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HISTORY

On 9 Jan 1963, DV announced that Columbia Pictures had acquired Harry Julian Fink, Jr.’s original story, Major Dundee, for director Sam Peckinpah. A few months later, the 27 Jun 1963 DV reported the casting of Charlton Heston; a 14 Dec 1969 LAT claimed Heston accepted the leading role after viewing Peckinpah’s previous Western, Ride the High Country (1962, see entry), and insisted that Peckinpah also write the screenplay. The project marked Peckinpah’s first major studio feature, which the 29 Oct 1963 LAT stated would be shot using the Panavision process.
       Casting items in the 10 Dec 1963 LAT and 14 Nov 1963, 11 Dec 1963 DV indicated that Gilbert Roland, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Henry Silva, and Art Carney were all considered for roles. Although the story was set during the U.S. Civil War, the principal cast included several international players, including Austrian actress Senta Berger, Irish Richard Harris as a Confederate captain, and Italian-German Mario Adorf, who portrayed an Apache-speaking Mexican-American. While the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) discouraged the practice of hiring foreign actors, the production avoided the necessary permits by shooting entirely on locations in Mexico. According to the 4 Mar 1964 LAT, Harris uncovered research about Irishmen participating in the Confederacy in order to convince Bresler to allow him to use his natural accent. However, the 15 Apr 1965 LAT review suggested that Harris affected a Southern drawl by criticizing his casting as an American Southerner.
       A 10 Jul 1963 DV brief reported that pre-production continued with extensive location scouts in ... More Less

On 9 Jan 1963, DV announced that Columbia Pictures had acquired Harry Julian Fink, Jr.’s original story, Major Dundee, for director Sam Peckinpah. A few months later, the 27 Jun 1963 DV reported the casting of Charlton Heston; a 14 Dec 1969 LAT claimed Heston accepted the leading role after viewing Peckinpah’s previous Western, Ride the High Country (1962, see entry), and insisted that Peckinpah also write the screenplay. The project marked Peckinpah’s first major studio feature, which the 29 Oct 1963 LAT stated would be shot using the Panavision process.
       Casting items in the 10 Dec 1963 LAT and 14 Nov 1963, 11 Dec 1963 DV indicated that Gilbert Roland, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Henry Silva, and Art Carney were all considered for roles. Although the story was set during the U.S. Civil War, the principal cast included several international players, including Austrian actress Senta Berger, Irish Richard Harris as a Confederate captain, and Italian-German Mario Adorf, who portrayed an Apache-speaking Mexican-American. While the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) discouraged the practice of hiring foreign actors, the production avoided the necessary permits by shooting entirely on locations in Mexico. According to the 4 Mar 1964 LAT, Harris uncovered research about Irishmen participating in the Confederacy in order to convince Bresler to allow him to use his natural accent. However, the 15 Apr 1965 LAT review suggested that Harris affected a Southern drawl by criticizing his casting as an American Southerner.
       A 10 Jul 1963 DV brief reported that pre-production continued with extensive location scouts in Mexico conducted by Peckinpah, art director Alfred Ybarra, and Hal Fisher. On 18 Dec 1963, DV stated that filmmakers had gained permission to dam part of the Balsas River for a crossing scene near the town of Taxco. After several delays, the 29 Jan 1964 DV issue announced that rehearsals began that day at the Columbia studios. Conflicts arose when James Coburn was called back for re-shoots on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s The Americanization of Emily, and Richard Harris was hospitalized for exhaustion. In her 3 Feb 1964 LAT column, Hedda Hopper explained that Harris fell ill because he had come directly from the set of his previous picture in Italy, where he had been working long hours.
       Principal photography began 6 Feb 1964 in the foothills just north of Durango, Mexico. According to a report in the next day’s DV, the first scene was a cavalry charge requiring 300 horses and background actors. The unit remained in Durango until 9 Mar 1964, when DV announced their departure to Mexico City. After three days of interiors at Churubusco Studios, DV reported that production moved to Tequesquitengo, Morelos. Additional filming took place in Chilpaincingo, Guerrero, until 24 Apr 1964, at which point DV stated that the unit would return to Mexico City for four additional days of interiors. Principal photography was scheduled to conclude the following week with the burning of a ranch set in La Marquesa National Park.
       The production was deeply troubled, as first indicated by a 10 Feb 1964 DV report that screenwriter Oscar Saul arrived on location, just days after filming began in Durango, to write additional scenes. The 24 Mar 1964 DV announced that editor William A. Lyon had also flown to Tehuixtla to consult with Peckinpah and Bresler early in the shoot. Items in the 19 Feb 1964 and 3 Mar 1964 editions reported that actor Brock Peters suffered a sprained hand and dislocated shoulder after being thrown from a mule, while a background actor was fatally shot “not far” from set. On 29 Apr 1964, DV stated that unit manager Andy Durkus fell ill with typhoid fever and was subsequently quarantined in his hotel to avoid spreading the disease to other members of the cast and crew. James Coburn bemoaned the experience, telling the 11 May 1964 LAT that the crew worked twenty-four hours a day to complete the picture in its final week.
       In addition, the 1 Apr 1964 Var reported that stuntman Bob Herron was hospitalized in Cuernavaca after being injured by a blank cartridge fired at close range. A 14 Nov 1964 NYT obituary stated that Bill Williams also worked on the stunt team, which the 6 Dec 1963 DV claimed consisted of twenty-five total members.
       A Columbia spokesman told the 25 May 1966 Var that the negative cost for Major Dundee totaled approximately $4 million. According to a 26 Mar 1965 DV article, however, the final price tag matched the original budget, which was closer to $4.5 million. Shortly before shooting began, Columbia requested a $1 million budget cut, and the 14 Dec 1969 LAT stated that Bresler was later ordered to remove thirty-five pages of the script. The 9 May 1964 NYT corroborated the story, claiming that Columbia hoped to make up nearly twelve days of the shooting schedule by cutting a major sequence and completing further scenes at the studio in Los Angeles, CA. Charlton Heston agreed with Peckinpah that the pages were integral to his character’s development, and argued with the producers until they relented. In an unprecedented gesture, Heston eventually returned the entirety of his $100,000 salary to the studio, acknowledging that he did not have the “legal right” to command such changes, as his contract at the time did not grant him script approval.
       According to the LAT, Columbia promised to edit the film to reflect Peckinpah and Heston’s wishes, but Peckinpah was fired for objecting to Bresler’s cuts during post-production. On 26 Mar 1965, DV reported that Peckinpah demanded his name be removed from the credits, stating, “It isn’t the picture I made.” The director revealed additional problems caused by the studio during production, such as the order to reshoot all second unit footage, being forced to travel between locations without built-in travel time, and the deferment of seventy percent of Peckinpah’s salary to keep costs down. While Peckinpah’s name appeared in the final credits, he remained uninvolved with any further decisions regarding editing and scoring. Items in the 26 Dec 1964 and 21 Jan 1965 LAT reported that Columbia hired Marvin Miller to provide voice-over narration for the film and its promotional trailers.
       Although the 16 Dec 1964 Var indicated the premiere was originally intended to take place in Texas, a 25 Mar 1965 DV brief announced that Major Dundee was scheduled to debut at the Roosevelt Theatre in Chicago, IL, on 2 Apr 1965. New York City’s “showcase” engagement began 7 Apr 1965 at the Capitol and other area theaters, followed by a citywide booking in Los Angeles venues and drive-ins on 14 Apr 1965.
       Contemporary reviews listed running times of both 134 and 124 minutes, with modern sources suggesting that additional cuts were made after the initial opening. The film received largely negative reviews, although some critics, such as Eugene Archer of the NYT, appreciated Peckinpah’s talent and realistic depiction of the Western genre.
       The picture was not a box-office success. The 25 May 1966 Var estimated domestic rentals of just $1.6 million, with foreign rentals nearing $3.5 million to date.
       Nearly forty years after Major Dundee’s release, the 11 Mar 2005 DV announced Sony Pictures Entertainment’s plans to re-issue a restored version featuring twelve minutes of added footage. Although not a “director’s cut,” the 136-minute release was considered “closer to Peckinpah’s original vision,” and contained an entirely new, eighty-minute score by Christopher Caliendo that replaced the inappropriately “upbeat” music of Daniel Amfitheatrof and Mitch Miller’s Sing Along Gang. The restoration opened 8 Apr 2005 in New York City, and 15 Apr 2005 in Los Angeles, with a DVD release later that year. A review in the 2-8 Nov 2005 issue of the Village Voice indicated that special features included a deleted scene and a featurette about stunts in the film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Nov 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
29 Jan 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1964
p. 6.
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1964
p. 10.
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1964
p. 11.
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Mar 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1965
1, 3.
Daily Variety
11 Mar 2005
p. 5, 33.
Los Angeles Times
29 Oct 1963
Section E, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
10 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1964
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1964
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1964
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1964
p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jan 1965
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
31 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1965
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
14 Apr 1965
Section D, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1965
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1969
Section R, p. 1, 30, 36.
New York Times
9 May 1964
p. 16.
New York Times
14 Nov 1964
p. 29.
New York Times
8 Apr 1965
p. 45.
Variety
1 Apr 1964
p. 86.
Variety
16 Dec 1964
p. 21.
Variety
17 Mar 1965
p. 7.
Variety
25 May 1966
p. 23.
Village Voice
2-8 Nov 2005
Section C, p. 65.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst to the prod
SOURCES
SONGS
"Major Dundee," words and music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
"Laura Lee," words and music by Liam Sullivan and Forrest Wood, sung by Mitch Miller's Sing Along Gang.
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 April 1965
Premiere Information:
Chicago premiere: 2 April 1965
New York opening: 7 April 1965
Los Angeles opening: 14 April 1965
Production Date:
6 February--late April or early May 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Jerry Bresler Productions
Copyright Date:
1 April 1965
Copyright Number:
LP30824
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé, print by Technicolor
Lenses
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
124
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the last months of the Civil War, a small band of Apaches led by Sierra Charriba attack a cavalry post in New Mexico, massacre almost the entire force, kidnap three children, and escape across the border to Mexico. Stationed nearby at an isolated fort is Major Dundee, warden of 400 Confederate prisoners, Union deserters, murderers, and thieves. Determined to wipe out Charriba's Apaches, Dundee augments his small force with renegades, Negro volunteers, and a group of Confederate prisoners who have been given the choice of fighting or being hanged for killing a prison guard. The Confederates are led by Capt. Benjamin Tyreen, an old enemy of Dundee's, who swears to kill him after their mission is completed. Once in Mexico, tension between the two men increases as Tyreen steps into Dundee's faltering command, and opposing loyalties to North and South divide the ranks. They free a village from occupying French soldiers, and the two leaders become rivals for the attentions of Teresa Santiago, the widow of a Mexican physician hanged by the French. Though wounded, Dundee leads his men into a last battle with Charriba's Apaches. A trap is set and the Indian chief is killed. With the mission accomplished, it now remains for Dundee and Tyreen to settle their own differences, but the remnants of the troop come across a French regiment; and in the ensuing battle Tyreen makes a daring lone charge and dies gallantly on the battlefield. The fighting ends, and Dundee and his 11 survivors head back across the river to the safety of their own ... +


In the last months of the Civil War, a small band of Apaches led by Sierra Charriba attack a cavalry post in New Mexico, massacre almost the entire force, kidnap three children, and escape across the border to Mexico. Stationed nearby at an isolated fort is Major Dundee, warden of 400 Confederate prisoners, Union deserters, murderers, and thieves. Determined to wipe out Charriba's Apaches, Dundee augments his small force with renegades, Negro volunteers, and a group of Confederate prisoners who have been given the choice of fighting or being hanged for killing a prison guard. The Confederates are led by Capt. Benjamin Tyreen, an old enemy of Dundee's, who swears to kill him after their mission is completed. Once in Mexico, tension between the two men increases as Tyreen steps into Dundee's faltering command, and opposing loyalties to North and South divide the ranks. They free a village from occupying French soldiers, and the two leaders become rivals for the attentions of Teresa Santiago, the widow of a Mexican physician hanged by the French. Though wounded, Dundee leads his men into a last battle with Charriba's Apaches. A trap is set and the Indian chief is killed. With the mission accomplished, it now remains for Dundee and Tyreen to settle their own differences, but the remnants of the troop come across a French regiment; and in the ensuing battle Tyreen makes a daring lone charge and dies gallantly on the battlefield. The fighting ends, and Dundee and his 11 survivors head back across the river to the safety of their own country. +

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

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