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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Affair at St. Albans . After the picture’s opening credits, a written foreword states: “This is a true story….It began on the night of September 26, 1864 in a Union prison stockade at Plattsburg, New York, not many miles from the Canadian border.” The film is loosely based on a real incident, which occurred on 19 Oct 1864, during which a group of Confederate soldiers based in Canada raided the small town of Saint Albans, VT. The raiders stole $200,000, which was eventually returned to Saint Albans by Canadian officials, although the captured soldiers were subsequently released. Protests from the United States resulted in the re-arrest of five of the soldiers, who were jailed for violating Canadian neutrality.
       According to 1948 HR news items, the rights to Herbert Ravenal Sass’s story were first purchased by RKO. An Apr 1948 Var news item reported that Richard Goldstone would produce for RKO, with Geoffrey Homes slated to write the screenplay. Other HR items note that Columbia briefly owned the rights after RKO, then sold them to Twentieth Century-Fox in Apr 1952. An Apr 1952 LAT news item announced that Richard Widmark would be starring in the film, which was to be produced by William Bloom under the supervision of Julian Blaustein. According to Dec 1952 HR news items, Joseph Newman was originally assigned to direct the picture, but he was eventually reassigned to another production. In Aug 1953, the property was given to Panoramic Productions, which produced “B” pictures for release by Fox.
       HR news items include the following ... More Less

The working title of this film was Affair at St. Albans . After the picture’s opening credits, a written foreword states: “This is a true story….It began on the night of September 26, 1864 in a Union prison stockade at Plattsburg, New York, not many miles from the Canadian border.” The film is loosely based on a real incident, which occurred on 19 Oct 1864, during which a group of Confederate soldiers based in Canada raided the small town of Saint Albans, VT. The raiders stole $200,000, which was eventually returned to Saint Albans by Canadian officials, although the captured soldiers were subsequently released. Protests from the United States resulted in the re-arrest of five of the soldiers, who were jailed for violating Canadian neutrality.
       According to 1948 HR news items, the rights to Herbert Ravenal Sass’s story were first purchased by RKO. An Apr 1948 Var news item reported that Richard Goldstone would produce for RKO, with Geoffrey Homes slated to write the screenplay. Other HR items note that Columbia briefly owned the rights after RKO, then sold them to Twentieth Century-Fox in Apr 1952. An Apr 1952 LAT news item announced that Richard Widmark would be starring in the film, which was to be produced by William Bloom under the supervision of Julian Blaustein. According to Dec 1952 HR news items, Joseph Newman was originally assigned to direct the picture, but he was eventually reassigned to another production. In Aug 1953, the property was given to Panoramic Productions, which produced “B” pictures for release by Fox.
       HR news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Bill Ash, John Goddard, Douglas Dick, George Keymas, John Beradino and Sidney Wilson. Although a 9 Oct 1953 HR news item indicated that the film was originally slated to be shot on location in Arizona, that plan was discarded. According to a Jan 1954 HR news item, the picture was partially shot on location at Sherwood Forest, CA, while a 26 May 1954 “Tradeviews” column in HR reported that “most of the shots are exteriors, photographed in the old Gone With the Wind sets out at RKO-Pathé.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Jul 1954.
---
Daily Variety
28 May 1954
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Jul 1954
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Apr 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 1952
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1952
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 1953.
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 1954
p. 9, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 1954
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1954
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1954
p. 3, 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jan 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1954
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1954
p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Jul 1954
p. 89.
New York Times
21 Aug 1954
p. 10.
Variety
29 Apr 1948.
---
Variety
2 Jun 1954
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Screen story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus comp
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Affair at St. Albans" by Herbert Ravenal Sass in The Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1947).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Affair at St. Albans
Release Date:
August 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 August 1954
Production Date:
6 January--1 February 1954 at RKO-Pathé Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
21 July 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4048
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
82-83
Length(in feet):
7,409
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16791
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On 26 September 1864, seven Confederate prisoners being held at a Union stockade in Plattsburg, New York, near the Canadian border, attempt to escape. As they open the gate, the hot-headed Lt. Keating shoots a Union soldier, and during the return fire, Capt. Lloyd Henderson is injured. Because Henderson is slowing them down, Maj. Neal Benton, the group’s leader, decides to leave him behind, much to the dismay of Capt. Frank Dwyer. The group reaches Montreal, and soon after, Neal returns to the United States, to the small town of Saint Albans, Vermont. There, Neal, posing as a prosperous merchant named Neal Swayze, ingratiates himself with banker Josiah Anderson by claiming he wants to buy land and set up a business. Neal then obtains lodgings at a boardinghouse run by Katy Bishop, a war widow and the mother of a young son, Larry. Neal has difficulties controlling his temper when confronted with the townspeople’s dispargements of the South and the Confederate Army, but nonetheless makes friends with Katy and Larry. Unaware that he is secretly charting the territory, Katy gives Neal a tour of the town and the surrounding farms, much to the chagrin of Union Army recruiter Capt. Lionel Foster, a wounded veteran who has loved Katy since childhood. Later, on 12 October, Neal returns to Montreal, where he meets with his compatriots and begins organizing their plan to raid Saint Albans. Hoping to relieve Southern troops by forcing Union soldiers to protect the northernmost states, Neal and Col. Tucker have gathered other escaped Confederate prisoners for the burning and looting of Saint Albans. Neal shows the men a mockup of the town, through which runs only ... +


On 26 September 1864, seven Confederate prisoners being held at a Union stockade in Plattsburg, New York, near the Canadian border, attempt to escape. As they open the gate, the hot-headed Lt. Keating shoots a Union soldier, and during the return fire, Capt. Lloyd Henderson is injured. Because Henderson is slowing them down, Maj. Neal Benton, the group’s leader, decides to leave him behind, much to the dismay of Capt. Frank Dwyer. The group reaches Montreal, and soon after, Neal returns to the United States, to the small town of Saint Albans, Vermont. There, Neal, posing as a prosperous merchant named Neal Swayze, ingratiates himself with banker Josiah Anderson by claiming he wants to buy land and set up a business. Neal then obtains lodgings at a boardinghouse run by Katy Bishop, a war widow and the mother of a young son, Larry. Neal has difficulties controlling his temper when confronted with the townspeople’s dispargements of the South and the Confederate Army, but nonetheless makes friends with Katy and Larry. Unaware that he is secretly charting the territory, Katy gives Neal a tour of the town and the surrounding farms, much to the chagrin of Union Army recruiter Capt. Lionel Foster, a wounded veteran who has loved Katy since childhood. Later, on 12 October, Neal returns to Montreal, where he meets with his compatriots and begins organizing their plan to raid Saint Albans. Hoping to relieve Southern troops by forcing Union soldiers to protect the northernmost states, Neal and Col. Tucker have gathered other escaped Confederate prisoners for the burning and looting of Saint Albans. Neal shows the men a mockup of the town, through which runs only one road, leading to the Canadian border. On the outskirts of town, however, lies a little-used road that also leads to the border, along which Neal has located an abandoned farmhouse. Neal plans to burn the town square and rob the banks, then retreat along the farm road, burning its wooden bridge behind them so that no one can follow. The Confederates hope that this will be the first of many raids, and so Neal assembles his men from the volunteers. Neal is reluctant to include Keating in the mission but is swayed by his promise to obey orders, and after Neal returns to Saint Albans, Robinson and Keating, posing as travelers, check into the hotel. Dwyer, pretending to be a peddler, also comes to town, while the other men move into the farmhouse, where they practice using the liquid fire bombs with which they will destroy Saint Albans. During one of their meetings, Neal prohibits the bloodthirsty Keating from shooting any civilians or burning any private homes, although Keating intimates that his attachment to the Bishops is the real reason for his order. On 17 October, moments before the raid is to begin, Neal is horrifed when two platoons of Union Cavalry unexpectedly ride into town. Knowing that they do not have sufficient numbers to defeat the Cavalry, Neal and Dwyer disperse their men and call off the raid. That night, a disappointed Keating disappears, while Neal is forced to attend a charity bazaar, at which captured Confederate “trophies” are auctioned. Neal attempts to outbid Foster for a Confederate flag, but the irate Katy wins it and later that night, gives it to Foster. Embarrassed, Foster admits to Katy that he is a coward who purposely got himself injured in order to avoid fighting, but the gentle Katy does not judge him. The following morning, Larry persuades Neal to accompany him to church, but the sermon is interrupted by a drunken Keating, who threatens to ignite the building with an explosive. Neal is forced to shoot Keating, whose Confederate identity is uncovered, and the townspeople acclaim Neal as a hero. Torn between his duty and his affection for the Bishops, Neal staggers out to the farmhouse, where he tells the men that the raid will take place the following day, after the Cavalry departs and before a regiment of Union infantry is scheduled to arrive. When Neal returns to the boardinghouse, he is met by a group of townspeople, who offer him a parcel of land in town as a reward for his actions in the church. Foster, who does not trust Neal, leaves in disgust, while Neal reluctantly accepts their gift. The following morning, after Neal has dressed in his Confederate uniform, he is found by Larry, who is heartbroken to discover that his hero is an enemy. Katy also finds Neal, who promises her that she will be safe, but before they can stop Larry, he runs away to find the departed Cavalry. Upon Neal’s signal, his men attack the town and begin to set fires and rob the banks. Despite having only one arm, Foster takes a stand in a burning building and succeeds in wounding Neal and killing several others before being captured. Katy and the other citizens applaud Foster’s bravery, and are heartened to learn from the Confederate lookout that Larry reached the Cavalry, which is quickly riding back to town. Neal forces the citizens to sit at the entrance of the town as a human blockade, but, fearing that Larry might get hurt, forbids his men to fire upon the Union soldiers. As Neal’s men race off with their wagons loaded with money, Neal and Dwyer set other wagons on fire to hinder the arriving Cavalry. Neal and Dwyer then ride off with the soldiers in pursuit, but are able to set fire to the bridge in time to escape. Back in town, while Larry cries in his mother’s arms, Katy remembers when Neal once asked her if she would understand if Confederate soldiers destroyed her town, as so many Southern towns had been destroyed by Union forces. +

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.