California Conquest (1952)

79-80 mins | Drama | July 1952

Director:

Lew Landers

Writer:

Robert E. Kent

Producer:

Sam Katzman

Cinematographer:

Ellis W. Carter

Editor:

Dick Fantl

Production Designer:

Paul Palmentola

Production Company:

Esskay Pictures Co.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Crimson Mask . Although a 26 Apr 1951 HR news item announced that Columbia had purchased from the estate of Douglas Fairbanks the rights to Johnston McCulley's serial story "The Curse of Capistrano" (All-Story Weekly, 9 Aug--6 Sep 1919), McCulley’s story was only the inspiration for California Conquest . Fairbanks had produced and starred in a 1920 film based on the story, The Mark of Zorro , directed by Fred Niblo and released by United Artists in 1920 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ).
       A 17 Apr 1951 HR news item indicated that Patricia Medina was considered for a leading role in California Conquest . A studio-supplied plot summary for the film, contained in the MPAA/PCA file at the AMPAS Library, credits Robert Shayne with the role of "Capt. John C. Fremont," but that role was played by George Eldredge. According to HR news items, the film was partially shot on location at Sonora, CA.
       Along with its depiction of the Mexican heritage of California, the film highlights a Russian plan to attack and assume control of the territory. Tying this subplot to contemporary fears of Russian/Communist infiltration of the United States, the Var reviewer wrote that the plot "purports to show that Russia had her eye on the rich land [of California] even back in those days...." Founded in 1781 on a Spanish grant, Los Angeles was originally known as Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles , Our Lady Queen of the Angels. In 1812 the Russians established Fort Ross along the northern ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Crimson Mask . Although a 26 Apr 1951 HR news item announced that Columbia had purchased from the estate of Douglas Fairbanks the rights to Johnston McCulley's serial story "The Curse of Capistrano" (All-Story Weekly, 9 Aug--6 Sep 1919), McCulley’s story was only the inspiration for California Conquest . Fairbanks had produced and starred in a 1920 film based on the story, The Mark of Zorro , directed by Fred Niblo and released by United Artists in 1920 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ).
       A 17 Apr 1951 HR news item indicated that Patricia Medina was considered for a leading role in California Conquest . A studio-supplied plot summary for the film, contained in the MPAA/PCA file at the AMPAS Library, credits Robert Shayne with the role of "Capt. John C. Fremont," but that role was played by George Eldredge. According to HR news items, the film was partially shot on location at Sonora, CA.
       Along with its depiction of the Mexican heritage of California, the film highlights a Russian plan to attack and assume control of the territory. Tying this subplot to contemporary fears of Russian/Communist infiltration of the United States, the Var reviewer wrote that the plot "purports to show that Russia had her eye on the rich land [of California] even back in those days...." Founded in 1781 on a Spanish grant, Los Angeles was originally known as Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles , Our Lady Queen of the Angels. In 1812 the Russians established Fort Ross along the northern coast of California as a trading and fur-trapping center. They maintained Fort Ross until 1841. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 Jun 1952.
---
Daily Variety
4 Jun 52
p. 6.
Film Daily
27 Jun 52
p. 7.
Harrison's Reports
14 Jun 52
p. 94.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1951
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1951
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1951
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1951
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1951
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 52
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 Jun 52
p. 1398.
New York Times
7 Jun 52
pp. 22-23.
Newsweek
30 Jun 1952.
---
The Exhibitor
30 Jul 52
p. 3337.
Time
23 Jun 1952.
---
Variety
11 Jun 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Crimson Mask
The Mark of Zorro
Release Date:
July 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 June 1952
Production Date:
11 June--30 June 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
2 April 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1614
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
79-80
Length(in feet):
7,133
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15501
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In the years between 1825 and 1841, California, a province of Mexico, is torn by internal strife. While France and Russia attempt to gain a foothold in the rich land, many of California's people hope to be annexed by the United States, a development that they believe would bring them freedom. One of these Californians is Don Arturo Bordega, who rides toward la Reina de Los Angeles with the intent of buying defensive weapons from gunsmith Sam Lawrence. Arturo and his servant Juan are pursued by bandits, but they manage to elude their attackers and arrive safely in Los Angeles. The don and several other Californians, including the ambitious and greedy brothers, Ernesto and Fredo Brios, plan to discuss U.S. interest in the territory with Capt. John C. Fremont at a ball that evening. As Fremont approaches Los Angeles, however, the same bandits attack his coach, killing everyone but him. At the ball that evening, Don Ernesto, who hopes to be named governor of California, seems surprised when Fremont arrives for the meeting. His head wrapped in bandages, Fremont explains that the U.S. has no intention of becoming involved in Mexico's internal conflicts. Annexation would depend on proof that the majority of Californians would support such a move. Following Fremont's departure, Don Fredo hints that Arturo is a threat to their plans, whereupon Don Ernesto challenges Arturo to a duel for having insulted him earlier that day. Their furious sword fight ends in Don Ernesto's death, but at that moment, the bandits, led by José Martinez, attack the gunsmith's shop, killing Sam and stealing his ... +


In the years between 1825 and 1841, California, a province of Mexico, is torn by internal strife. While France and Russia attempt to gain a foothold in the rich land, many of California's people hope to be annexed by the United States, a development that they believe would bring them freedom. One of these Californians is Don Arturo Bordega, who rides toward la Reina de Los Angeles with the intent of buying defensive weapons from gunsmith Sam Lawrence. Arturo and his servant Juan are pursued by bandits, but they manage to elude their attackers and arrive safely in Los Angeles. The don and several other Californians, including the ambitious and greedy brothers, Ernesto and Fredo Brios, plan to discuss U.S. interest in the territory with Capt. John C. Fremont at a ball that evening. As Fremont approaches Los Angeles, however, the same bandits attack his coach, killing everyone but him. At the ball that evening, Don Ernesto, who hopes to be named governor of California, seems surprised when Fremont arrives for the meeting. His head wrapped in bandages, Fremont explains that the U.S. has no intention of becoming involved in Mexico's internal conflicts. Annexation would depend on proof that the majority of Californians would support such a move. Following Fremont's departure, Don Fredo hints that Arturo is a threat to their plans, whereupon Don Ernesto challenges Arturo to a duel for having insulted him earlier that day. Their furious sword fight ends in Don Ernesto's death, but at that moment, the bandits, led by José Martinez, attack the gunsmith's shop, killing Sam and stealing his firearms. Sam's beautiful daughter Julia is devastated by her father's murder, and when she learns that Arturo plans to infiltrate Martinez's gang, she follows the don on horseback. Attracted to Julia and concerned for her safety, Arturo orders her to return home, but she, declaring that she is an excellent shot, is determined to avenge her father's death and joins him in pursuit of Martinez. They arrive in Monterey just in time to learn that the Brios brothers hired Martinez to steal the guns. Dressed as a poor laborer, Arturo robs Martinez of his payment and returns to Julia with the bandit in close pursuit. There he feigns admiration for Martinez, calling him the "friend of the people" for opposing the "gringo" takeover of California. Martinez is flattered and accepts Arturo and his "wife" Julia into his gang. The bandits raid and burn the ranches of many of the California landowners who favor annexation, but at each attack, Arturo secretly leaves the same note: "Be of courage." At Fort Ross, Don Fredo meets with Count Alexander Rotcheff and Princess Helena de Gagarine, the niece of the Russian czar. Because Don Fredo has paid Martinez to intimidate the landowners and secure a cache of guns, he predicts that there will be no trouble when the czar's soldiers place California under Russian protection. In return for his assistance, the Russians will make Don Fredo governor of the territory. Julia attempts to flee the Martinez gang in order to warn the local citizens of the takeover plans, but she is caught. Arturo is whipped for her transgression, after which she grabs a gun, reveals her true identity, and shoots Martinez. Julia then rides to the governor's office for help, while Arturo heads for Don Fredo's hacienda just ahead of the remaining bandits. Julia learns that the Mexican governor has no troops to defend the province from the impending Russian attack, but some of the citizens band together and head for the hacienda. Meanwhile, Arturo sneaks into Don Fredo's house and kills the don in a brutal fight. Julia and her group of citizens capture the Russian princess, but the attacking Russian soldiers outnumber the Californians. During the battle, Arturo and Julia load a powder keg onto a wagon, light the fuse, and push the wagon toward the Russians, where it explodes. With the Russian threat removed, Julia and Arturo plan their future together. +

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.