The Naked Spur (1953)

91-92 or 94 mins | Western | 6 February 1953

Director:

Anthony Mann

Producer:

William H. Wright

Cinematographer:

William C. Mellor

Editor:

George White

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The five principal actors in The Naked Spur , all of whose names appear above the title in the opening credits, are the only characters in the film, aside from non-speaking extras. The screenplay of The Naked Spur was later adapted as a novel by Allan Ullman (New York, 1953). According to a NYT news item, Ullman believed that the $5,000 bounty on "Ben Vandergroat" was unrealistically high. His research indicated that the top bounty paid for killers in 1868 was about $800, so he reduced the reward to $1,500 in the novel. A Feb 1952 item in the "Rambling Reporter" column in HR stated that M-G-M originally sought Richard Widmark for the role of Ben, and that Robert Horton had been cast in the part. Robert Ryan was borrowed from RKO for this production.
       The film was shot on location in Durango, CO. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at AMPAS Library, The Naked Spur was banned in India. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay. Many modern sources credit The Naked Spur (as well as Anthony Mann's other Westerns) with helping to redefine the genre, citing its dark psychological themes and dramatic use of open ... More Less

The five principal actors in The Naked Spur , all of whose names appear above the title in the opening credits, are the only characters in the film, aside from non-speaking extras. The screenplay of The Naked Spur was later adapted as a novel by Allan Ullman (New York, 1953). According to a NYT news item, Ullman believed that the $5,000 bounty on "Ben Vandergroat" was unrealistically high. His research indicated that the top bounty paid for killers in 1868 was about $800, so he reduced the reward to $1,500 in the novel. A Feb 1952 item in the "Rambling Reporter" column in HR stated that M-G-M originally sought Richard Widmark for the role of Ben, and that Robert Horton had been cast in the part. Robert Ryan was borrowed from RKO for this production.
       The film was shot on location in Durango, CO. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at AMPAS Library, The Naked Spur was banned in India. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay. Many modern sources credit The Naked Spur (as well as Anthony Mann's other Westerns) with helping to redefine the genre, citing its dark psychological themes and dramatic use of open landscapes. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Jan 1953.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jan 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Jan 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Feb 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 52
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 53
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Jun 53
p. 1685.
New York Times
26 Mar 53
p. 37.
New York Times
29 Mar 1953.
---
Variety
14 Jan 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Asst loc mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Collins Foster.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 February 1953
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Denver, CO: 6 February 1953
Production Date:
late May--30 June 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 January 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2297
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
91-92 or 94
Length(in feet):
8,243
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16067
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In 1868, Howard Kemp encounters an old prospector, Jesse Tate, in the Colorado Rockies. Howard says he has come from Kansas in search of a man who killed a marshal, and offers to pay Jesse twenty dollars if he will help him find the fugitive. They set off together but are soon ambushed on the trail by a man on a ledge above them, who starts a rock slide. Howard shoots at his attacker, and although the man escapes, Lt. Roy Anderson rides up in response to the shots. Roy tells Howard and Jesse he is an Indian hunter, and shows them his recent dishonorable discharge from the Cavalry. Roy succeeds in scaling the cliff and confronts the outlaw, Ben Vandergroat, but is attacked from behind by Ben's companion, Lina Patch. While the two men are struggling, Howard and Jesse come to Roy's aid and capture Ben. Jesse, who had always assumed that Howard was a sheriff, is surprised when Ben informs him there is a five-thousand dollar bounty on his head. Jesse indignantly returns his twenty-dollar fee and insists that he and Roy share in the reward money. Howard has no choice but to agree, and as the group sets off for Abilene, Ben shrewdly begins sowing discord and suspicion among his captors. After Lina rebuffs Roy's romantic advances, Ben explains that he was a friend of her late father and has made himself the young woman's guardian. That night, at the campfire, Ben chides Howard for bounty hunting, and alludes to a woman in Howard's past. The next day, Howard and Jesse sight Blackfoot Indians, and Roy admits ... +


In 1868, Howard Kemp encounters an old prospector, Jesse Tate, in the Colorado Rockies. Howard says he has come from Kansas in search of a man who killed a marshal, and offers to pay Jesse twenty dollars if he will help him find the fugitive. They set off together but are soon ambushed on the trail by a man on a ledge above them, who starts a rock slide. Howard shoots at his attacker, and although the man escapes, Lt. Roy Anderson rides up in response to the shots. Roy tells Howard and Jesse he is an Indian hunter, and shows them his recent dishonorable discharge from the Cavalry. Roy succeeds in scaling the cliff and confronts the outlaw, Ben Vandergroat, but is attacked from behind by Ben's companion, Lina Patch. While the two men are struggling, Howard and Jesse come to Roy's aid and capture Ben. Jesse, who had always assumed that Howard was a sheriff, is surprised when Ben informs him there is a five-thousand dollar bounty on his head. Jesse indignantly returns his twenty-dollar fee and insists that he and Roy share in the reward money. Howard has no choice but to agree, and as the group sets off for Abilene, Ben shrewdly begins sowing discord and suspicion among his captors. After Lina rebuffs Roy's romantic advances, Ben explains that he was a friend of her late father and has made himself the young woman's guardian. That night, at the campfire, Ben chides Howard for bounty hunting, and alludes to a woman in Howard's past. The next day, Howard and Jesse sight Blackfoot Indians, and Roy admits they have been pursuing him since he left the fort because he took advantage of the chief's daughter. Not wanting to share his fate, the others force Roy to ride off alone. The Indians approach the rest of the group peaceably, but when Roy ambushes their leader, a gun battle breaks out that leaves the Indians dead and Howard wounded in the leg. Roy rejoins the group, and when Howard passes out from the pain, they set up camp for the night. In his delirium, Howard calls Lina "Mary" and assures her he will soon be home from the war to marry her. Ben tells the others that Howard signed over his cattle ranch to a woman named Mary before going to war, only to discover upon his return that she had sold it and run away with another man. The journey continues, and one night, Ben asks Lina to distract Howard, who has begun to show tender feelings for her, so he can escape. Fearing that Ben will kill Howard otherwise, she agrees. Later, while Jesse and Roy are asleep, Lina listens as Howard talks wistfully about buying back his beloved ranch when he collects the reward money. Howard asks Lina to join him on the ranch, and they kiss. Just then, Ben attempts to escape but Roy stops him. Roy proposes that they kill Ben, but Howard is unable to shoot him in cold blood. Howard refuses to let Roy kill him either, and the following day, Ben watches with amused satisfaction as Howard fights savagely with Roy to protect him. Ben secretly offers to lead Jesse to a rich gold mine in exchange for his freedom, and as they sneak away that night, Ben insists that they take Lina with them. On the road, Ben takes Jesse's rifle and kills him, to Lina's horror. He then drags Lina to a rocky cliff from which he can easily ambush Howard and Roy. Lina tries to grab the gun, but he knocks her out, and a shootout ensues. Howard removes a spur and uses it to make his way up the rocky face of the cliff. He hurls the spur at Ben and catches him in the face just as Roy comes from the other direction and shoots the outlaw. Ben falls into the river below and is carried away by the current. Roy attempts to retrieve Ben's body from the rushing water, but is struck by a log and killed. Howard uses a rope to bring Ben ashore and flings the body over his saddle, but when Lina says she will go with him, Howard realizes what he has sunk to and weeps with disgust. After burying Ben, Howard and Lina ride off 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.