with Louis King directing and with Victor Mature, Jean Peters and John Lund as the stars. Due to injuries suffered by Mature and Lund, however, and the likelihood of bad weather, the project was "put off till spring," according to a Sep 1950 HR news item. The production was abandoned, however, and in Apr 1951, LAEx reported that the screenplay was going to be completely rewritten, and that Glenn Ford was going to be the picture's star.
       Although HR news items and studio publicity include Gayle Pace, Tony Linehan, Helen Westcott, Shirley Clarke, Russ Saunders, Bill Hale, Paul Dubov and technical advisor ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Smoke Jumpers , Fire , Fire Devils , Hellfire , Wild Winds and Wildfire . Although a 6 Aug 1948 HR news item announced that Twentieth Century-Fox had purchased the novel Fire , by George R. Stewart, and would receive cooperation from the U.S. Forest Service in filming a picture based upon it, no source from that time confirms Stewart's contribution to Red Skies of Montana . LAT reported that Wanda Tuchock would be writing the screenplay, with Linda Darnell set as the film's star. The project was put on hold until Aug 1949, however, according to a HR news item, and later 1949 LAT news items announced William Lundigan and Stephen McNally as possible co-stars.
       Active pre-production of the picture did not begin until Jul 1950, as noted in HR . The picture began production in Missoula, MT in Sep 1950, with Louis King directing and with Victor Mature, Jean Peters and John Lund as the stars. Due to injuries suffered by Mature and Lund, however, and the likelihood of bad weather, the project was "put off till spring," according to a Sep 1950 HR news item. The production was abandoned, however, and in Apr 1951, LAEx reported that the screenplay was going to be completely rewritten, and that Glenn Ford was going to be the picture's star.
       Although HR news items and studio publicity include Gayle Pace, Tony Linehan, Helen Westcott, Shirley Clarke, Russ Saunders, Bill Hale, Paul Dubov and technical advisor Fred Brauer in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Harry Jackson, who served as the director of photography on the aborted 1950 production, filled in for director of photographer Charles G. Clarke when Clarke had to leave the project to begin location shooting on The Snows of Kilimanjaro (see below). As noted in HR news items, portions of Red Skies of Montana were shot on location in Missoula. According to a 6 Jul 1951 HR news item, a special camera crew shot footage of a forest fire near Gila, NM for inclusion in the film.
       Red Skies of Montana marked the motion picture debut of actor Richard Crenna (1927--2003). The studio used Art Cohn's story and Harry Kleiner's screenplay as the basis for a one-hour television production, entitled Smoke Jumpers , for the 20th Century-Fox Hour . Broadcast in Nov 1956, the telefilm was directed by Albert S. Rogell and starred Dan Duryea, Dean Jagger and Joan Leslie. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Jan 1952.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jan 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
25 Jan 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Citizen-News
23 Jan 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 48
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 49
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 50
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 50
p. 6, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 50
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 51
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 51
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 51
p. 2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 51
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 51
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
4 Apr 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Aug 1948.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1949.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1949.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Jan 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Jan 52
p. 1213.
Variety
23 Jan 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Fill-in dir of photog
New Mexico loc dir of photog
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Loc man
STAND INS
Stand-in for Constance Smith
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Fire
Fire Devils
Hellfire
Smoke Jumpers
Wild Winds
Wildfire
Release Date:
February 1952
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Missoula, MT: 20 January 1952
Los Angeles opening: 23 January 1952
Production Date:
2 July--late August 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
22 January 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1621
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
98-99
Length(in feet):
8,865
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15408
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Cliff Mason, a veteran foreman of the Forest Service's elite smoke jumper unit, is called out with his men on an emergency, despite the fact that they have not rested in three days. Accompanied by R. A. "Pop" Miller and four other men, Cliff leaves the smoke jumper base at Missoula, Montana for a fire deep in the woods of Bugle Peak in the Selway National Forest. Hours later, at headquarters, superintendent Richard Dryer becomes worried because Cliff has not yet radioed in. The next day, Dick heads a search and rescue operation and is stunned to find only an hysterical Cliff wandering through the devastated region. Cliff is rushed to the hospital, where he gradually recovers, although he cannot remember how he got separated from his men, or why he was the only one to survive. Upon his return home, Cliff is greeted by Pop's son Ed, who is also a smoke jumper. Ed expresses genuine concern for Cliff, but Cliff, sensitive about his lack of memory and worried about his possible role in Pop's death, is rude to the younger man. Soon after, a board of review conducts a hearing into the matter, and Cliff grows increasingly irritable after several grueling days of questioning. Cliff's paranoia about being considered a coward who deserted his men escalates, despite the assurances of his devoted wife Peg and Dick, who places him in charge of training. Ed continues to question Cliff, asking him why he was found in the protected rockslide area while the corpses of his men were found on an exposed ridge dozens of yards away. Cliff and Ed's ... +


Cliff Mason, a veteran foreman of the Forest Service's elite smoke jumper unit, is called out with his men on an emergency, despite the fact that they have not rested in three days. Accompanied by R. A. "Pop" Miller and four other men, Cliff leaves the smoke jumper base at Missoula, Montana for a fire deep in the woods of Bugle Peak in the Selway National Forest. Hours later, at headquarters, superintendent Richard Dryer becomes worried because Cliff has not yet radioed in. The next day, Dick heads a search and rescue operation and is stunned to find only an hysterical Cliff wandering through the devastated region. Cliff is rushed to the hospital, where he gradually recovers, although he cannot remember how he got separated from his men, or why he was the only one to survive. Upon his return home, Cliff is greeted by Pop's son Ed, who is also a smoke jumper. Ed expresses genuine concern for Cliff, but Cliff, sensitive about his lack of memory and worried about his possible role in Pop's death, is rude to the younger man. Soon after, a board of review conducts a hearing into the matter, and Cliff grows increasingly irritable after several grueling days of questioning. Cliff's paranoia about being considered a coward who deserted his men escalates, despite the assurances of his devoted wife Peg and Dick, who places him in charge of training. Ed continues to question Cliff, asking him why he was found in the protected rockslide area while the corpses of his men were found on an exposed ridge dozens of yards away. Cliff and Ed's relationship deteriorates as Ed's suspicions about Cliff grow and Cliff reacts even more bitterly. One night, an emergency crew is called out to repair a downed power line, and when crew member Boise is hit by a live line, Cliff heroically saves him, although Ed casually remarks that it was not necessary to prove his bravery. Soon after, despite having been cleared by the board of review, Cliff confides to Peg that he is plagued by doubts about his courage. Later, Dick gives Ed a watch that was mistakenly sent to Winkler's family, and Ed recognizes it as his father's. Upset that the watch was found on the ridge, rather than the rockslide, Ed confronts Cliff, whose memory is finally jogged by the item. Cliff recounts that when the fire began to race along the treetops, he urged his men to dig in and seek protection in the rockslide, but they got spooked and ran. Cliff attempted to stop Pop, but Pop, in a blind panic, knocked Cliff to the ground. Ed furiously accuses Cliff of deserting his men and goes AWOL, driving his motorcycle day and night, then taking an airplane to Bugle Peak, where he finds Pop's identification bracelet on the ridge, not on the rockslide, where Cliff says he saw Pop last. Believing he has obtained proof that Cliff abandoned his men on the ridge, Ed returns to base, only to discover that Cliff and another team of men have been sent to Carson Canyon. There, Cliff and the men are battling a fierce blaze. Despite their apprehension about Cliff's leadership, the men succeed in beating back the fire, although high winds threaten to restart it. Cliff requests more equipment and men, and even though Dick had fired Ed for his grudge against Cliff, Ed joins the team heading for Carson Canyon. When he arrives, however, Ed tracks down Cliff and fights with him. Ed breaks his leg when he tumbles off a small ridge, and Cliff immediately returns to the main encampment to summon help. After sending two men to retrieve Ed, Cliff orders the other men to dig foxholes, as the heightened blaze is about to pass over them and burying themselves is their only hope for survival. The men protest, preferring to run, but acquiesce when Cliff insists. While he is being rescued, Ed is surprised to discover that Cliff is responsible, and when he is brought back to the others, Cliff helps to cover him in a foxhole. Later, after the fire has passed, the men smile gratefully at Cliff, and Ed, realizing that he was wrong about Cliff, apologizes. Back at headquarters, a relieved Peg and Mrs. Miller learn that Cliff and Ed are safe, as the men radio in for reinforcements. +

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

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