The Deadly Companions (1961)

90 mins | Western | 7 June 1961

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HISTORY

In summer 1960, Pathé Laboratories announced The Deadly Companions as one of twelve upcoming pictures on its new production-distribution slate with Alpha Distributing Corp., the 29 Aug 1960 DV reported. Maureen O'Hara was cast in the leading role, and her brother, Charles B. Fitzsimons, was set to produce, as stated in a 15 Sep 1960 DV brief. According to a 9 Nov 1960 Var article, the project, budgeted at over $1 million, was slated to be the first to go into production for the newly formed Pathé-Alpha Distributing Co. Co-financing was said to be provided by Motion Picture Investors (MPI), an "exhibitor-backed investment trust," as indicated in a 25 Jan 1961 Var item. MPI, which had been formed in 1958 "to enable theatreowners to acquire stock in the film companies so that exhibitors could have a voice in policy-making," had not previously been involved in motion picture production.
       Shooting was scheduled to begin in late Dec 1960 or early Jan 1961, for a planned release in Apr or May 1961. The 18 Jan 1961 DV indicated that Universal International would handle the U.S. release, although the studio received no further mention in contemporary sources. On 23 Dec 1960, a DV news brief noted that Pathé-Alpha had recently decided to film in Pathé Color instead of black-and-white, and to increase the budget to $1.5 million. Conflicting figures for the budget were later cited in a 29 Aug 1962 Var article, which claimed the film was "brought in for $390,000," and had been partly financed by the Walter Reade Organization, which had contributed $150,000 but ... More Less

In summer 1960, Pathé Laboratories announced The Deadly Companions as one of twelve upcoming pictures on its new production-distribution slate with Alpha Distributing Corp., the 29 Aug 1960 DV reported. Maureen O'Hara was cast in the leading role, and her brother, Charles B. Fitzsimons, was set to produce, as stated in a 15 Sep 1960 DV brief. According to a 9 Nov 1960 Var article, the project, budgeted at over $1 million, was slated to be the first to go into production for the newly formed Pathé-Alpha Distributing Co. Co-financing was said to be provided by Motion Picture Investors (MPI), an "exhibitor-backed investment trust," as indicated in a 25 Jan 1961 Var item. MPI, which had been formed in 1958 "to enable theatreowners to acquire stock in the film companies so that exhibitors could have a voice in policy-making," had not previously been involved in motion picture production.
       Shooting was scheduled to begin in late Dec 1960 or early Jan 1961, for a planned release in Apr or May 1961. The 18 Jan 1961 DV indicated that Universal International would handle the U.S. release, although the studio received no further mention in contemporary sources. On 23 Dec 1960, a DV news brief noted that Pathé-Alpha had recently decided to film in Pathé Color instead of black-and-white, and to increase the budget to $1.5 million. Conflicting figures for the budget were later cited in a 29 Aug 1962 Var article, which claimed the film was "brought in for $390,000," and had been partly financed by the Walter Reade Organization, which had contributed $150,000 but was repaid $60,000 when the film was completed under budget. Walter Reade, Jr. was the head of MPI, as noted in the 12 Dec 1962 Var, which indicated that MPI, not the Walter Reade Organization, had contributed the $150,000.
       Principal photography began in Tucson, AZ, on 17 Jan 1961, as stated in a 27 Jan 1961 DV production chart. While filming was underway, an item in the 2 Feb 1961 DV announced that singer Pepe Callahan had been cast in a role, and Callahan's friend, Julio Carona, had been signed to score the picture.
       The world premiere was scheduled for 6 Jun 1961 in Tucson, as noted in a 21 Apr 1961 DV brief. According to the 14 Apr 1961 DV, 400 prints were ordered for "June-July saturation bookings," and the 7 Jun 1961 DV reported that 871 playdates had been guaranteed by exhibitors. A 7 Jun 1961 opening was planned in Los Angeles, CA, where the picture was set to be screened on a double bill with Operation Eichmann (1961, see entry). The following year, a 5 Dec 1962 DV brief referred to The Deadly Companions as a box-office "dud," and noted that it would be reissued by Mercury Films in Jan 1963 under the new title Trigger Happy. Since its initial release, the picture's commercial failure had reportedly caused MPI's net assets to drop from $337,870 to $45,971.
       In fall 1961, Pathé-Alpha, its parent company, America Corp., and others were sued for "breach of contract and accounting, fraud and conspiracy" by Advertising Engineers Corp., a Los Angeles-based advertising company, the 20 Sep 1961 DV reported. Advertising Engineers Corp. alleged that Pathé-Alpha had withheld payment for advertising and marketing services rendered, for which it had promised to pay five percent of the film's gross receipts. The plaintiff sought $1.2 million in damages.
       Sam Peckinpah, who had established himself as a television director, made his feature film directing debut with The Deadly Companions. Despite the film's lack of box-office success, a review in the 6 Jun 1961 DV called it "an auspicious debut," and the 14 Jun 1961 LAT stated, "Peckinpah has made a distinct impression with 'The Deadly Companions,' a western that is offbeat and strange but that reveals an approach as original as George Stevens' in 'Shane.'" More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Sep 1960
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
9 Nov 1960
p. 4.
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1961
p. 12.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 1961
p. 10.
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
14 Apr 1961
p. 16.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1961
p. 15.
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Sep 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1962
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jun 1961
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1961
Section B, p. 9.
Variety
9 Nov 1960
p. 4.
Variety
25 Jan 1961
p. 5.
Variety
29 Aug 1962
p. 16.
Variety
12 Dec 1962
p. 3, 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus cond
Guitar solo
Guitar solo
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prop master
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Yellowleg by Albert Sidney Fleischman (New York, 1960).
SONGS
"A Dream of Love" words and music by Marlin Skiles and Charles B. FitzSimons.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Trigger Happy
Release Date:
7 June 1961
Premiere Information:
Tucson, Arizona, premiere: 6 June 1961
Los Angeles opening: 7 June 1961
Production Date:
began 17 January 1961
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Pathé Color
Duration(in mins):
90
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the late 1860s, a former Union Army sergeant, Yellowleg, hunts down a Rebel deserter, Turk, who tried to scalp him as he lay wounded on a battlefield. He finds him in a bordertown cantina and, without revealing his true motive, persuades him and his trigger-happy sidekick, Billy, to join forces with him in robbing the bank in Gila City, Arizona. Once there, however, the men discover that other outlaws are in town for the same reason; a gun battle breaks out, and Yellowleg accidentally kills the nine-year-old son of dancehall hostess Kit Tilden. When the woman decides to bury her child next to her husband's grave in Siringo, a ghost town, the remorseful Yellowleg forces his companions to join him in accompanying Kit through the Apache-inhabited desert. However, en route, Billy is thrown out of camp for attempting to rape Kit, and Turk deserts. Shortly after arriving in Siringo, Kit and Yellowleg are rejoined by the two outlaws, who have just robbed the bank at Gila City. Yellowleg, despite his growing love for Kit, decides to take his revenge on Turk, but a shoulder wound causes him to miss his mark; instead, it is Billy who shoots Turk. The old man is only wounded, and is able to turn on his former friend and kill him. A posse arrives to take Turk back to Gila City as Kit and Yellowleg ride off ... +


In the late 1860s, a former Union Army sergeant, Yellowleg, hunts down a Rebel deserter, Turk, who tried to scalp him as he lay wounded on a battlefield. He finds him in a bordertown cantina and, without revealing his true motive, persuades him and his trigger-happy sidekick, Billy, to join forces with him in robbing the bank in Gila City, Arizona. Once there, however, the men discover that other outlaws are in town for the same reason; a gun battle breaks out, and Yellowleg accidentally kills the nine-year-old son of dancehall hostess Kit Tilden. When the woman decides to bury her child next to her husband's grave in Siringo, a ghost town, the remorseful Yellowleg forces his companions to join him in accompanying Kit through the Apache-inhabited desert. However, en route, Billy is thrown out of camp for attempting to rape Kit, and Turk deserts. Shortly after arriving in Siringo, Kit and Yellowleg are rejoined by the two outlaws, who have just robbed the bank at Gila City. Yellowleg, despite his growing love for Kit, decides to take his revenge on Turk, but a shoulder wound causes him to miss his mark; instead, it is Billy who shoots Turk. The old man is only wounded, and is able to turn on his former friend and kill him. A posse arrives to take Turk back to Gila City as Kit and Yellowleg 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.