Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

81 mins | Drama | 7 January 1955

Director:

John Sturges

Writer:

Dalton Trumbo

Producer:

Dore Schary

Cinematographer:

William C. Mellor

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was Bad Day at Honda . A 24 Jul 1953 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that the film was originally planned as an independent feature for Joel McCrea, and added that McCrea might star in M-G-M's production. According to a 13 Aug 1953 HR news item, Sam Zimbalist was originally assigned to produce the film for M-G-M, and George Sidney was to direct Don McGuire's screenplay. The extent of McGuire's contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. A 23 Sep 1953 HR news item stated that Charles Schnee would serve as producer, and Paul Douglas was cast in an unspecified role. By 11 Nov 1953, though, HR reported that the picture was being put off "indefinitely."
       M-G-M production head Dore Schary wrote in his autobiography that he originally offered the script to Zimbalist and Pandro S. Berman, but both men declined to produce it. A biography of Spencer Tracy adds that Richard Brooks was assigned to direct but was replaced with John Sturges. When the production began on 20 Jul 1954, Sturges was at the helm. As noted in HR news items, portions of Bad Day at Black Rock were shot on location in Lone Pine, CA. Prior to the film's release, According to a 30 Nov 1954 HR news item, M-G-M and Fawcett Gold Medal Books had reached an agreement for the publication of a book based on the film to coincide with the picture's theatrical release.
       According to materials contained in the MPAA/PCA file on the film in ... More Less

The working title of this film was Bad Day at Honda . A 24 Jul 1953 item in HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that the film was originally planned as an independent feature for Joel McCrea, and added that McCrea might star in M-G-M's production. According to a 13 Aug 1953 HR news item, Sam Zimbalist was originally assigned to produce the film for M-G-M, and George Sidney was to direct Don McGuire's screenplay. The extent of McGuire's contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. A 23 Sep 1953 HR news item stated that Charles Schnee would serve as producer, and Paul Douglas was cast in an unspecified role. By 11 Nov 1953, though, HR reported that the picture was being put off "indefinitely."
       M-G-M production head Dore Schary wrote in his autobiography that he originally offered the script to Zimbalist and Pandro S. Berman, but both men declined to produce it. A biography of Spencer Tracy adds that Richard Brooks was assigned to direct but was replaced with John Sturges. When the production began on 20 Jul 1954, Sturges was at the helm. As noted in HR news items, portions of Bad Day at Black Rock were shot on location in Lone Pine, CA. Prior to the film's release, According to a 30 Nov 1954 HR news item, M-G-M and Fawcett Gold Medal Books had reached an agreement for the publication of a book based on the film to coincide with the picture's theatrical release.
       According to materials contained in the MPAA/PCA file on the film in the AMPAS Library, Joseph Breen, Vice President of the PCA, suggested that the filmmakers reconsider their use of expressions such as "Jap-lover" and "lousy Jap," but these expressions were used in the released film. Sturges received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director; Tracy for Best Actor; and Millard Kaufman for Best Adapted Screenplay. Tracy won a Golden Globe Award for acting. Bad Day at Black Rock marked the final M-G-M film for Tracy, who had been under contract to the studio for more than twenty years. The 1956 M-G-M release Tribute to a Bad Man (see below) initially starred Tracy but he withdrew during production and was replaced by James Cagney.
       Modern critics have pointed to Bad Day at Black Rock as a metaphor for the reaction to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The 1960 M-G-M film Platinum High School (see below) was loosely based on Howard Breslin's story. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Dec 1954.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1954
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Dec 1954
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
18 Dec 1954
p. 202.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1954
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1954
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Dec 1954
p. 249.
New York Times
2 Feb 1955
p. 22.
The Exhibitor
15 Dec 1954
pp. 3885-86.
Variety
15 Dec 1954
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Bad Time at Honda" by Howard Breslin in American Magazine (Jan 1947).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Bad Day at Honda
Release Date:
7 January 1955
Production Date:
20 July--21 August 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 December 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4305
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
81
Length(in feet):
7,329
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17184
SYNOPSIS

One hot summer day in 1945, when the Streamliner train stops at the remote desert town of Black Rock, Arizona, for the first time in four years, the townspeople greet the visiting stranger, a one-armed man named John J. Macreedy, with suspicion and hostility. Hastings, the telegraph agent, learns that Macreedy wants to visit nearby Adobe Flat, whereupon he immediately telephones Pete Wirth, the hotel keeper. Explaining that war restrictions make it impossible for him to let a room, Pete is flustered when Macreedy reminds him that World War II ended several months earlier. Macreedy finally settles into a room, but cowboy Hector David soon enters and, for no apparent reason, challenges him to a fight. Macreedy is baffled by the town's hostility but remains calmly determined to reach his destination. As Macreedy tries unsuccessfully to rent a car, locals Reno Smith and Coley Trimble drive up. A group of men, some of them obviously jumpy, enter the hotel lobby and begin to talk. Doc Velie wonders aloud why Smith, Coley, Hector, Pete and Sam are so worried about the stranger, but Smith silences Doc and orders Hastings to get information about Macreedy's identity from a private detective in Los Angeles. Macreedy visits the sheriff's office and finds the head lawman, Tim Horn, just waking up from a drink-induced sleep. When Macreedy mentions that he is looking for a farmer named Kumoko in Adobe Flat, Tim becomes hostile, too, and refuses to answer the stranger's questions. Smith approaches Macreedy in the street and explains that Kumoko, having arrived in Adobe Flat just before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, was soon shipped off ... +


One hot summer day in 1945, when the Streamliner train stops at the remote desert town of Black Rock, Arizona, for the first time in four years, the townspeople greet the visiting stranger, a one-armed man named John J. Macreedy, with suspicion and hostility. Hastings, the telegraph agent, learns that Macreedy wants to visit nearby Adobe Flat, whereupon he immediately telephones Pete Wirth, the hotel keeper. Explaining that war restrictions make it impossible for him to let a room, Pete is flustered when Macreedy reminds him that World War II ended several months earlier. Macreedy finally settles into a room, but cowboy Hector David soon enters and, for no apparent reason, challenges him to a fight. Macreedy is baffled by the town's hostility but remains calmly determined to reach his destination. As Macreedy tries unsuccessfully to rent a car, locals Reno Smith and Coley Trimble drive up. A group of men, some of them obviously jumpy, enter the hotel lobby and begin to talk. Doc Velie wonders aloud why Smith, Coley, Hector, Pete and Sam are so worried about the stranger, but Smith silences Doc and orders Hastings to get information about Macreedy's identity from a private detective in Los Angeles. Macreedy visits the sheriff's office and finds the head lawman, Tim Horn, just waking up from a drink-induced sleep. When Macreedy mentions that he is looking for a farmer named Kumoko in Adobe Flat, Tim becomes hostile, too, and refuses to answer the stranger's questions. Smith approaches Macreedy in the street and explains that Kumoko, having arrived in Adobe Flat just before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, was soon shipped off to a relocation camp. Just then, Pete's sister Liz drives up in her jeep, and Macreedy rents the vehicle and heads for Adobe Flat. Smith is furious with Liz, but she insists that Macreedy will surely find nothing. Tim, protesting that he never really knew what happened to Kumoko, reminds Smith that he is still the law, but Smith only laughs at him. When the private detective telegraphs that there are no records available on Macreedy, Smith orders Coley to get rid of the stranger, adding that "these maimed guys are all troublemakers, do-gooders." Pete objects to this plan, and Doc tells Tim that the town, in blindly obeying Smith for so long, has lost its self-respect. At Adobe Flat, meanwhile, Macreedy finds nothing but a burned house, a deep well and some wildflowers growing in the dirt. As he returns to town, Coley races up behind him and rams him off of the road. Shaken but unhurt, Macreedy returns to Black Rock, where Coley calls him a roadhog. Macreedy finally decides to check out, but Pete informs him that the train will not arrive until the next morning, and Liz refuses to take him to the next town. Smith drives up and asks why Macreedy would look for "a lousy Jap farmer." Macreedy remarks that because wildflowers were growing at Adobe Flat, he believes something is buried there. Convinced that Smith is going to kill him, he then tries to telephone the state police, but Pete refuses to put the call through. Doc, telling Macreedy that he is "consumed by apathy," nonetheless offers his hearse as an escape vehicle, but the wires have been tampered with and the car will not start. Macreedy then attempts to telegraph the state police about his "urgent and dangerous situation," after which he pays a visit to the local bar. Smith and Coley enter, and Coley tries repeatedly to goad Macreedy into a fight. When Coley calls Macreedy a "yellow-bellied Jap lover," Macreedy injures him with several swift judo slices to the throat and neck. He then turns to Smith and openly accuses him of having murdered Kumoko. Hastings shows Smith the wire he never sent, whereupon Macreedy accuses the telegraph agent of having committed a federal offense. Smiling, Smith leaves, and Doc exclaims that this is the town's last chance to redeem itself. Defeated, the sheriff departs, but Pete admits to Doc and Macreedy that he has never forgotten what happened four years ago. Macreedy reveals that Kumoko's son Joe died in battle in Italy trying to save his life, and that he has come to Black Rock to give Kumoko the young man's medal. Upon hearing this, Doc and Pete reveal Kumoko's fate: Smith leased Adobe Flat to Kumoko, promising good land and plenty of water. Soon realizing that Smith had cheated him, Kumoko dug a sixty-foot well, thereby infuriating Smith. When Smith was turned down by the Marine recruiting office, he returned to Black Rock and got "patriotic drunk" with Coley, Pete, Hector and Sam. The men decided to scare Kumoko, and when the farmer locked his door, Smith began shooting. Kumoko's clothes caught fire, and as he ran from the house, Smith shot him. Abruptly, Pete calls Liz and asks for her help in getting Macreedy out of town. At night, Doc and Pete knock the watchful Hector unconscious, and Macreedy jumps into Liz's waiting jeep. Liz drives Macreedy into the desert, but she soon delivers her passenger to Smith, who is waiting in the rocks with his rifle. Explaining that he wants no witnesses, Smith shoots Liz dead and then starts shooting at Macreedy as Macreedy hides behind the jeep. Macreedy fills a glass bottle with gasoline from the jeep, stuffs his tie into the neck and touches his lighter to the bottle. When he throws it at Smith, the bottle explodes, and Smith catches fire. Macreedy returns to town to find the four other murder witnesses locked in a cell. Later, as Macreedy walks to the train, Doc asks if Black Rock might have Kumoko's medal. Smiling, Macreedy gives Doc this token of courage and climbs onto the train. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.