In Cold Blood (1967)

134 mins | Drama | 14 December 1967

Director:

Richard Brooks

Writer:

Richard Brooks

Producer:

Richard Brooks

Cinematographer:

Conrad Hall

Editor:

Peter Zinner

Production Designer:

Robert Boyle

Production Company:

Pax Enterprises
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HISTORY

Published in Jan 1966, Truman Capote’s true crime novel In Cold Blood quickly became a success, placing first on the NYT non-fiction bestseller list for thirteen consecutive weeks from 6 Feb—7 May 1966. However, Hollywood interest in the property preceded its release, as several sources reported competition among studios and producers, including Fred Kohlmar and Otto Preminger. According to a 12 Jan 1967 Var article, Preminger and agent Irving Lazar became involved in a physical altercation at the 21 Club in New York City when Preminger expressed his frustration with Lazar for not allowing him and Frank Sinatra to pursue the film rights. The incident resulted in Preminger being hit over the head with a highball glass, for which Lazar faced criminal charges.
       Despite high bids from other studios, the 12 Jun 1966 LAT reported that Richard Brooks and Columbia Pictures won Capote’s favor by assuring the author that their adaptation would remain faithful to the book. According to a 16 Oct 1966 NYT article, Brooks had desired to make a crime film since 1959, and assumed the roles of writer, producer, and director. The purchase price was rumored at $400,000, although some sources estimated a higher figure. A 16 Oct 1966 NYT news story noted that the deal also gave Capote a thirty percent share of the eventual box-office gross. The total budget, including acquisition fees, was set at just $2 million, with Brooks promising a cast of mostly unknown actors. The LAT quoted the filmmaker as saying, “If the picture were to cost a great deal of money, we would have to ... More Less

Published in Jan 1966, Truman Capote’s true crime novel In Cold Blood quickly became a success, placing first on the NYT non-fiction bestseller list for thirteen consecutive weeks from 6 Feb—7 May 1966. However, Hollywood interest in the property preceded its release, as several sources reported competition among studios and producers, including Fred Kohlmar and Otto Preminger. According to a 12 Jan 1967 Var article, Preminger and agent Irving Lazar became involved in a physical altercation at the 21 Club in New York City when Preminger expressed his frustration with Lazar for not allowing him and Frank Sinatra to pursue the film rights. The incident resulted in Preminger being hit over the head with a highball glass, for which Lazar faced criminal charges.
       Despite high bids from other studios, the 12 Jun 1966 LAT reported that Richard Brooks and Columbia Pictures won Capote’s favor by assuring the author that their adaptation would remain faithful to the book. According to a 16 Oct 1966 NYT article, Brooks had desired to make a crime film since 1959, and assumed the roles of writer, producer, and director. The purchase price was rumored at $400,000, although some sources estimated a higher figure. A 16 Oct 1966 NYT news story noted that the deal also gave Capote a thirty percent share of the eventual box-office gross. The total budget, including acquisition fees, was set at just $2 million, with Brooks promising a cast of mostly unknown actors. The LAT quoted the filmmaker as saying, “If the picture were to cost a great deal of money, we would have to please too many people, thereby perhaps [pleasing] very few.” Money was also saved by shooting the picture in black and white, although this was done largely for aesthetic purposes, as Brooks told the NYT that he considered color “too romantic.”
       Casting began shortly after the announcement of the Brooks-Columbia deal, with items in the 21 Jan 1966 DV and 2 Feb 1966 Var claiming that Peter Duryea and Teno Pollick were among those considered to play killers “Perry Smith” and “Dick Hickock.” A 16 Apr 1967 NYT article reported that the studio originally wanted Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, which ignited resistance from Brooks, who felt that their star personas would cloud the credibility of their performances. According to the 4 Jan 1967 LAT, eight finalists were selected from nearly 500 contenders. An 18 Nov 1966 LAT news item reported that Brooks revealed the casting of Robert Blake during a press conference at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, where Smith and Hickock were hanged for their crimes in 1965. Scott Wilson was cast shortly after the new year. Meanwhile, a 29 Dec 1966 DV brief stated that Martin Balsam was forced to turn down a supporting role due to a previous stage commitment. Items in the 10 and 12 Jun 1967 LAT listed E. A. Nicholson and Walter Beakel among the cast, but neither is credited in the final film.
       The 16 Oct 1966 NYT stated that Brooks retraced the steps of the murderers while writing the script, which rearranged Capote’s story structure for a more chronological version of events. The filmmaker refrained from consulting Capote, while the 16 Apr 1967 NYT article noted that the actors were discouraged from referring to the novel. Instead, Brooks showed them actual crime scene photographs, and never provided a completed script beyond what was being shot that day. Principal photography began in Kansas, although sources referred to conflicting start dates of 27 Feb 1967, 28 Feb 1967, and 6 Mar 1967. In accordance with his desire for realism, nearly the entire picture was filmed on location throughout the middle and western U.S., including Clutter family’s former farm in Holcomb, KS. Items in the 10 Mar 1967, 11 Apr 1967, and 15 Jun 1967 DV indicated that Kansas filming took place in Edgerton, Garden City, Kansas City, Wichita, Topeka, and Emporia. However, the 29 Nov 1966 DV reported that outgoing Kansas Governor William H. Avery denied the unit permission to film inside the Kansas State Penitentiary, and imparted the decision to Governor-elect Robert Docking. Docking also denied their appeal, forcing the company to seek an alternative site at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. According to an 11 Apr 1967 DV brief, however, interiors of the execution chambers were recreated at the Columbia studios in Hollywood, CA.
       In late May 1967, production relocated to Las Vegas, NV. A 28 May 1967 LAT article noted that two days’ work was completed at the Las Vegas Police Department, after which the 31 May 1967 Var item reported on a fifty-five-person crew working at the Sands Hotel and Casino. The 15 Jun 1967 DV announced the conclusion of production in El Paso, TX, the previous day. Publicity material in AMPAS library files gives the following credit: "Filmed with the cooperation of the People and Law Enforcement Agencies of Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and Mexico," indicating that scenes were also shot in Missouri and Mexico.
       According to a 27 Dec 1967 DV news story, Tom Shaw became the first assistant director to ever be acknowledged with his own title card in onscreen credits. In Cold Blood marked Shaw’s third project as Brooks’s assistant, and he also served in an uncredited role as production manager. Although the cinematography was in black and white, the 20 Dec 1967 Var acknowledged Technicolor’s assistance during post-production by printing arrowheads on the outer edges of the film stock, which made it easier for Brooks to find the frame lines while editing nighttime sequences.
       The week of the film’s theatrical release, the 13 Dec 1967 NYT reported that Truman Capote attended a private screening with eighty-five friends at Columbia’s New York City offices. The picture opened the following day at the Cinema I, followed by a West Coast engagement at the Bruin Theater in Westwood, CA, beginning 20 Dec 1967. A 10 Jan 1968 Var advertisement hailed its commercial success at both venues, where it broke records for the biggest three- and two-week gross, respectively.
       The adaptation of Capote’s novel was also popular among critics, and received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Cinematography, Directing, Music (Original Music Score), and Writing (Screenplay—based on material from another medium). In 2008, AFI ranked In Cold Blood #8 on its “Top 10 of 10” list of the Greatest Courtroom Dramas. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Jan 1966
p. 10.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1967
p. 10.
Daily Variety
10 Mar 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Apr 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 May 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1967
p. 10.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1967
p. 1.
Los Angeles Sentinel
12 Jun 1967
Section B, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1966
Section B, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1966
Section D, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jan 1967
Section D, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
28 May 1967
Section K, p. 1, 10.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jun 1967
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1967
Section D, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
24 Nov 1967
Section E, p. 28.
New York Times
16 Oct 1966
p. 123.
New York Times
16 Apr 1967
Section X, p. 15.
New York Times
1 Jun 1967
p. 52.
New York Times
13 Dec 1967
p. 53.
New York Times
15 Dec 1967
p. 59.
Variety
12 Jan 1966
p. 3.
Variety
2 Feb 1966
p. 20.
Variety
14 Dec 1966
p. 5.
Variety
31 Mar 1967.
---
Variety
3 May 1967
p. 20.
Variety
31 May 1967
p. 61.
Variety
20 Dec 1967
p. 11.
Variety
10 Jan 1968
p. 19.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Orch
Orch
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Ch elec
Prop master
Prop master
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (New York, 1966).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 December 1967
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 14 December 1967
Los Angeles opening: 20 December 1967
Production Date:
late February or early March--14 June 1967
Copyright Claimant:
Pax Enterprises
Copyright Date:
1 February 1968
Copyright Number:
LP35901
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
print by Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
134
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At 2:00 a.m. on November 15, 1959, in the farming town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Herbert Clutter family are roused from their sleep, bound and gagged, and then brutally murdered by two assailants. The killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, had first met in a state prison where the arrogant Dick picked out the quick-tempered Perry, aspirin-addicted as a result of the lingering pain of leg injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, as the "born killer" he needed for a partner. The robbery had been planned by Dick when a former inmate told him that Mr. Clutter kept $10,000 in a safe in his home. There was no safe, however, and the killers left with only $43. As the police, led by Alvin Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, attempt to solve the murders, the two fugitives cash a series of bad checks and make their way to Mexico, where Perry dreams of becoming a gold prospector. But the plan, like most of Perry's fantasies, comes to naught, and Dick insists that they return to the States. Confident that they have left no clues, they cash additional bad checks. Dick's prison friend has already turned informer, however, and a police dragnet has been set up. In time the two killers are apprehended in Las Vegas and subjected to intensive questioning, during which their alibis are broken by keeping them separated while they tell conflicting stories. Finally, the soles of their shoes match footprints through Mr. Clutter's blood. Swiftly brought to trial and convicted, they are sentenced to be hanged at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing; following appeals and stays of execution, they go to ... +


At 2:00 a.m. on November 15, 1959, in the farming town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Herbert Clutter family are roused from their sleep, bound and gagged, and then brutally murdered by two assailants. The killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, had first met in a state prison where the arrogant Dick picked out the quick-tempered Perry, aspirin-addicted as a result of the lingering pain of leg injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, as the "born killer" he needed for a partner. The robbery had been planned by Dick when a former inmate told him that Mr. Clutter kept $10,000 in a safe in his home. There was no safe, however, and the killers left with only $43. As the police, led by Alvin Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, attempt to solve the murders, the two fugitives cash a series of bad checks and make their way to Mexico, where Perry dreams of becoming a gold prospector. But the plan, like most of Perry's fantasies, comes to naught, and Dick insists that they return to the States. Confident that they have left no clues, they cash additional bad checks. Dick's prison friend has already turned informer, however, and a police dragnet has been set up. In time the two killers are apprehended in Las Vegas and subjected to intensive questioning, during which their alibis are broken by keeping them separated while they tell conflicting stories. Finally, the soles of their shoes match footprints through Mr. Clutter's blood. Swiftly brought to trial and convicted, they are sentenced to be hanged at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing; following appeals and stays of execution, they go to the gallows on April 14, 1965. +

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

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