Mackenna's Gold (1969)

128 mins | Western | May 1969

Director:

J. Lee Thompson

Writer:

Carl Foreman

Cinematographer:

Joseph MacDonald

Editor:

Bill Lenny

Production Designer:

Geoffrey Drake

Production Company:

Highroad Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The 26 Apr 1965 LAT announced that film composer Dimitri Tiomkin joined Highroad Productions as a full-time producer, beginning with an adaptation of Will Henry’s adventure novel, Mackenna’s Gold. He also planned to write the score, but eventually left that duty to Quincy Jones.
       Mackennas’s Gold marked a reunion of Columbia Pictures, producer-screenwriter Carl Foreman, director J. Lee Thompson, producer Tiomkin, and lead actor Gregory Peck from the 1961 film The Guns of Navarone, according to the 22 Mar 1967 LAT. In addition to Peck, Omar Sharif was signed to play “John Colorado”; according to the 15 May 1967 DV, his schedule would be flexible enough for him to simultaneously star in another Columbia Pictures production, Funny Girl (1968, see entry). Mackenna’s Gold was set to be Foreman’s first production as writer and/or producer on American soil since High Noon in 1952 (see entry), because he had moved to London, England, after being blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He told the 10 Oct 1966 and 1 Feb 1967 editions of LAT, as well as the 13 Oct 1966 DV, that after scouting locations in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Algeria, and the South of France, he initially wanted to shoot Mackenna’s Gold in Spain. (He had filmed The Guns of Navarone in Greece and England.) “But the story is set in Arizona,” he said, “and the film calls for a tremendous number of spectacular backgrounds that were not available in Spain,” including “rapid rivers” and “the Grand Canyon.” Foreman and Columbia projected ... More Less

The 26 Apr 1965 LAT announced that film composer Dimitri Tiomkin joined Highroad Productions as a full-time producer, beginning with an adaptation of Will Henry’s adventure novel, Mackenna’s Gold. He also planned to write the score, but eventually left that duty to Quincy Jones.
       Mackennas’s Gold marked a reunion of Columbia Pictures, producer-screenwriter Carl Foreman, director J. Lee Thompson, producer Tiomkin, and lead actor Gregory Peck from the 1961 film The Guns of Navarone, according to the 22 Mar 1967 LAT. In addition to Peck, Omar Sharif was signed to play “John Colorado”; according to the 15 May 1967 DV, his schedule would be flexible enough for him to simultaneously star in another Columbia Pictures production, Funny Girl (1968, see entry). Mackenna’s Gold was set to be Foreman’s first production as writer and/or producer on American soil since High Noon in 1952 (see entry), because he had moved to London, England, after being blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He told the 10 Oct 1966 and 1 Feb 1967 editions of LAT, as well as the 13 Oct 1966 DV, that after scouting locations in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Algeria, and the South of France, he initially wanted to shoot Mackenna’s Gold in Spain. (He had filmed The Guns of Navarone in Greece and England.) “But the story is set in Arizona,” he said, “and the film calls for a tremendous number of spectacular backgrounds that were not available in Spain,” including “rapid rivers” and “the Grand Canyon.” Foreman and Columbia projected that shooting in America would cost $3.2 million, which was one million dollars more than it would have cost in Spain. A month later, the 9 Nov 1966 Var reported that the budget was $5 million.
       Clint Eastwood met with Carl Foreman in London to discuss Mackenna’s Gold, according to the 28 Jul 1966 DV, but was ultimately not involved with the project.
       The 29 Apr 1967 LAT announced that the film would be shot in the widescreen Cinerama format, beginning 15 May 1967 in Arizona, then moving on to Utah, Oregon, and California. Sam Jaffe and Zero Mostel were listed among the early hires, but they did not remain with the project. Mostel had to bow out because of a commitment to star in Mel Brooks’s The Producers (1968, see entry). An item in the 20 Apr 1967 DV added that Gayle Hunnicutt tested for Mackenna’s Gold, but was not a member of the cast.
       The 16 Jun 1967, 4 Aug 1967, and 12 Sep 1967 editions of LAT listed film locations as Grants Pass, OR (where filming began on 16 May 1967); Canyon de Chelly National Park and Page, both in Arizona (where shooting took place in Jun 1967); Utah; and “Lovejoy Buttes,” an area eleven miles east of Palmdale, CA. The 17 Jul 1967 DV reported that, while filming on 14 Jul 1967, twenty-six crew members had to be rescued from a flash flood in Paria Canyon, fifty miles from Kanab, UT.
       While the production was filming in Page, AZ, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart M. Udall and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his family separately visited the set, the 23 Jun 1967 and 30 Jun 1967 editions of DV noted. Kennedy was a friend of Gregory Peck’s.
       The 31 Mar 1969 LAT noted that Omar Sharif’s $400,000 salary from Mackenna’s Gold was tax free, because his native Egypt had declared him a “national resource,” exempt from taxes.
       The 1 Nov 1967 Var announced that Foreman had “just completed” filming.
       At the beginning of production, Foreman chose four young film students from the cinema arts departments of University of California (USC) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to make short films of their own about the making of the film. Three of them, George Lucas, Chuck Braverman, and David MacDougal, made a short behind-the-scenes documentary called “6-18-67.”
       McKenna’s Gold was Raymond Massey’s last feature film.
       The 4 Dec 1968 Var announced a 15 Feb 1969 world premiere in Phoenix, AZ, and a 20 Feb 1969 opening in New York, but technical problems pushed the release back several months. The 10 May 1969 Phoenix premiere, hosted by the state governor, would benefit a school on a nearby Gila River Indian reservation, the 26 Mar 1969 Var reported.
       The 19 Jun 1969 NYT review mentioned that the film opened in New York City the previous day. Although Columbia had originally planned a roadshow release in 70mm Cinerama, the picture was released as neither.
       Critical reception was largely negative. The 25 Jun 1969 LAT decried: “Not in recent years has a western arrived with such advance ballyhoo and landed with a more resounding thud.” NYT called it “a Western of truly stunning absurdity,” found it “lacking in discipline and consistent visual style,” and denounced “the sloppy matching of exterior and studio photography with miniature work for special effects.” Mostly, the reviewer criticized the movie’s “abundance of sound," stating, "It is sound so stereophonic—so all-surrounding...it dwarfs the screen.” Director of photography J. Lee Thompson had earlier told the 6 Feb 1969 LAT that the movie was “sheer adventure in six-track stereo sound. Absolutely without any ‘other dimension.’”
       A chart of the 1969 top film rentals in the U.S. and Canada in the 7 Jan 1970 Var listed Mackenna’s Gold as number thirty-one, with rentals of $3.1 million. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Apr 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
26 Apr 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
11 May 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 May 1967
p. 10.
Daily Variety
15 May 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
18 May 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
19 May 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
6 Jun 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1967
p. 15.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Jul 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1968
p. 31.
Daily Variety
7 Jun 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 May 1969
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
26 Apr 1965
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
10 Oct 1966
Section C, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
1 Feb 1967
Section E, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
22 Mar 1967
Section E, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
29 Apr 1967
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jun 1967
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1967
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
12 Sep 1967
Section D, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1967
Section C, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1969
Section H, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
31 Mar 1969
Section G, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jun 1969
Section D, p. 14.
New York Times
19 Jun 1969
p. 38.
Variety
21 Apr 1965
p. 19.
Variety
26 Jan 1966
p. 19.
Variety
9 Nov 1966
p. 4.
Variety
19 Apr 1967
p. 4.
Variety
1 Nov 1967
p. 21.
Variety
4 Dec 1968
p. 5.
Variety
26 Mar 1969
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Carl Foreman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Cam asst
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc film ed
Assoc film ed
Assoc film ed
1st asst film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Ward des
MUSIC
Mus comp
Orch
Orch
SOUND
Sd supv
Unit sd rec
Stereophonic dub
Stereophonic dub
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mackenna's Gold by Will Henry (New York, 1963).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Old Turkey Buzzard," music and lyrics by Quincy Jones and Freddy Douglass, sung by José Feliciano.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
May 1969
Premiere Information:
Phoenix, Arizona, premiere: 10 May 1969
New York opening: 18 June 1969
Los Angeles opening: 25 June 1969
Production Date:
16 May--late October 1967
Copyright Claimant:
Highroad Productions
Copyright Date:
1 May 1969
Copyright Number:
LP37136
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Technicolor
gauge
35 & 70
Widescreen/ratio
Super Panavision, see note
Duration(in mins):
128
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1874 Arizona, there is a legend that the Apache gods store sacred gold in a hidden canyon. Marshal Mackenna of Hadleyburg learns the location of the canyon when he is ambushed in the desert and forced to shoot Prairie Dog, an old Apache chief. Before dying, the Indian gives Mackenna a map of the canyon but warns him that the Apache gods keep a vigil on the spot. After memorizing and burning the map, Mackenna is captured by a band of outlaws led by the ruthless Colorado, who has as his hostage Inga, a young Swedish immigrant and the daughter of the town judge. Aware that the marshal has seen the map, Colorado threatens to murder Inga unless Mackenna leads him to the canyon; Mackenna reluctantly agrees. Before long the band is joined by a group of Hadleyburg citizens who have also caught "gold fever." This group is pursued by Apache warriors who want to use the gold to fight the white man, and by a U. S. Cavalry troop tracking Colorado. The warring factions clash, and the only survivors are Mackenna, Colorado, Inga, and two renegade Apaches--the seductive Hesh-Ke and Hachita, a silent brave. They are soon joined by Cavalry Sergeant Tibbs, who has murdered his own men in order to search for the gold. As the fortune seekers make their way toward the canyon, Hesh-Ke becomes enraged by Mackenna's attentions to Inga and is killed trying to murder her rival; Hachita, believing the Apache gods are angry, kills Tibbs but in turn is slain by Colorado; and Colorado, now that he has found the treasure, engages Mackenna in a death struggle on a narrow ledge. The ... +


In 1874 Arizona, there is a legend that the Apache gods store sacred gold in a hidden canyon. Marshal Mackenna of Hadleyburg learns the location of the canyon when he is ambushed in the desert and forced to shoot Prairie Dog, an old Apache chief. Before dying, the Indian gives Mackenna a map of the canyon but warns him that the Apache gods keep a vigil on the spot. After memorizing and burning the map, Mackenna is captured by a band of outlaws led by the ruthless Colorado, who has as his hostage Inga, a young Swedish immigrant and the daughter of the town judge. Aware that the marshal has seen the map, Colorado threatens to murder Inga unless Mackenna leads him to the canyon; Mackenna reluctantly agrees. Before long the band is joined by a group of Hadleyburg citizens who have also caught "gold fever." This group is pursued by Apache warriors who want to use the gold to fight the white man, and by a U. S. Cavalry troop tracking Colorado. The warring factions clash, and the only survivors are Mackenna, Colorado, Inga, and two renegade Apaches--the seductive Hesh-Ke and Hachita, a silent brave. They are soon joined by Cavalry Sergeant Tibbs, who has murdered his own men in order to search for the gold. As the fortune seekers make their way toward the canyon, Hesh-Ke becomes enraged by Mackenna's attentions to Inga and is killed trying to murder her rival; Hachita, believing the Apache gods are angry, kills Tibbs but in turn is slain by Colorado; and Colorado, now that he has found the treasure, engages Mackenna in a death struggle on a narrow ledge. The battle is interrupted by Apaches; their stampeding horses start an avalanche that obliterates the canyon and buries the gold. Only Mackenna, Colorado, and Inga escape. Vowing someday to find and kill Colorado, the unarmed Mackenna rides away on Sergeant Tibbs's horse, its saddlebags filled with gold. +

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

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