Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)

95 mins | Western | 13 April 1956

Director:

Robert Wise

Producer:

Sam Zimbalist

Cinematographer:

Robert Surtees

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Jeremy Rodock . Although Irene Papas is listed fourth in the closing cast credits, she is listed after Vic Morrow in the opening credits. Voice-over narration provided by Don Dubbins as "Steve Miller" introduces the frontier territory known as "Rodock's Valley" at the beginning of the film, then closes the film with his appreciation for "Jeremy Rodock" and "Jocasta Constantine," who helped him become a man.
       As noted in a 20 Jun 1955 HR news item, Spencer Tracy was initially cast as the lead role, but was considering leaving the picture due to illness. Jun 1955 HR production charts reveal that Tracy was on location in Montrose, CO for initial shooting during that month. As of 23 Jun 1955, HR reported that Gregory Peck and James Cagney were both being considered as replacements for Tracy. According to an 18 Jul 1955 HR news item, Tracy had just withdrawn from the film. The production resumed shooting 15 Aug 1955 with Cagney in the lead. Although production charts' initial cast list also included Emile Meyer and Robert Francis (1930—1955), Meyer was presumably replaced and Francis died on 31 Jul 1955 in a plane crash. Francis’ last film was The Long Gray Line (see above).
       Several biographies of Cagney note that Tracy was having conflicts with M-G-M because he disliked the script and departed the studio shortly after leaving the set in Montrose. Tracy, who had been under contact to M-G-M for 21 years, made his final M-G-M film appearance in Bad Day at Black Rock (See Entry). Cagney, better known ... More Less

The working title of the film was Jeremy Rodock . Although Irene Papas is listed fourth in the closing cast credits, she is listed after Vic Morrow in the opening credits. Voice-over narration provided by Don Dubbins as "Steve Miller" introduces the frontier territory known as "Rodock's Valley" at the beginning of the film, then closes the film with his appreciation for "Jeremy Rodock" and "Jocasta Constantine," who helped him become a man.
       As noted in a 20 Jun 1955 HR news item, Spencer Tracy was initially cast as the lead role, but was considering leaving the picture due to illness. Jun 1955 HR production charts reveal that Tracy was on location in Montrose, CO for initial shooting during that month. As of 23 Jun 1955, HR reported that Gregory Peck and James Cagney were both being considered as replacements for Tracy. According to an 18 Jul 1955 HR news item, Tracy had just withdrawn from the film. The production resumed shooting 15 Aug 1955 with Cagney in the lead. Although production charts' initial cast list also included Emile Meyer and Robert Francis (1930—1955), Meyer was presumably replaced and Francis died on 31 Jul 1955 in a plane crash. Francis’ last film was The Long Gray Line (see above).
       Several biographies of Cagney note that Tracy was having conflicts with M-G-M because he disliked the script and departed the studio shortly after leaving the set in Montrose. Tracy, who had been under contact to M-G-M for 21 years, made his final M-G-M film appearance in Bad Day at Black Rock (See Entry). Cagney, better known for gangster and musical comedy roles, had acted in only two previous Western films, The Oklahoma Kid in 1939 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ) and Run for Cover in 1955 (see above), but agreed to take over the role of Rodock to help Tracy and the crew, who were waiting in Montrose for the studio to find a new lead. Tribute to a Bad Man was Cagney's final Western.
       According to a Feb 1956 AmCin article about the film, Academy Awarding-winning director of photography Robert Surtees used photographs of the American West shot by photographer William H. Jackson as the basis for creating the film’s period scenes. Surtees carefully planned the “hanging” scene at dusk during an overcast day, to create an ominous mood, insisting that the crew wait for four days for the right weather conditions. The article also noted that 90 percent of the film consisted of exterior shots, which were marked by a photographic realism.
       The song "They Are Giving My Sweetheart Away" was sung by Irene Papas in Greek during the film. May and Jun 1955 HR news items add David McMahon, Jay Brands, Gene Coogan, Tom McDonough, Danny Sands, Phil Schumacher and Jerry Schumacher to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In addition to Montrose, portions of the film were shot in Miller's Mesa, Ouray, Grand Junction and San Juan Mountains, CO. Additionally, according to the M-G-M pressbook found in the production file on the film at AMPAS Library, the numerous horses and trainers for the film were kept at Ridgway Fairgrounds, CO. Although Papas had appeared in the American-Italian co-production The Man from Cairo in 1953 (see above), Tribute to a Bad Man was the first film she made within the United States. Modern sources add Eugene Zador ( Orchestrations ) to the crew.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Feb 56
pp. 86-7, 109-10.
Box Office
24 Mar 1956.
---
Box Office
14 Apr 1956.
---
Cue
31 Mar 1956.
---
Daily Variety
19 Mar 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Mar 56
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1955
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1955
p. 2, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jun 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 1955
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 56
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
3 May 1956.
---
Motion Picture Daily
19 Mar 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Aug 56
p. 833.
New York Times
31 Mar 56
p. 13.
Saturday Review
28 Apr 1956.
---
Time
30 Apr 1956.
---
Variety
3 Aug 1955.
---
Variety
21 Mar 56
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Screen story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost for Irene Papas
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Unit mgr
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Hanging's for the Lucky" by Jack Schaefer in Argosy (Nov 1952).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"They Are Giving My Sweetheart Away," composer undetermined.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Jeremy Rodock
Release Date:
13 April 1956
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 30 March 1956
Production Date:
June 1955
15 August--mid October 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 February 1956
Copyright Number:
LP5975
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
95
Length(in feet):
8,584
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17696
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While looking for work in the Wyoming Territory in the late 1800s, young Steve Miller finds hard-bitten horse rancher Jeremy Rodock wounded after an attack by cattle rustlers Barjak and Hearn. Rodock accepts Steve’s offer to help him back to his ranch and offers him a job as a ranchhand. After Steve makes camp and “cores” the bullet out of Rodock’s wound, a horse carrying the body of Rodock’s ranchhand Whitey approaches and Rodock vows to catch the rustlers who killed Whitey. The next day, upon reaching the ranch house, Steve meets Rodock’s sweetheart, the generous and feisty Jocasta Constantine, daughter of a Greek scholar who fled war-torn Greece. Later, head wrangler McNulty warns Steve that Rodock has grown evil from “hanging sickness,” Rodock’s propensity to mete out punishment by hanging. When McNulty later tries to kiss Jocasta, she insists that she loves only Rodock, who took her in when she was a troubled, frontier, dance-hall prostitute in Cheyenne. That night after Rodock gives her a pair of sparkling earrings, Jocasta promises to stay by his side, but Rodock believes she will “stray” when someone better comes along. The next morning, after McNulty announces that the east range horses have been stolen, Rodock gathers his men to hunt down the thieves. When Jocasta protests that the hangings have corrupted him, Rodock suggests that she should leave if she cannot accept his methods. After following the thieves’ tracks for days, Rodock rides to L. A. Peterson’s ranch to ask his old horse trading partner if he has stolen the herd, but Peterson, who claims Rodock cheated him out of his share of the horse business, orders him off the ... +


While looking for work in the Wyoming Territory in the late 1800s, young Steve Miller finds hard-bitten horse rancher Jeremy Rodock wounded after an attack by cattle rustlers Barjak and Hearn. Rodock accepts Steve’s offer to help him back to his ranch and offers him a job as a ranchhand. After Steve makes camp and “cores” the bullet out of Rodock’s wound, a horse carrying the body of Rodock’s ranchhand Whitey approaches and Rodock vows to catch the rustlers who killed Whitey. The next day, upon reaching the ranch house, Steve meets Rodock’s sweetheart, the generous and feisty Jocasta Constantine, daughter of a Greek scholar who fled war-torn Greece. Later, head wrangler McNulty warns Steve that Rodock has grown evil from “hanging sickness,” Rodock’s propensity to mete out punishment by hanging. When McNulty later tries to kiss Jocasta, she insists that she loves only Rodock, who took her in when she was a troubled, frontier, dance-hall prostitute in Cheyenne. That night after Rodock gives her a pair of sparkling earrings, Jocasta promises to stay by his side, but Rodock believes she will “stray” when someone better comes along. The next morning, after McNulty announces that the east range horses have been stolen, Rodock gathers his men to hunt down the thieves. When Jocasta protests that the hangings have corrupted him, Rodock suggests that she should leave if she cannot accept his methods. After following the thieves’ tracks for days, Rodock rides to L. A. Peterson’s ranch to ask his old horse trading partner if he has stolen the herd, but Peterson, who claims Rodock cheated him out of his share of the horse business, orders him off the land. Days later, after Jocasta rebuffs McNulty’s advances, Rodock spies the two leaving the barn within minutes of each other. Suspecting foul play, a jealous Rodock fires McNulty and, after a fistfight ensues, orders him off the land. Rodock then asks Jocasta if she knew McNulty in Cheyenne, but she reminds him that he likes her because "she wasn't born yesterday." Later, when the illiterate Steve asks her to write a letter to his mother, Jocasta tries to convince him to leave the ranch before the hangings begin to haunt him. When she then pines openly for a peaceful life in town, Steve reaches out to comfort her but realizes she is Rodock’s girl. Months later, Rodock discovers that Peterson, Hearn and Barjak are stealing his horses. Along with Steve and several other ranchhands, Rodock kills Peterson and captures and hangs Hearn, but Barjak escapes. Returning Peterson’s body to his home, Rodock offers Mrs. Peterson and Peterson’s son Lars money to maintain their ranch, but the insolent Lars promises to avenge his father’s death. Meanwhile, McNulty and Barjak devise a plan to steal Rodock’s herd and later enlist Lars in their scheme. At the ranch that night, Steve insists that because Rodock could not be sure who killed Whitey, he should not act as the judge and jury. In reply, Rodock reminds him that in unfenced, frontier territory one must make one’s own law. Jocasta protests Rodock’s vigilantism as well and leaves to comfort Steve, who professes his love for her and begs her to leave with him. After Jocasta returns to the house, a drunken Rodock jealously argues with her. Days later, Steve proposes to Jocasta, who confesses that she blames her own lack of fortitude for turning to prostitution after immigrating to America and again declares her love for Rodock. Suddenly, Rodock barges in and accuses Jocasta of having affairs with McNulty and Steve. That night, as Rodock and the ranchhands celebrate a large sale to the Fargo stagecoaches, Jocasta remains in her room preparing to leave the ranch. Days later, when Steve discovers that another herd has been stolen, he, Rodock and ranchhand Abe saddle up to track the thieves. Before Steve departs, Jocasta promises to leave the ranch with him upon his return. Successfully tracking the rustlers to a nearby valley, where they have hidden the stolen herd, Rodock, Abe and Steve hold the men at gunpoint. Rodock then learns that McNulty has filed the mares’ hoofs to bloody stumps to keep them and their foals from wandering, thus allowing McNulty to leave them unattended while he returns to town and establishes an alibi. Once the foals have grown, he plans to flee with a herd of unbranded horses. Incensed by McNulty’s cruelty, Rodock forces all three men to take off their boots and march through the rocky cactus terrain toward the Fort Whitney jail. After days of walking, the men’s torn and bloodied feet horrify Steve, who begs Rodock to stop his cruelty. When Barjak finally passes out from the pain and McNulty falls to the ground begging deliriously for mercy, Rodock orders Steve to put them back on their horses. After the proud Lars accuses Rodock of living in a life grounded in greed and cruelty, Rodock, awakened by Lars’ honesty, sets the other men free and takes Lars home, where Mrs. Peterson tells Rodock that she holds no grudge against him. When Rodock offers to give them some horses to start again, Lars bitterly refuses any help and tells him that Rodock has taught him to be compassionless. Filled with pity for the boy and for himself, Rodock returns to his ranch, where Steve tells him that he is leaving with Jocasta, who laments that Rodock knows nothing of human feelings. Crippled by her words, Rodock returns to the house and pounds out his sadness on the piano. After the couple leave, Rodock finds Jocasta’s earrings and rides out to return them to her. Meanwhile, Steve tells Jocasta about Rodock’s change of heart in dealing with the thieves and his promise to give up hunting and killing men. Just then, Rodock finds the couple and hands Jocasta the earrings as a gesture of goodwill. After Jocasta begins to cry, Steve realizes she still belongs to Rodock. Trading his favorite horse for the wagon, Rodock then proposes to Jocasta on the trail back home while Steve rides off, carrying only a memory of the couple that helped him become a man. +

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

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