The Hallelujah Trail (1965)

165 mins | Western, Comedy | 23 June 1965

Director:

John Sturges

Writer:

John Gay

Producer:

John Sturges

Cinematographer:

Robert Surtees

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Companies:

Kappa Corp., Mirisch Corp.
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HISTORY

The film adaptation of Bill Gulick’s 1963 novel, Hallelujah Train, was announced in a 22 May 1963 DV news item as an upcoming Mirisch Corp. production, to be directed by John Sturges. Discussing his early ideas for casting, Sturges named John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, Fred MacMurray, and Maureen O’Hara as potential candidates for leading roles. Lancaster was ultimately cast, as noted in the 3 Apr 1964 DV, which cited a $4.5 million budget and a seventy-six-day shooting schedule. Shirley MacLaine was sought to co-star, but she turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts. Actress Lee Remick was cast, instead, and the 4 Aug 1964 LAT claimed she would make her feature film singing debut by performing three hymns written for the picture by composer Elmer Bernstein.
       Location shooting was slated to take place in Gallup, NM. An article in the 1 Nov 1964 LAT stated that filmmakers arranged with a Tribal Council near Gallup to shoot on Indian reservation land. Mirisch Corp. also laid groundwork in the community by helping fund a local beard-growing contest run by the Gallup Lions Club, with plans to hire contest winners as background actors, as reported in the 1 Jun 1964 DV. The following day, a DV brief claimed the budget had risen to $6 million.
       A title change from The Hallelujah Train to The Hallelujah Trail was announced in the 9 Jul 1964 DV. United Artists (UA) decided on the change to avoid confusion with another of its releases, The Train (1965, see entry), also starring ...

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The film adaptation of Bill Gulick’s 1963 novel, Hallelujah Train, was announced in a 22 May 1963 DV news item as an upcoming Mirisch Corp. production, to be directed by John Sturges. Discussing his early ideas for casting, Sturges named John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, Fred MacMurray, and Maureen O’Hara as potential candidates for leading roles. Lancaster was ultimately cast, as noted in the 3 Apr 1964 DV, which cited a $4.5 million budget and a seventy-six-day shooting schedule. Shirley MacLaine was sought to co-star, but she turned down the role due to scheduling conflicts. Actress Lee Remick was cast, instead, and the 4 Aug 1964 LAT claimed she would make her feature film singing debut by performing three hymns written for the picture by composer Elmer Bernstein.
       Location shooting was slated to take place in Gallup, NM. An article in the 1 Nov 1964 LAT stated that filmmakers arranged with a Tribal Council near Gallup to shoot on Indian reservation land. Mirisch Corp. also laid groundwork in the community by helping fund a local beard-growing contest run by the Gallup Lions Club, with plans to hire contest winners as background actors, as reported in the 1 Jun 1964 DV. The following day, a DV brief claimed the budget had risen to $6 million.
       A title change from The Hallelujah Train to The Hallelujah Trail was announced in the 9 Jul 1964 DV. United Artists (UA) decided on the change to avoid confusion with another of its releases, The Train (1965, see entry), also starring Burt Lancaster.
       Principal photography began in Gallup on 8 Jul 1964. Filming was done in Ultra-Panavision, with plans to transfer film prints to Cinerama’s single-lens projection system. A similar process had been used for 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (see entry). One month into production, location filming was halted by heavy, unseasonable rains in New Mexico, the 3 Aug 1964 DV reported. Cast and crew returned to Hollywood, CA, where interiors were shot at the Paramount and Goldwyn studio lots, according to the 13 Aug 1964 DV. The following month, a 21 Sep 1964 DV brief stated that shooting had resumed in Gallup the previous weekend. By that point, the budget was estimated to have grown to $7 million. Local spending in Gallup amounted to $1,142, 640, according to the Gallup Chamber of Commerce, the 16 Dec 1964 Var noted.
       During location shooting, casting executive Frank Leyva facilitated the hiring of extras. Upward of 100 Navajos were hired as background actors, and Navajo Gilbert Brown was brought on to translate, eventually earning the position of assistant director. Not all Navajos were in support of the shoot, however, and at some point during production, a Navajo couple protested by driving their blue pick-up truck onto the set in the “middle of a dramatic scene,” as stated in the 1 Nov 1964 LAT.
       The 11 Nov 1964 Var announced that principal photography had ended, although some scenes involving stunts remained to be shot. Two days later, on 13 Nov 1964, stuntman Bill Williams was killed while filming a sequence that had called for him to jump from a wagon before it went over a cliff. Williams, a former rodeo performer, reportedly “missed his timing and was crushed by the wagon,” according to his 14 Nov 1964 NYT obituary. Production manager Nate H. Edwards halted filming on the day of Williams’s death, but production soon resumed and was completed on 16 Nov 1964, as reported in the 18 Nov 1964 Var.
       The final $7-million cost of the film was an estimated $1.5 million over budget. The 20 Apr 1965 DV noted UA’s intentions to spend an additional $3.5 million on prints and advertising. Preview screenings of a 181-minute version of the film were held in Minneapolis, MN, and Detroit, MI, where audience responses confirmed the need for a shorter running time. Thus, filmmakers proceeded with plans to cut the film down to its final 165-minute length.
       On the evening of 11 Jun 1965, a twenty-four-hour premiere event was scheduled to begin at the Warner Cinerama Theatre, as stated in the 2 Jun 1965 Var. An initial 8:30 p.m. screening was set to be followed by an after-party, and a 3 a.m. screening for “night people.” After the late-night screening, a breakfast was scheduled, followed by a third, morning-time screening. Independent publicists Howard Brandy and Jerry Pam, assisted by Jeff Livingston and Jerry Ludwig, helped organize the event. The Hallelujah Trail later opened to the public, as a “roadshow” attraction, at the Warner Cinerama on 23 Jun 1965. The following week, a New York City premiere was held at the Capitol Theatre on 30 Jun 1965.
       Critical reception was mixed. While the 6 Jun 1965 LAT and 16 Jun 1965 DV praised the Western spoof, the 2 Jul 1965 NYT review criticized the “slow and tedious” film as an overlong “extravagance.”
       Maxwell Hamilton served as publicity coordinator, according to the 18 Feb 1965 DV. Actors John Moya and Irving Burns were named as cast members in the 22 Jul 1964 and 28 Jul 1964 issues of DV. Moya, referred to as “George Maharis’ protégé,” was set to make his feature film acting debut in the picture; however, he was bit by a scorpion on his first day of shooting and had to be rushed to the Gallup General Hospital.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 May 1963
p. 4
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1964
p. 10
Daily Variety
5 May 1964
p. 4
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1964
p. 2
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1964
p. 1, 4
Daily Variety
8 Jun 1964
p. 1
Daily Variety
8 Jul 1964
p. 3
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1964
p. 2
Daily Variety
13 Jul 1964
p. 2
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1964
p. 5
Daily Variety
22 Jul 1964
p. 4
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1964
p. 2
Daily Variety
31 Jul 1964
p. 6
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1964
p. 3
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1964
p. 3
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1964
p. 4
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1964
p. 3
Daily Variety
24 Dec 1964
p. 1, 4
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1965
p. 4
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1965
p. 3
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1965
p. 3
Daily Variety
28 Jun 1965
p. 3
Los Angeles Sentinel
10 Jun 1965
Section B, p. 9
Los Angeles Sentinel
24 Jun 1965
Section B, p. 9
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1964
Section C, p. 9
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov 1964
Section N, p. 3
Los Angeles Times
14 Nov 1964
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Jun 1965
Section B, p. 3
Los Angeles Times
20 Jun 1965
Section B, p. 15
New York Times
14 Nov 1964
---
New York Times
1 Jul 1965
---
New York Times
2 Jul 1965
---
Variety
17 Jun 1964
p. 6
Variety
15 Jul 1964
p. 18
Variety
4 Nov 1964
p. 4
Variety
11 Nov 1964
p. 18
Variety
18 Nov 1964
p. 3
Variety
16 Dec 1964
p. 4
Variety
2 Jun 1965
p. 24
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Jack N. Reddish
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
2nd unit photog
2nd unit cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Stills
Casting
Dial coach
Constr supv
Ch elec
STAND INS
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Hallelujah Train by Bill Gulick (Garden City, N. Y., 1963).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
MUSIC
Selected works, composer undetermined, performed by Leo Shuken, Jack Hayes and Fred Steiner.
SONGS
"Hallelujah Trail," "March to Denver" and "We Will Save," words and music by Ernie Sheldon.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Hallelujah Train
Release Date:
23 June 1965
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 11 Jun 1965; Los Angeles opening: 23 Jun 1965; New York premiere: 30 Jun 1965; New York opening: 1 Jul 1965
Production Date:
8 Jul--mid Nov 1964
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Kappa Corp.
23 June 1965
LP31619
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
gauge
35 & 70
Widescreen/ratio
Ultra-Panavision
Duration(in mins):
165
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Denver is faced with a crisis before the winter of 1867 when it is discovered that there is only enough whiskey to last 10 days more. An emergency meeting is held, and Oracle Jones, who has visions when drunk, devises a plan to bring 40 wagonloads of whiskey to Denver from Julesburg before winter comes. Hobbs, a teetotaling editor, wires Cora Templeton Massingale, a temperance leader at Fort Russell, about the whiskey. Three Sioux Indians, Chief Walks-Stooped-Over, Five Barrels, and Elks-Runner, become aware of the plans of the wagon train, which is traveling under the direction of distiller Frank Wallingham. Col. Thadeus Gearhart, commander of "B" Company, U. S. Cavalry, is forced to escort the band of temperance women who are marching to intercept the whiskey train. "A" Company, under the command of Capt. Paul Slater, is to protect the whiskey train. Slater is in love with Gearhart's daughter Louise, one of the temperance ladies. The Sioux and a Denver citizens' militia under the direction of Clayton Howell are also heading for the whiskey train. Kevin O'Flaherty and his Irish teamsters stage a slow-down strike, thus leaving the train open to attack, which comes at dawn from the Indians. Suddenly during the attack, a large sandstorm comes, totally confusing everyone. No one is hurt during the battle, and the Indians agree not to disturb the train in exchange for some whiskey. The train, now traversing territory made dangerous by quicksand, is host to a temperance meeting arranged by the ladies for the Indians, who promptly kidnap the ladies and demand whiskey as a ransom. An elaborate exchange procedure is arranged. Oracle Jones persuades Wallingham to leave immediately for Denver. ...

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Denver is faced with a crisis before the winter of 1867 when it is discovered that there is only enough whiskey to last 10 days more. An emergency meeting is held, and Oracle Jones, who has visions when drunk, devises a plan to bring 40 wagonloads of whiskey to Denver from Julesburg before winter comes. Hobbs, a teetotaling editor, wires Cora Templeton Massingale, a temperance leader at Fort Russell, about the whiskey. Three Sioux Indians, Chief Walks-Stooped-Over, Five Barrels, and Elks-Runner, become aware of the plans of the wagon train, which is traveling under the direction of distiller Frank Wallingham. Col. Thadeus Gearhart, commander of "B" Company, U. S. Cavalry, is forced to escort the band of temperance women who are marching to intercept the whiskey train. "A" Company, under the command of Capt. Paul Slater, is to protect the whiskey train. Slater is in love with Gearhart's daughter Louise, one of the temperance ladies. The Sioux and a Denver citizens' militia under the direction of Clayton Howell are also heading for the whiskey train. Kevin O'Flaherty and his Irish teamsters stage a slow-down strike, thus leaving the train open to attack, which comes at dawn from the Indians. Suddenly during the attack, a large sandstorm comes, totally confusing everyone. No one is hurt during the battle, and the Indians agree not to disturb the train in exchange for some whiskey. The train, now traversing territory made dangerous by quicksand, is host to a temperance meeting arranged by the ladies for the Indians, who promptly kidnap the ladies and demand whiskey as a ransom. An elaborate exchange procedure is arranged. Oracle Jones persuades Wallingham to leave immediately for Denver. He arranges for a safe journey over the quicksand by marking a trail with his underwear, but Cora and the temperance ladies move the markers. Cora causes the horses to stampede, and the barrels containing hot champagne pop their corks, simulating gunshots. The Indians form a circle with the wagons while the cavalry rides around them. Wallingham and the train follow the marked trail and end up in the quicksand, the whiskey lost. Gearhart and Cora and Slater and Louise marry, and everyone goes home, except for Wallingham and Oracle, who sit beside the quicksand waiting for the whiskey to surface.

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

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