The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959)

77 or 79 mins | Western | July 1959

Director:

Ted Post

Writer:

Stan Shpetner

Producer:

Stan Shpetner

Cinematographer:

Gilbert Warrenton

Editor:

Robert S. Eisen

Production Designer:

Don Ament

Production Company:

Shpetner Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

Stan Shpetner's onscreen credit reads "written and directed by." According to a Feb 1959 "Rambling Reporter" item in HR , James Darren was considered to star in the title role. As noted by the Var review, the film was planned to capitalize on the popularity of The Kingston Trio's hit version of the traditional song "Tom Dooley," for which they won a Grammy Award.
       The film, like the song, was based on the real life character "Tom Dula." The real Tom Dula was hanged in Stateville, North Carolina on 1 May 1868 for the murder of his sweetheart, Laura Foster. Legends state that Tom's accomplice in the murder was Ann Foster Melton, with whom Tom was also having an affair. Although an Oct 1959 HR news item stated that Columbia was preparing a television series based on The Legend of Tom Dooley , that series never came to ... More Less

Stan Shpetner's onscreen credit reads "written and directed by." According to a Feb 1959 "Rambling Reporter" item in HR , James Darren was considered to star in the title role. As noted by the Var review, the film was planned to capitalize on the popularity of The Kingston Trio's hit version of the traditional song "Tom Dooley," for which they won a Grammy Award.
       The film, like the song, was based on the real life character "Tom Dula." The real Tom Dula was hanged in Stateville, North Carolina on 1 May 1868 for the murder of his sweetheart, Laura Foster. Legends state that Tom's accomplice in the murder was Ann Foster Melton, with whom Tom was also having an affair. Although an Oct 1959 HR news item stated that Columbia was preparing a television series based on The Legend of Tom Dooley , that series never came to fruition. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Jun 1959.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jun 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Jun 59
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1959
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 59
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 1959
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Jun 59
p. 309.
Variety
17 Jun 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Cam op
Still photog
Cable man
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Mikeman
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Ram rod
SOURCES
SONGS
"Tom Dooley," traditional, sung by The Kingston Trio.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1959
Production Date:
2 March--17 March 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Shpetner Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 June 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14655
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
77 or 79
Length(in feet):
6,957
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19337
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Unaware that the Civil War has ended, Confederate soldiers Tom Dooley, Abel and Country Boy attack a Union stagecoach, killing several Union soldiers in the process. As Dooley and his friends approach the stage, a wounded Confederate soldier stumbles out of the passenger compartment and, with his dying words, tells them that the war is over. Certain that he will be sentenced to hang for murder, Tom nevertheless insists on visiting his sweetheart Laura before fleeing Union territory. That night, after sneaking into Laura’s bedroom, Tom describes his plight and asks her to run away with him. Before Laura can react, Tom is called away by Country Boy, who says that Abel, who was badly wounded in the attack, needs a doctor. After Tom and his compatriots ride to see Doc Henry, Laura’s father, awakened by strange noises in the house, comes to her room and gruffly questions her. In town, Doc, who has heard about the senseless killing, refuses to treat Abel until Tom threatens him at gunpoint. From a rear room in the house, Doc’s young grandson witnesses the threat and runs to notify sheriff Joe Dobbs, who then enlists his deputy Frank and two other men to help apprehend the killers. On the street outside Doc’s office, Country Boy catches the Doc's grandson and learns that the sheriff has been alerted to their presence. Aware that the lawman’s arrival is imminent, the fugitives decide to flee, despite Doc’s warning that Abel will face certain death if he tries to ride a horse. As Tom holds the posse off with gunfire, Country Boy ties the ... +


Unaware that the Civil War has ended, Confederate soldiers Tom Dooley, Abel and Country Boy attack a Union stagecoach, killing several Union soldiers in the process. As Dooley and his friends approach the stage, a wounded Confederate soldier stumbles out of the passenger compartment and, with his dying words, tells them that the war is over. Certain that he will be sentenced to hang for murder, Tom nevertheless insists on visiting his sweetheart Laura before fleeing Union territory. That night, after sneaking into Laura’s bedroom, Tom describes his plight and asks her to run away with him. Before Laura can react, Tom is called away by Country Boy, who says that Abel, who was badly wounded in the attack, needs a doctor. After Tom and his compatriots ride to see Doc Henry, Laura’s father, awakened by strange noises in the house, comes to her room and gruffly questions her. In town, Doc, who has heard about the senseless killing, refuses to treat Abel until Tom threatens him at gunpoint. From a rear room in the house, Doc’s young grandson witnesses the threat and runs to notify sheriff Joe Dobbs, who then enlists his deputy Frank and two other men to help apprehend the killers. On the street outside Doc’s office, Country Boy catches the Doc's grandson and learns that the sheriff has been alerted to their presence. Aware that the lawman’s arrival is imminent, the fugitives decide to flee, despite Doc’s warning that Abel will face certain death if he tries to ride a horse. As Tom holds the posse off with gunfire, Country Boy ties the incapacitated Abel onto his horse. When Abel pleads to be cut free, however, Tom severs his bonds and the fugitives ride out of town under heavy fire. On the outskirts of town, when Abel falls off his horse and dies, Tom blames himself for cutting the ropes. Tom insists upon going back to get Laura, but Country Boy refuses to join him and continues on alone. The next morning at Laura’s ranch, Charlie Grayson, Laura’s jilted suitor, tries to convince her to forget Tom. Instead, Laura rebuffs Grayson and later, on the trail, Grayson comes upon Tom burying Abel’s body. When Grayson forbids Tom to see Laura again, the two men fight and Tom beats Grayson unconscious. Later, in town, a vengeful Grayson asks the sheriff to deputize him for the sole purpose of apprehending Tom, dead or alive. As Laura prepares to leave the ranch with Tom, her father arrives, pulls out his shotgun and forbids her to go, but when Laura resolves to go with Tom, he lowers his rifle. Country Boy is on his way home to Tennessee when Union soldiers, armed with a warrant for Tom Dooley and two unknown Confederate soldiers, detain him and insist on taking him to Doc for identification. Bent on capturing Tom, Grayson comes to Laura’s ranch where her father lies that she has gone to town. When Tom and Laura stop at a preacher’s house to be married, the delay gives Grayson time to follow their tracks and catch up to them. From the hills above the trail, Grayson shoots at them, forcing them to take cover. As Grayson and Tom trade gunfire, a rattlesnake strikes at Laura’s boot, causing her to cry out. When Tom comes running to comfort her, Grayson sneaks up behind them and arrests him. That night, when Country Boy and his Union captors arrive at the town stable, they learn that Tom is in jail and has been sentenced to hang. Desperate, Country Boy grabs a gun from a saddle and ties up his captors. Laura, after bidding Tom a tearful goodbye at the jail, goes to meet her father and is stopped on the street by Country Boy, now wearing the uniform of a Union officer. After telling Laura that he plans to break Tom out of jail, Country Boy instructs her to meet them at a grove of oak trees. Proceeding to the sheriff’s office, Country Boy, posing as a Union officer, shows the sheriff the federal warrant for Tom’s arrest and insists that he turn Tom over. When the sheriff hesitates, Country Boy pulls his gun and orders him to release Tom. At that moment, Doc enters the office and Country Boy locks him in a cell with the sheriff. After Tom and Country Boy escape out the back door, Doc’s grandson comes looking for his grandfather and finds him locked in a cell. At the oak grove, as Laura awaits Tom, Grayson, who has followed her there, arrives and watches as Tom appears on the horizon. Taking Laura hostage, Grayson orders Tom to drop his gun. When Tom resists, Grayson fires his weapon, alerting the sheriff and his posse to their whereabouts. In the ensuing struggle, Grayson pulls a knife and is about to attack Tom when Laura throws herself between them and is stabbed. As Tom tends the fatally wounded Laura, Country Boy shoots Grayson who, before dying, fires back, killing him. Tom, cradling Laura’s dead body in his arms, is arrested by the sheriff and his posse who take him back to town to meet his fate. +

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

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