Rage at Dawn (1955)

86-87 mins | Western | 26 March 1955

Director:

Tim Whelan

Producer:

Nat Holt

Cinematographer:

Ray Rennahan

Editor:

Harry Marker

Production Designer:

Walter E. Keller
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HISTORY

The film's working title was Seven Bad Men . The opening credits include the following written statement: "This is the true story of the Reno Brothers...Clint, a respected farmer, and Frank, Simeon, John, and Bill...who were the first train robbers in American history. Looting, burning and killing, this infamous clan rode through the middle border states setting the pattern for the great outlaw bands which were to follow: the James Boys, the Daltons, and the Youngers." Shots of the actors playing the outlaw brothers, with their character names superimposed over the footage, then are seen. The following written statements appear at the end of the picture: "Thus the Reno Brothers passed into American Folklore"; "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the California State Park Commission for the use of Columbia Historic State Park."
       As depicted in the film, in 1866, the Reno Brothers, John, Frank, Simeon and William, committed the first U.S. train robbery near Seymour, IN. After the gang pulled off other robberies in Iowa and Missouri, John was captured and sentenced to forty years in jail. In 1868, Frank, Simeon and William were arrested by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and, as dramatized in the film, were lynched by vigilantes.
       According to contemporary news items, story writer Frank Gruber worked on early drafts of the film's screenplay. An Oct 1954 LAT item announced that producer Nat Holt and star Randolph Scott had formed a filmmaking partnership, the first product of which was Rage at Dawn . Rage at Dawn marked Holt's return to RKO, the studio at which he made many films during the late ... More Less

The film's working title was Seven Bad Men . The opening credits include the following written statement: "This is the true story of the Reno Brothers...Clint, a respected farmer, and Frank, Simeon, John, and Bill...who were the first train robbers in American history. Looting, burning and killing, this infamous clan rode through the middle border states setting the pattern for the great outlaw bands which were to follow: the James Boys, the Daltons, and the Youngers." Shots of the actors playing the outlaw brothers, with their character names superimposed over the footage, then are seen. The following written statements appear at the end of the picture: "Thus the Reno Brothers passed into American Folklore"; "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the California State Park Commission for the use of Columbia Historic State Park."
       As depicted in the film, in 1866, the Reno Brothers, John, Frank, Simeon and William, committed the first U.S. train robbery near Seymour, IN. After the gang pulled off other robberies in Iowa and Missouri, John was captured and sentenced to forty years in jail. In 1868, Frank, Simeon and William were arrested by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and, as dramatized in the film, were lynched by vigilantes.
       According to contemporary news items, story writer Frank Gruber worked on early drafts of the film's screenplay. An Oct 1954 LAT item announced that producer Nat Holt and star Randolph Scott had formed a filmmaking partnership, the first product of which was Rage at Dawn . Rage at Dawn marked Holt's return to RKO, the studio at which he made many films during the late 1940s. A 1 Aug 1955 SAB credit sheet lists Holt-Rosen Productions, the company Holt ran with Lewis P. Rosen, as the film's producing company, but all other sources list the company as Nat Holt Production Co. Although HR production charts and news items indicate that the film was to be shot in SuperScope, the process was not listed onscreen. Reviews do list the film's aspect ratio as 1.85:1, however. In addition to Columbia Historic State Park, location filming took place in nearby Sonora, in central California, according to HR news items and production charts. Modern sources add Mike Ragan and Phil Chambers to the cast. In 1965, Paramount released another film about the Reno gang, Johnny Reno , which starred Dana Andrews and was directed by R. G. Springsteen (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Mar 1955.
---
Daily Variety
9 Mar 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Mar 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 54
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 54
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 54
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 55
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
1 Oct 1954.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Mar 55
p. 353.
Variety
9 Mar 55
p. 6.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Seven Bad Men
Release Date:
26 March 1955
Production Date:
mid October--8 November 1954
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 March 1955
Copyright Number:
LP4859
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
gauge
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
86-87
Length(in feet):
7,804
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17323
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1866, the Reno Brothers gang--leader Frank, Simeon, John and Bill Reno--ride into North Vernon, Indiana, to rob the bank. Before they enter the building, however, lawmen lying in wait open fire on them, killing Bill. The rest of the gang flees the pursuing posse, and later, at their sister Laura's home in Seymour, Indiana, the surviving brothers debate how the authorities came to know of their plan. They first suspect their brother Clint, a law-abiding farmer, of the double-cross, but finally conclude that Murphy, a new bartender in town, must have passed on the information after a drunken Sim unwittingly revealed their plot to him. In revenge, the Renos, who operate in collusion with Seymour's constable, Brant, prosecuting attorney Lattimore and Judge Hawkins, tie Murphy to a barn post and set the barn on fire. Outraged by his agent's murder, Amos Peterson of the Peterson Detective Agency, hires the sharpshooting Jim Barlow, a former Confederate spy, to infiltrate the gang. To that end, Jim and Monk Claxton, another agent, pretend to rob a train and then, while posing as an artist and his assistant, respectively, move in with an old Seymour farmer named Noah Uhalt. Jim, a notorious ladies' man, immediately catches Laura's eye, but when she tries to chat with him, two of the Renos' henchmen pick a fight. With Monk's help, Jim knocks out the outlaws and claims their guns. Meanwhile, Brant, Lattimore and Hawkins, having read newspaper accounts about the train robbery, suspect that the Renos were behind it and accuse them of withholding their share of the loot. After the Renos angrily deny any involvement, Hawkins receives word that ... +


In 1866, the Reno Brothers gang--leader Frank, Simeon, John and Bill Reno--ride into North Vernon, Indiana, to rob the bank. Before they enter the building, however, lawmen lying in wait open fire on them, killing Bill. The rest of the gang flees the pursuing posse, and later, at their sister Laura's home in Seymour, Indiana, the surviving brothers debate how the authorities came to know of their plan. They first suspect their brother Clint, a law-abiding farmer, of the double-cross, but finally conclude that Murphy, a new bartender in town, must have passed on the information after a drunken Sim unwittingly revealed their plot to him. In revenge, the Renos, who operate in collusion with Seymour's constable, Brant, prosecuting attorney Lattimore and Judge Hawkins, tie Murphy to a barn post and set the barn on fire. Outraged by his agent's murder, Amos Peterson of the Peterson Detective Agency, hires the sharpshooting Jim Barlow, a former Confederate spy, to infiltrate the gang. To that end, Jim and Monk Claxton, another agent, pretend to rob a train and then, while posing as an artist and his assistant, respectively, move in with an old Seymour farmer named Noah Uhalt. Jim, a notorious ladies' man, immediately catches Laura's eye, but when she tries to chat with him, two of the Renos' henchmen pick a fight. With Monk's help, Jim knocks out the outlaws and claims their guns. Meanwhile, Brant, Lattimore and Hawkins, having read newspaper accounts about the train robbery, suspect that the Renos were behind it and accuse them of withholding their share of the loot. After the Renos angrily deny any involvement, Hawkins receives word that a $100 bill from the holdup has been located and Jim is identified by store owner Fisher as the bill's source. Later, when Jim shows up at Laura's house to return the confiscated guns, Frank orders him away, over the protests of Laura, who has grown weary of her brothers' criminal ways. Jim and Monk then are arrested, and during his interrogation, Jim admits his guilt and mentions to Hawkins that he has a "contact man" at the express office and, if released, will cut Hawkins and his cronies in on any future robbery take. As hoped, the officials jump at Jim's bribe and persuade the Renos to join forces with him. During their first holdup in a Missouri express office, Jim is compelled to shoot and wound a teller who is going for his gun. Although the robbery is a success, Jim later complains about the small take and openly challenges Frank's leadership. While Jim is with the Renos, Laura spies on him and tearfully calls him a lying thief, accusations he cannot deny. Later, Jim meets secretly with Peterson and Sheriff Moseley in North Vernon to arrange a heist that will ultimately trap the Renos and the politicians. As part of the plan, Jim shows Hawkins, Lattimore and Brant a coded telegram he claims to have received from his express office contact, which details an upcoming $100,000 shipment of money. Despite their dislike of Jim, the Renos agree to participate in the train holdup, under Jim's direction. After the unsuspecting outlaws stop the train and demand the strongbox, lawmen surround them, and a fierce gunfight ensues. Monk is killed in the confrontation and Frank wounded, but all the Reno brothers are arrested, and Hawkins, Brant and Lattimore are exposed. That night, however, Fisher and his helper, Deadrick, incite the townspeople to storm the North Vernon jail and, while masked, lynch the Renos. Laura, meanwhile, sneaks to Noah's ranch and seeks comfort from Jim, whose mission she now understands and accepts. Clint, who has overheard the vigilantes' plan, then rides up and alerts Jim, but Jim is unable to prevent the hangings. Jim does identify Fisher and Deadrick as the mob leaders, but they refuse to implicate anyone. Later, Jim apologizes to Laura for her brothers' fate, but she reassures him that she still loves him and looks forward to sharing her life with him. +

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.