The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

122 mins | Western | 23 June 1965

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HISTORY

On 10 Feb 1955, DV reported that Paramount Pictures had purchased The Sons of Katie Elder, a William H. Wright screenplay based on a story by Talbot Jennings, to begin development under producer Samuel J. Briskin. That summer, the 4 Aug 1955 DV named John Sturges as director, and the 25 Aug 1955 edition indicated that Frank Burt had assumed scripting duties. A 9 Nov 1955 DV brief revealed that Alan Ladd had agreed to star, thereby fulfilling a remaining commitment to Paramount.
       Early the next year, the 12 Jan 1956 DV announced that Burt had been replaced by Noel Langley, but further work was stalled until Aug, as the 17 Feb 1956 DV claimed Paramount granted Ladd permission to complete another project for his own production company in association with Warner Bros. Pictures. While Harry Essex was hired to continue working on the script, items in the 29 Jun 1956 and 3 Jul 1956 DV revealed that Ladd ultimately paid Paramount $135,000 to be released from his contract, and the project was subsequently shelved by the studio.
       Three years later, Paramount resumed its plans with new producer Hal B. Wallis. The 23 Nov 1959 DV speculated that Dean Martin may star opposite James Stewart, and a 25 Feb 1960 DV brief announced that Wallis had signed singer Rod Lauren to make his screen debut. After a few months of planning, however, the 22 Aug 1960 issue relayed Wallis’s decision to put The Sons of Katie Elder on hold once again, citing the recent influx of Western genre pictures.
       ... More Less

On 10 Feb 1955, DV reported that Paramount Pictures had purchased The Sons of Katie Elder, a William H. Wright screenplay based on a story by Talbot Jennings, to begin development under producer Samuel J. Briskin. That summer, the 4 Aug 1955 DV named John Sturges as director, and the 25 Aug 1955 edition indicated that Frank Burt had assumed scripting duties. A 9 Nov 1955 DV brief revealed that Alan Ladd had agreed to star, thereby fulfilling a remaining commitment to Paramount.
       Early the next year, the 12 Jan 1956 DV announced that Burt had been replaced by Noel Langley, but further work was stalled until Aug, as the 17 Feb 1956 DV claimed Paramount granted Ladd permission to complete another project for his own production company in association with Warner Bros. Pictures. While Harry Essex was hired to continue working on the script, items in the 29 Jun 1956 and 3 Jul 1956 DV revealed that Ladd ultimately paid Paramount $135,000 to be released from his contract, and the project was subsequently shelved by the studio.
       Three years later, Paramount resumed its plans with new producer Hal B. Wallis. The 23 Nov 1959 DV speculated that Dean Martin may star opposite James Stewart, and a 25 Feb 1960 DV brief announced that Wallis had signed singer Rod Lauren to make his screen debut. After a few months of planning, however, the 22 Aug 1960 issue relayed Wallis’s decision to put The Sons of Katie Elder on hold once again, citing the recent influx of Western genre pictures.
       Although he intended to return to the project after a year, no new developments were made until 1964, when the 25 May 1964 LAT revealed that Allan Weiss was working on yet another draft of the screenplay. Wallis reopened discussions with Dean Martin, and a 9 Jul 1964 DV news story confirmed the casting of John Wayne. The 11 Sep 1964 DV indicated that Wallis approached Van Heflin for a role, while a 22 Sep 1964 DV brief revealed that Tommy Kirk was originally selected to play “Bud Elder” before he was replaced by Michael Anderson, Jr.
       On 16 Sep 1964, John Wayne was admitted to the hospital for what DV claimed was tendon surgery for an aggravated ankle injury. Wayne confessed this was a cover, however, when he told the 30 Dec 1964 LAT that he actually underwent a procedure to remove a malignancy from his lung, and was afraid that the news would damage his professional image. The 2 Oct 1964 DV reported that Wayne was approved to return to work after recuperating in intensive care, but shooting was further delayed until Jan 1965 to allow him a full recovery while director Henry Hathaway consulted with William Bowers about additional script rewrites.
       After nearly ten years of development, principal photography finally got underway on 5 Jan 1965, as indicated by an 8 Jan 1965 DV production chart. Filming took place on locations in Durango and Mexico City, Mexico, while additional sources claimed some work was completed in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in the western part of the country. A 17 Feb 1965 DV article about the Mexican film industry revealed that the production hired fifty-five local crewmembers, fifty laborers, and two construction crews comprising of a total of forty men. Gabriel Torres served as the unit’s still photographer, while an item in the 12 Feb 1965 DV stated that Jose Villa, son of Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa, performed as a stunt double for Earl Holliman. The previous day’s DV also revealed that Dean Martin’s close friend, Mack Gray, accompanied the production using a Mexican work permit that designated him as Martin’s “recording manager.”
       Photography was completed by early spring, as suggested by a 31 Mar 1965 DV brief reporting Hathaway’s contributions to the editing process. The 21 Apr 1965 Var claimed that United Artists intended to reuse Paramount’s sets in Durango for a production titled 29 to Duell, but plans were cancelled when area villagers looted the property.
       Although not featured in the film itself, composer Elmer Bernstein wrote a pop song that borrowed the film’s title, which was performed and released by Johnny Cash in 1965.
       According to a local first-week box-office report in the 29 Jun 1965 DV, The Sons of Katie Elder had already opened for a regular engagement at the Roosevelt Theatre in Chicago, IL. By 4 Aug 1965, Var noted that the film had since enjoyed strong earnings from its few “scattered playdates” in Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C. Regular screenings began in New York City on 25 Aug 1965, and at several Los Angeles, CA, area theaters and drive-ins on 1 Sep 1965. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1955
p. 1.
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1955
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1955
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 Nov 1955
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1956
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1956
p. 14.
Daily Variety
19 Jun 1956
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1956
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1956
p. 1.
Daily Variety
23 Nov 1959
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Aug 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Jul 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1964
p. 16.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
8 Jan 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
11 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1965
p. 11.
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1964
Section D, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
30 Dec 1964
p. 1, 13.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1965
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
3 Sep 1965
Section D, p. 7.
New York Times
26 Aug 1965
p. 40.
Variety
21 Apr 1965
p. 25.
Variety
29 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Variety
21 Jul 1965
p. 51.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 15.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 56.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 June 1965
Premiere Information:
Chicago opening: 23 June 1965
New York opening: 25 August 1965
Los Angeles opening: 1 September 1965
Production Date:
began 5 January 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Hal Wallis Productions
Copyright Date:
24 June 1965
Copyright Number:
LP30968
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
122
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Katie Elder's four sons return to Clearwater, Texas, for her funeral. John, the eldest, is a notorious gunslinger, and of the four, only Bud, who has been going to college, shows signs of being responsible. The brothers learn that Pa Elder supposedly got drunk and gambled away the family ranch and was killed on the same night. They decide to investigate the peculiar circumstances and unearth the truth, despite warnings from the sheriff to stay out of trouble. Morgan Hastings and his son Dave had been the only witnesses to the events. In order to protect themselves, the Hastings kill the sheriff, and the Elder brothers, whose reputations were poor to begin with, are blamed. The deputy sheriff swears in a group of Hastings' men to take the Elders to Laredo, unaware that they have been ordered to slaughter the Elders. In the gunfight that ensues, Matt Elder and the deputy sheriff are killed; and those of Hastings' men who escape return to tell that they were ambushed by John Elder's gang. The Elders return to town to get medical attention for Bud; John tells the judge what really happened; and the judge consents to his request that the brothers surrender to a U. S. marshal. Meanwhile, Tom sneaks away and captures Dave Hastings to force from him a confession. When Morgan Hastings goes to rescue Dave, he shoots his son by mistake. Before he dies, Dave reveals that his father shot Pa Elder. Tom, who is mortally wounded, makes John responsible for Bud's upbringing. John engages Morgan Hastings in a gun duel and kills him. Mary, who was a friend of Katie Elder and a close observer of ... +


Katie Elder's four sons return to Clearwater, Texas, for her funeral. John, the eldest, is a notorious gunslinger, and of the four, only Bud, who has been going to college, shows signs of being responsible. The brothers learn that Pa Elder supposedly got drunk and gambled away the family ranch and was killed on the same night. They decide to investigate the peculiar circumstances and unearth the truth, despite warnings from the sheriff to stay out of trouble. Morgan Hastings and his son Dave had been the only witnesses to the events. In order to protect themselves, the Hastings kill the sheriff, and the Elder brothers, whose reputations were poor to begin with, are blamed. The deputy sheriff swears in a group of Hastings' men to take the Elders to Laredo, unaware that they have been ordered to slaughter the Elders. In the gunfight that ensues, Matt Elder and the deputy sheriff are killed; and those of Hastings' men who escape return to tell that they were ambushed by John Elder's gang. The Elders return to town to get medical attention for Bud; John tells the judge what really happened; and the judge consents to his request that the brothers surrender to a U. S. marshal. Meanwhile, Tom sneaks away and captures Dave Hastings to force from him a confession. When Morgan Hastings goes to rescue Dave, he shoots his son by mistake. Before he dies, Dave reveals that his father shot Pa Elder. Tom, who is mortally wounded, makes John responsible for Bud's upbringing. John engages Morgan Hastings in a gun duel and kills him. Mary, who was a friend of Katie Elder and a close observer of the recent events, assures John that Bud will survive. +

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

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