The Magnificent Seven (1960)

126 or 128 mins | Western | November 1960

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HISTORY

As noted in the opening credits, The Magnificent Seven was based on a 1954 Japanese film entitled The Seven Samurai , produced by Toho Company, Ltd. The now classic film was directed by Akira Kurosawa, who stated that his film was inspired by American Westerns. According to a 17 Oct 1958 DV news item, Yul Brynner registered the title The Magnificent Six when he believed one of the principals would be dropped from the film.
       As supported by contemporary news items and described in the documentary Guns for Hire: The Making of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ , which was included on the 2001 DVD edition of the film, by May 1958 Brynner’s Alciona Productions, Inc. had secured the rights to The Seven Samurai and announced that Brynner was to star in the film and United Artists would distribute it. A 22 Aug 1958 DV news item stated that producer Lou Morheim was to co-produce the film, while in the documentary, Morheim claimed that he had originally optioned the rights to The Seven Samurai and had asked actor Anthony Quinn to star. By Feb 1959, contemporary news items had reported that Quinn was on board and Brynner was set to direct, while Walter Bernstein was signed to write the screenplay and Clark Gable, Stewart Granger and Anthony Franciosa were being considered for lead roles. In Apr 1959, Martin Ritt became the director, replacing Brynner, who took the lead role, according to a LAT news item, which also noted that ... More Less

As noted in the opening credits, The Magnificent Seven was based on a 1954 Japanese film entitled The Seven Samurai , produced by Toho Company, Ltd. The now classic film was directed by Akira Kurosawa, who stated that his film was inspired by American Westerns. According to a 17 Oct 1958 DV news item, Yul Brynner registered the title The Magnificent Six when he believed one of the principals would be dropped from the film.
       As supported by contemporary news items and described in the documentary Guns for Hire: The Making of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ , which was included on the 2001 DVD edition of the film, by May 1958 Brynner’s Alciona Productions, Inc. had secured the rights to The Seven Samurai and announced that Brynner was to star in the film and United Artists would distribute it. A 22 Aug 1958 DV news item stated that producer Lou Morheim was to co-produce the film, while in the documentary, Morheim claimed that he had originally optioned the rights to The Seven Samurai and had asked actor Anthony Quinn to star. By Feb 1959, contemporary news items had reported that Quinn was on board and Brynner was set to direct, while Walter Bernstein was signed to write the screenplay and Clark Gable, Stewart Granger and Anthony Franciosa were being considered for lead roles. In Apr 1959, Martin Ritt became the director, replacing Brynner, who took the lead role, according to a LAT news item, which also noted that Glenn Ford had agreed to appear in the picture.
       By Aug 1959, Brynner had sold the project to The Mirisch Company, who in turn hired Walter Newman to write the screenplay and arranged to co-produce the film with Alpha Productions, John Sturges’ company. The Magnificent Seven was Sturges’ first credit as a producer, the first film for Alpha Productions and the first collaboration between Alpha and The Mirisch Company, a partnership which led to many co-ventures. By Dec 1959, Dean Jones was considered for a role and executive producer Walter Mirisch had hired Steve McQueen, an actor already known for his role in the 1958—1961 television series Wanted Dead or Alive . In the documentary, McQueen’s then wife, Neile Adams, stated that McQueen faked a car accident in order to gain time off the series to do the film. Sturges’ final cast selections were complicated by the Screen Actors Guild strike, which ran from 7 Mar to 18 Apr 1960.
       According to a 4 Feb 1960 HR news item, Mirisch-Alpha sought a court agreement with Morheim to exclude him from the project, but provide compensation amounting to five percent of the film’s profits and a $10,000 salary. A 2 Mar 1960 DV article stated that, after Sturges demanded sole producer credit, Morheim sued Mirisch and UA for onscreen credit and to be able to participate in the film. By 23 Aug 1960, HR reported that an out of court settlement had been reached in which Morheim was given financial compensation and an “associate producer” credit, but excluded from participation. According to a 3 Feb 1960 HR news item, Quinn sued Alciona and Brynner over being excluded from the project, to which he claimed he had already contributed and in which he was supposed to star. Quinn lost the suit, but in 1964 filed suit against UA, Mirisch and Alpha Productions. The outcome of that suit is unknown.
       Writer Newman was not credited onscreen, and a modern source claims that he was so unhappy that William Roberts was hired to doctor his script on location in Mexico that he insisted on having his name removed from the credits. According to a 10 Apr 1960 NYT article, Mirisch-Alpha budgeted $2,000,000 for the film, which began shooting on 29 Feb 1960, and shot on two village sets built by art director Edward FitzGerald, one in Tepoztlan, Mexico and the other in Oacalco, Mexico. All interior shooting took place at Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City. The article also noted that the village chapel was made of pâpier maché and adorned with two fake pigeons to encourage others to nest there and make the structure appear authentic.
       An international group of actors fleshed out the cast. Horst Buchholz, a German, made his American film debut as the Mexican “Chico.” The role, according to the 10 Apr 1960 NYT article, was created to appease the Mexican government, by placing a Mexican character as one of the seven. Mexican actor Rosenda Monteros made her American film debut in the The Magnificent Seven . Prominent cinematographer John Alonzo (1934--2001), who began his career as an actor, made his feature film debut in The Magnificent Seven , credited onscreen as "John Alonso." Jan, Feb and Mar 1960 HR news items add David Renard, Joe Ruskin, Larry Duran, Chuck Hayward and Beatriz Flores Castro to the cast; however, their appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
       According to interviews in Guns for Hire , the presence of a Mexican censor on the production caused tension and ensured some scene changes. A 20 May 1960 NYT article confirmed that one required change was that character of the “old man” was not to advise the villagers to hire gunmen. The revised script, instead, has the old man suggest that the villagers buy guns and defend their town to the death and then has the villagers vainly try to buy them at the border, until “Chris” suggests they hire gunmen instead.
       The Mirisch Company produced and UA distributed three sequels to the film: 1966’s Return of the Seven (see below) starring Yul Brynner and Robert Fuller and directed by Burt Kennedy; 1969’s Guns of the Magnificent Seven (see above) starring George Kennedy and James Whitmore and directed by Paul Wendkos and the 1972 production The Magnificent Seven Ride! (see below), starring Lee Van Cleef and Stefanie Powers and directed by George McCowan. In addition, M-G-M produced a 1998-2000 television series starring Michael Biehn and Eric Close, with guest star appearances by Robert Vaughn.
       Many contemporary reviews of the film were not supportive, including the NYT , which stated that the film was “a pallid, pretentious and overlong reflection of the Japanese original.” According to the documentary, UA later rereleased The Magnificent Seven with better results; however, box-office results of this rerelease have not been determined. Over the years, many critics and film historians have come to rank the film as one of the best Westerns of all time. Elmer Bernstein’s stirring score was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Exodus (see above). The theme reached iconographic status with fans and film music historians and was made popular through its use in radio and television advertising for Marlboro Cigarettes, which, as noted in a 24 May 1966 NYT article, bought the rights to the theme from UA. In Jun 2006, the Weinstein Co. announced that it was in negotiations to remake Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai , with Zhang Ziyi being considered to star. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Oct 1960.
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Cue
26 Nov 1960.
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Daily Cinema
27 Feb 1961.
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Daily Variety
13 May 1958.
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Daily Variety
22 Aug 1958.
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Daily Variety
17 Oct 1958.
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Daily Variety
8 Nov 1958.
---
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1958.
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Daily Variety
2 Mar 1960.
---
Daily Variety
5 Oct 60
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1964
p. 15.
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1965.
---
Film Daily
6 Oct 60
p. 6.
Filmfacts
1960
pp. 282-84.
Hollywood Citizen-News
30 May 1960.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1959.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1959
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1959
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1960
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1960
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1960
p. 3, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1960
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1960
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 1960
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Feb 1960
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1960
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1960
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1960
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1960.
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Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 60
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
29 Jan 1959.
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Los Angeles Examiner
24 Nov 1960.
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Los Angeles Times
16 May 1958.
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Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1959.
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Los Angeles Times
27 Apr 1959.
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Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1959.
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Los Angeles Times
30 Oct 1960.
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Los Angeles Times
25 Nov 1960.
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Los Angeles Times
3 Dec 1960.
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Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Oct 60
p. 876.
New Republic
13 Aug 1962.
---
New York Times
10 Apr 1960.
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New York Times
20 May 1960.
---
New York Times
24 Nov 60
p. 48.
New York Times
24 May 1966.
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Newsweek
31 Oct 1960.
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Saturday Review
5 Nov 1960.
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Time
12 Dec 1960.
---
Variety
3 Feb 1960.
---
Variety
5 Oct 60
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mirisch-Alpha Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr cont
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the Japanese film Shichinin no samurai , written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni (Toho Company, Ltd. 1954).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Magnificent Six
Release Date:
November 1960
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles opening: 23 November 1960
Production Date:
29 February--3 May 1960 at Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch-Alpha
Copyright Date:
12 October 1960
Copyright Number:
LP18010
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
126 or 128
Length(in reels):
14
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When ruthless bandit leader Calvera and his forty men raid the Mexican village of Ixcatlan for food and goods, the villagers, used to Calvera's harvest-time plundering, keep quiet with the exception of one outraged farmer, whom Calvera summarily shoots. After the banditos leave, the villagers, barely able to survive on what remains but unable to fight the banditos, seek the advice of the old man, a village elder, who tells them to buys guns at the border and learn how to use them. When the three-man delegation from Ixcatlan led by Hilario arrives at a border town to buy guns, they are awed by gunslingers Chris and Vin, who offer to drive a carriage carrying the body of an Indian through town when the funeral director refuses to transport it for fear of the bigoted citizens’ reprisals. After witnessing Chris and Vin easily outdraw the angered townsmen as they make their way to the graveyard, the delegation asks Chris to buy guns for them, explaining that the Mexican rurales cannot guard the village from Calvera's repeated plundering. Chris instead offers to round up a team of gunmen, even though the villagers can only afford to pay $20 pay for six weeks’ work. As word spreads, young, impetuous Chico, inspired by Vin and Chris’s triumphant carriage ride, asks for the job, but is humiliated when he fails Chris's test to determine if Chico is a quick draw. Soon after, jovial gold hunter Harry Luck, assuming that there must be some hidden treasure which the other gunslingers will split, joins the team, as well as Vin and the brawny war veteran O'Reilly. The next day, Chris watches as expert knife-thrower and ... +


When ruthless bandit leader Calvera and his forty men raid the Mexican village of Ixcatlan for food and goods, the villagers, used to Calvera's harvest-time plundering, keep quiet with the exception of one outraged farmer, whom Calvera summarily shoots. After the banditos leave, the villagers, barely able to survive on what remains but unable to fight the banditos, seek the advice of the old man, a village elder, who tells them to buys guns at the border and learn how to use them. When the three-man delegation from Ixcatlan led by Hilario arrives at a border town to buy guns, they are awed by gunslingers Chris and Vin, who offer to drive a carriage carrying the body of an Indian through town when the funeral director refuses to transport it for fear of the bigoted citizens’ reprisals. After witnessing Chris and Vin easily outdraw the angered townsmen as they make their way to the graveyard, the delegation asks Chris to buy guns for them, explaining that the Mexican rurales cannot guard the village from Calvera's repeated plundering. Chris instead offers to round up a team of gunmen, even though the villagers can only afford to pay $20 pay for six weeks’ work. As word spreads, young, impetuous Chico, inspired by Vin and Chris’s triumphant carriage ride, asks for the job, but is humiliated when he fails Chris's test to determine if Chico is a quick draw. Soon after, jovial gold hunter Harry Luck, assuming that there must be some hidden treasure which the other gunslingers will split, joins the team, as well as Vin and the brawny war veteran O'Reilly. The next day, Chris watches as expert knife-thrower and gunslinger Britt easily wins a draw with a deadly knife throw and considers him for the team. At a bar that night, an enraged Chico holds Chris at gunpoint and orders him to draw, but Chris quietly refuses the challenge until the boy collapses from drunkenness. Soon after Britt joins the group, the well-dressed but destitute Lee offers his services in attempt to regain his nerve, which he has lost while on the run from his enemies. Days later, as the delegation, joined by the six gunslingers, rides toward Ixcatlan, they notice Chico following and Chris, softened by the young man's resolve, finally motions for him to join them. When they are greeted with silence as they enter the village, Chris accepts the villagers' fearful reluctance, but Chico angrily rages at them for their cowardice. The next day, the seven attend a town celebration and notice that all the village women are missing. Soon after, Chris learns that three of Calvera's men are nearby and sends Britt and Lee to bring the men back alive. However, Chico ruins the plan by shooting one of the banditos, forcing Britt to kill the second and third men, who were fast escaping on horseback. When an amazed Chico compliments him on his long-distance shot, an irritated Britt tells him that it was “the worst. I was aiming for the horse.” Later at the village, Chris observes that Calvera probably sent the men ahead to scout for the coming raid and reassures the villagers that they will have time to train before Calvera’s men arrive in force. Over several days, the seven use the dead men’s weapons to coach the farmers in how to shoot. One afternoon, Chico catches the strident young Petra, who is spying on him as he tests his bullfighting skills against a tame farm animal, and learns that the villagers have hidden their women for fear of the gunslingers raping them. After warning the village men that the women have more to fear from Calvera than from the gunslingers, Chris orders Chico to bring the women back. That night Petra and others petulantly serve the men food, but when the seven learn the village is starving on a few meager beans, they give their servings away. The next day, after the boys on guard signal that the enemy is approaching, Chris, Britt and Vin stand in the middle of town to meet Calvera, who does not flinch at finding gunslingers there. Instead, he offers to share the village spoils with the seven in exchange for standing down, but when Chris orders him to "ride on,” a gunfight erupts. Unprepared for the onslaught, Calvera and his men try to escape but are trapped by newly built nets and rock walls erected by the villagers, thus enabling the villagers and gunslingers to pick off many of the banditos. That night, as the mild-mannered Sotero and other villagers toast the seven on their success, shots interrupt the jubilant occasion, forcing Chris to send O'Reilly, Vin and Sotero to track the sharpshooters. While searching for the men, Sotero tells Vin that he is committed to protecting his family, and Vin openly envies Sotero’s bond with his family, which neither he nor the other six have. Meanwhile, disobeying her father's orders against talking to the gunslingers, a love-struck Petra begs Chico to be careful. Later that night, Chico, wanting to prove himself to the others, touts the gunslinger lifestyle as the stuff of legends. While Chris reminds them, as hired gunmen, they are beholden to no one, Vin laments that he has no family and Lee adds that they have no enemies, because they are dead. When Lee awakens screaming from a nightmare about his enemies, two villagers reassure him that "only the dead are without fear." Meanwhile, three young boys adopt the Mexican-Irish O'Reilly, promising that they will avenge his death and put flowers on his grave if he should die in battle. Harry is convinced that the villagers must be hiding ancient treasure, which is rumored to be buried in the nearby mountains. Believing that this is the real reason for Calvera’s return, Harry tries to entreat the village men into gambling. Meanwhile, Chico, hiding his face under a sombrero, infiltrates the Calvera camp and surprises the six when he reports back that Calvera will attack soon because his men are starving. The villagers fight among themselves about whether to surrender to save their families, while Chris argues with his men about their chance of success. Later, Chico boasts to Petra about his new life as a roving gunslinger, but his resolve quickly weakens as she kisses him. That evening, after Chris and his men find the Calvera camp empty when they attempt to steal their horses, the seven return to the village and are immediately surrounded by Calvera's men, who have been tipped off by the cowardly Sotero. Although he could easily kill them, Calvera decides to spare their lives to avoid alerting the United States police to his operation. After publicly ordering them to leave their guns, Calvera quietly offers to return the weapons once the seven are out of town and asks why they became involved with the villagers, unable to believe the gunslingers would have any motivation other than money. As he lays down his gun, Vin cryptically explains with a joke: When someone asked a man why he threw himself into a prickly pear cactus, the man simply replied that it “seemed to be a good idea at the time.” Before the seven leave, O'Reilly explains to his boys that they should respect their fathers, who are brave to carry the burden of family responsibility, something O'Reilly has never had the courage to do. That night, after the seven are escorted out of town and given their guns, Chico explodes in anger about the villagers’ betrayal, but Chris reminds him that his hatred stems from being the son of just such a Mexican villager. The next day, after Harry, tired of fighting without the hope of riches, leaves the group, the remaining six ride into town and begin a shootout with the banditos. Wounded, Vin drags himself into a store, while Harry, having changed his mind, rides into town and is shot. Following Vin, Chris drags Harry into the store, where he soothes the dying man with a story of imaginary riches. Meanwhile, Lee finally draws and shoots four of Calvera's men, but is then killed. Spurred by the seven's sacrifice, the villagers, including the women, come out of hiding and beat Calvera's men with every chair and stick available. Meanwhile, Chris wounds Calvera, who, with his dying breath, continues to express his disbelief that the seven had any reason to return. After Britt takes out four banditos with perfectly aimed shots, he dies from a wound sustained in the battle. O'Reilly's boys find their hero, who begs them to emulate their fathers, then dies from a wound suffered before their young eyes. By the end of the battle, the remaining banditos are finally driven from town, but the old man sagely announces to those remaining of the seven, Chris, Vin and Chico, that only the farmers have won. As they ride out of town, the astute Chris turns to Chico, tells him "adios” and watches as Chico returns to Petra, for whom he lays down his holster. As they pause to look back on the village, Chris tells Vin that the old man was right, only the farmers have won, not the gunslingers, who will always lose. +

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

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