The Last Hunt (1956)

103 or 108 mins | Western | 24 February 1956

Director:

Richard Brooks

Writer:

Richard Brooks

Producer:

Dore Schary

Cinematographer:

Russell Harlan

Editor:

Ben Lewis

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Merrill Pye

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The film's opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: "The M-G-M Studio is grateful to the officials of Custer State Park, the U.S. National Monument at Badlands and to Governor Joe Foss of South Dakota for their full-hearted cooperation in the making of this film. The area in which this picture was filmed maintains the largest buffalo herd in America. An annual thinning of the herd is required. We were permitted to photograph this necessary process. The shooting of the buffalo is the assignment of expert government riflemen who worked with us in the filming of the picture."
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, despite the above explanation, the Humane Society received some letters protesting the film's buffalo slaughtering scene. Rutherford T. Phillips, the executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the SPCA, responded to the complaints by saying that the slain buffalo had been earmarked for destruction because of their physical condition and were killed by a single gunshot fired by expert marksmen. Reviewers also commented on the brutality of the slaughter scene. The NYT review described the scene as "startling and slightly nauseating," but added that it was dramatically necessary because the film "aimed to display the low and demoralizing influence of a lust for slaughter upon the nature of man." In addition to the above-acknowledgment, the film includes a written foreword, stating that, due to reckless slaughter "by hunters and Indians," the number of buffalo in America had been reduced from sixty million in the 1850s, to 3,000 in the 1880s, and 500 by 1900. According to ... More Less

The film's opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: "The M-G-M Studio is grateful to the officials of Custer State Park, the U.S. National Monument at Badlands and to Governor Joe Foss of South Dakota for their full-hearted cooperation in the making of this film. The area in which this picture was filmed maintains the largest buffalo herd in America. An annual thinning of the herd is required. We were permitted to photograph this necessary process. The shooting of the buffalo is the assignment of expert government riflemen who worked with us in the filming of the picture."
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, despite the above explanation, the Humane Society received some letters protesting the film's buffalo slaughtering scene. Rutherford T. Phillips, the executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the SPCA, responded to the complaints by saying that the slain buffalo had been earmarked for destruction because of their physical condition and were killed by a single gunshot fired by expert marksmen. Reviewers also commented on the brutality of the slaughter scene. The NYT review described the scene as "startling and slightly nauseating," but added that it was dramatically necessary because the film "aimed to display the low and demoralizing influence of a lust for slaughter upon the nature of man." In addition to the above-acknowledgment, the film includes a written foreword, stating that, due to reckless slaughter "by hunters and Indians," the number of buffalo in America had been reduced from sixty million in the 1850s, to 3,000 in the 1880s, and 500 by 1900. According to modern historical sources, conservation efforts in the second half of the twentieth century has increased the number of buffalo in North America to more than 200,000.
       MPAA/PCA records also indicate that in mid-May 1955, the PCA pressured producer Dore Schary and writer/director Richard Brooks to remove any suggestion that "Charley" rapes the Indian woman, a plot element apparently included in late drafts of the script. An HR news item on 8 Jun 1955 stated that actress Liliane Montevecchi was cast as the film's female lead but she was not in the film. Although HR production charts include Anne Bancroft in the cast, according to news items, illness forced her out of the production. Bancroft was replaced by Debra Paget, who was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the picture. According to a studio pressbook contained at the AMPAS Library, Joe De Yong, a painter and expert on early western life, designed the hunter and Indian costumes for the film. The pressbook also notes that Gerald Millard, a two-year-old Native American, was reportedly found by Brooks on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation and cast in the picture, as were descendants of Sitting Bull and his followers, who were discovered on the Rapid City and Pine Ridge Reservations. Les Price, the superintendent of Custer State Park, helped organize the location filming, according to the pressbook.
       As noted in HR news items, the film was shot on location in South Dakota. A Jun 1955 HR news item announced that filming would take place at five locations in the Black Hills and one in the Badlands. Four cameras were used to shoot the buffalo stampede, which employed 1,000 animals herded by a flotilla of jeeps and wranglers, according to the pressbook. A 12 Jul 1955 HR news item noted that David Humphreys Miller, who was hired as a contributing writer for the film would also serve as a technical advisor, dialogue coach and translator for the Sioux Tribe. The news item also stated that he would paint some of the oil sketches used as publicity for the film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Mar 1956
pp. 148-49, 172-74.
Box Office
18 Feb 1956.
---
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1956
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Feb 1956
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
25 Feb 1956
p. 31.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1955
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Feb 1956
p. 786.
New York Times
1 Mar 1956
p. 37.
The Exhibitor
22 Feb 1956
p. 4110.
Variety
15 Feb 1956
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Spec cost
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Last Hunt by Milton Lott (Boston, 1954).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 February 1956
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Sioux Falls, SD: 16 February 1956
Los Angeles opening: 22 February 1956
Production Date:
27 June--early September 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 January 1956
Copyright Number:
LP6176
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
103 or 108
Length(in feet):
9,315
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17729
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

When a huge buffalo herd charges directly through his Dakota grazing lands, Sandy McKenzie can only watch helplessly as all of his cattle are killed in the stampede. Buffalo hunter Charles Gilson asks Sandy to join him in hunting buffalo, but Sandy, an ex-buffalo hunter who had abandoned the trade after growing weary of all the killing, is anything but eager to return to that line of work. Charley, a dark and volatile character, remarks that killing, as he learned during the war, is both natural and pleasurable. Realizing he has little choice, Sandy finally agrees to become Charley's partner, and in town, he hires two men to round out the party: Jimmy O'Brien, a red-headed "half-breed" who has decided to leave the reservation and live as a white man, and Woodfoot, a peg-legged alcoholic who once was known as the best mule skinner in the territory. Before the men depart, however, their mules are stolen. Charley pursues and kills the Sioux thief and his companion, then takes a beautiful woman who was with the men and her infant son back to camp, where he orders her to prepare a meal and later kisses her roughly. On the following day, Charley locates a herd of grazing buffalo and, from his position on the nearby hill, shoots until the meadow is filled with carcasses. Sandy kills even more of the magnificent beasts, but he spares a white buffalo because the animal is sacred to the Sioux. Charley, however, nonchalantly kills the beast, and when the Sioux woman sees the slaughter, she bitterly declares, "You take away our food and now you kill our religion." Unperturbed, ... +


When a huge buffalo herd charges directly through his Dakota grazing lands, Sandy McKenzie can only watch helplessly as all of his cattle are killed in the stampede. Buffalo hunter Charles Gilson asks Sandy to join him in hunting buffalo, but Sandy, an ex-buffalo hunter who had abandoned the trade after growing weary of all the killing, is anything but eager to return to that line of work. Charley, a dark and volatile character, remarks that killing, as he learned during the war, is both natural and pleasurable. Realizing he has little choice, Sandy finally agrees to become Charley's partner, and in town, he hires two men to round out the party: Jimmy O'Brien, a red-headed "half-breed" who has decided to leave the reservation and live as a white man, and Woodfoot, a peg-legged alcoholic who once was known as the best mule skinner in the territory. Before the men depart, however, their mules are stolen. Charley pursues and kills the Sioux thief and his companion, then takes a beautiful woman who was with the men and her infant son back to camp, where he orders her to prepare a meal and later kisses her roughly. On the following day, Charley locates a herd of grazing buffalo and, from his position on the nearby hill, shoots until the meadow is filled with carcasses. Sandy kills even more of the magnificent beasts, but he spares a white buffalo because the animal is sacred to the Sioux. Charley, however, nonchalantly kills the beast, and when the Sioux woman sees the slaughter, she bitterly declares, "You take away our food and now you kill our religion." Unperturbed, Charley leads the woman into his shack for the night, upsetting Sandy, who loves her. The next day, Jimmy's friend Spotted Hand offers to trade his horses for the buffalo hide, but Charley refuses and then challenges the young man to a gun battle. Spotted Hand is killed, and that night, the woman secretly gives Jimmy the sacred hide. At some distance from the camp, Jimmy uses the hide in a burial ritual for his friend. Later, Sandy asks why the woman remains with Charley, and she replies that because her people are starving, she must do whatever is required to keep the child alive. Feeling jealous of Charley and guilty at his own role in the killing of the buffalo, Sandy rides into town to sell the hides. He then gets drunk and starts a fight in the saloon, and later he inadvertently insults Peg, the dance hall girl, by suggesting that she is part Indian. Upon his return to camp, Sandy tells Woodfoot of his intention to free the Sioux woman. Several days pass, but few buffalo appear. Driven half-crazy by his desire to kill more animals, Charley mistakes the sounds of a passing thunderstorm for pounding buffalo hooves and sets out in pursuit of his prey. That night, Woodfoot gets Charley so drunk that Sandy is able to ride quietly away with the woman, but when daylight comes, Charley goes after them in a rage. Woodfoot drives Charley's horse away, an act that prompts Charley to kill him. After arriving at the reservation, Sandy learns that the Army never delivered a promised shipment of food and supplies to the Indians who live there. He and the Sioux woman ride to town for the supplies just as bitterly cold weather sets in. In town, Charley nearly kills Jimmy for refusing to speak ill of Sandy, and soon afterward, Jimmy sees Sandy and warns him of Charley's presence. Sandy, Jimmy and the woman drive a supply-laden wagon and a small herd of cattle back toward the reservation. The cold drives them into a cave for the night, but Charley arrives and shouts that when morning comes, he will kill them. The blizzard worsens, and Charley kills a buffalo and wraps himself in the hide for warmth. In the morning, however, Sandy emerges from the cave to find that Charley has frozen to death. +

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

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