The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1952)

80-81 mins | Western | May 1952

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HISTORY

The opening title card of this film reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Bret Harte's The Outcasts of Poker Flat. " Harte's story was included in his collection of short stories entitled Luck of Roaring Camp: And Other Stories (1870). Several reviews noted that the character of "Ryker" does not appear in Harte's original story, and was added by the filmmakers for additional suspense. According to a 23 Jul 1951 HR news item, Gregory Peck was originally set to star in the picture. A 2 Nov 1951 HR news item includes Drake Smith and Ed Hearn in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. According to a 7 Nov 1951 HR news item, a second-camera unit was going to shoot "snow location shots" in Northern California and "the original Bret Harte country." The actual sites of any location filming have not been determined, however.
       In Nov 1949, Var reported that David O. Selznick and Allied Artists had registered rights to Harte's story but released them to John Ford and Merian C. Cooper's Argosy Productions. That production was not realized, but other adaptations of Harte's story include the 1919 Universal production, directed by Ford and starring Harry Carey (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ) and the 1937 RKO release, directed by Christy Cabanne and starring Preston Foster and Jean Muir (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ... More Less

The opening title card of this film reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Bret Harte's The Outcasts of Poker Flat. " Harte's story was included in his collection of short stories entitled Luck of Roaring Camp: And Other Stories (1870). Several reviews noted that the character of "Ryker" does not appear in Harte's original story, and was added by the filmmakers for additional suspense. According to a 23 Jul 1951 HR news item, Gregory Peck was originally set to star in the picture. A 2 Nov 1951 HR news item includes Drake Smith and Ed Hearn in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. According to a 7 Nov 1951 HR news item, a second-camera unit was going to shoot "snow location shots" in Northern California and "the original Bret Harte country." The actual sites of any location filming have not been determined, however.
       In Nov 1949, Var reported that David O. Selznick and Allied Artists had registered rights to Harte's story but released them to John Ford and Merian C. Cooper's Argosy Productions. That production was not realized, but other adaptations of Harte's story include the 1919 Universal production, directed by Ford and starring Harry Carey (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ) and the 1937 RKO release, directed by Christy Cabanne and starring Preston Foster and Jean Muir (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 May 1952.
---
Daily Variety
5 May 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 May 52
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 51
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 51
p. 8, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 51
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
10 May 1952.
---
Motion Picture Daily
8 May 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 May 52
p. 1357.
New York Times
16 May 52
p. 19.
New Yorker
24 May 1952.
---
Variety
9 Nov 1949.
---
Variety
7 May 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by Bret Harte in The Overland Monthly (1869).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Bret Harte's The Outcasts of Poker Flat
Release Date:
May 1952
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 9 May 1952
New York opening: 15 May 1952
Production Date:
2 November--12 December 1951
addl scenes began 20 December 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
7 May 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1816
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80-81
Length(in feet):
7,250
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15663
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1800s, in the gold-mining town of Poker Flat, sadistic criminal Ryker and his henchman rob the bank and kill two passersby. While his cohorts are shot down in the street, Ryker gives the loot to his long-suffering wife Cal and orders her to stay in Poker Flat until he sends for her. The next day, the irate citizens decide to rid their town of bad influences and so banish gambler John Oakhurst, lady of the evening "Duchess" Shipton and Jake Watterson, an old drunkard. Cal is also cast out for having been seen with Ryker, although no one knows that she is married to him. Oakhurst strikes out on his own, but the women and Jake, having no one else to turn to, follow him into the mountains. Duchess hurts her ankle when a mountain lion spooks her horse, and Oakhurst, knowing that she cannot travel far in the increasing cold, searches for a cabin he vaguely remembers. Cal, who has been brutalized by her husband throughout their marriage, does not trust Oakhurst, but as they search for the cabin, they meet young Tom Dakin and his fiancée, Piney Wilson, who remember where the cabin is. Once the group is settled in the rundown shelter, Tom, who knew Oakhurst in another city, reveals that Piney is pregnant, and that they were traveling to Poker Flat to get married. A fierce snow storm hits as Cal, impressed by Oakhurst's reluctant dedication to his fellow travelers, apologizes for doubting him. The situation grows more dire when the addled Jake inadvertently scares off all of the horses. Cal's respect for Oakhurst grows when she ... +


In the mid-1800s, in the gold-mining town of Poker Flat, sadistic criminal Ryker and his henchman rob the bank and kill two passersby. While his cohorts are shot down in the street, Ryker gives the loot to his long-suffering wife Cal and orders her to stay in Poker Flat until he sends for her. The next day, the irate citizens decide to rid their town of bad influences and so banish gambler John Oakhurst, lady of the evening "Duchess" Shipton and Jake Watterson, an old drunkard. Cal is also cast out for having been seen with Ryker, although no one knows that she is married to him. Oakhurst strikes out on his own, but the women and Jake, having no one else to turn to, follow him into the mountains. Duchess hurts her ankle when a mountain lion spooks her horse, and Oakhurst, knowing that she cannot travel far in the increasing cold, searches for a cabin he vaguely remembers. Cal, who has been brutalized by her husband throughout their marriage, does not trust Oakhurst, but as they search for the cabin, they meet young Tom Dakin and his fiancée, Piney Wilson, who remember where the cabin is. Once the group is settled in the rundown shelter, Tom, who knew Oakhurst in another city, reveals that Piney is pregnant, and that they were traveling to Poker Flat to get married. A fierce snow storm hits as Cal, impressed by Oakhurst's reluctant dedication to his fellow travelers, apologizes for doubting him. The situation grows more dire when the addled Jake inadvertently scares off all of the horses. Cal's respect for Oakhurst grows when she witnesses his compassion toward the old man, but she still does not divulge the nature of her relationship to Ryker. Cal does tell Oakhurst about the loot, then offers to split it with him if he will take her to a town. After the group spends an uncomfortable night in the cabin, they awaken to discover that the snow storm has worsened, and that Piney is ill. Determined to help her, Tom decides to set out for Poker Flat on foot. Knowing that the callous townsfolk will not come without an incentive, Cal gives Tom $500 of the stolen money. Oakhurst then decides to leave on his own, and despite his attraction to the pleading Cal, refuses to take her with him. Before Oakhurst can leave, however, Cal is horrifed to see Ryker approaching the cabin. Finally admitting to Oakhurst that she is married to Ryker, Cal bitterly states that she must warn him of the possible arrival of the Poker Flat rescue party. Ryker, who was stranded by the death of his horse, is bewildered upon finding Cal in the cabin, and is suspicious of her story about being banished with the other "undesirables." Ryker then eats all of the food and orders Oakhurst to play poker with him until the storm passes. While they are playing, however, Ryker discovers that some of the loot is missing, and Cal reveals that Tom has gone for help. The infuriated Ryker then orders Cal to meet the rescue party at the door so that he can ambush them. After Ryker hustles the others into one of the bedrooms, Cal cautions them not to anger him or try to escape. Oakhurst questions her loyalties but Cal returns to Ryker, who brutally attacks her. Late that night, Oakhurst, who had used his gun to prop open the chimney flue, attempts to retrieve the weapon by digging through the brick wall separating the rooms. A noise awakens Ryker in the morning, although Oakhurst is able to hide his actions. The day drags by as the outcasts await Tom's return, and the tense Ryker beats Jake. Oakhurst taunts Ryker, telling him that he is going to starve to death along with the rest of them, and Cal gains strength from realizing that her husband is as scared as she is. When Jake disappears with a bottle of whiskey, Ryker finds him outside and shoots him, then begins to beat Cal when she snarls at him that she would leave him for Oakhurst if the gambler would have her. Having retrieved his gun, Oakhurst attempts to load it as the cabin fills with smoke. Ryker shoots the gun out of his hand, however, and as the two men fight, Piney spots Tom and a townsman approaching. Hoping to warn them of the danger, Duchess runs out of the cabin, and Ryker breaks free from the fight to shoot her in the back. Using Cal as a hostage, Ryker leaves the cabin, but she refuses to call to Tom and tell him that it is safe to approach. Oakhurst follows the couple and again fights with Ryker, whom he strangles to death. Embracing Cal, a weary Oakhurst then watches as Tom goes into the cabin to get Piney. Later, Piney, Tom and Duchess ride in a wagon to Poker Flat, while Oakhurst and Cal decide to try their luck together in a different town. +

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.