The Naked Dawn (1955)

82 mins | Drama | November 1955

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Bandit . According to a DV news item, independent producer Josef Shaftel bought the rights to the screenplay from Sol Lesser in Feb 1954. Shaftel shot the film around Los Angeles, CA, from 25 Mar to 12 Apr 1954. Eight days were spent at Corriganville Movie Ranch and the Chatsworth railroad station, and another eight days at Republic Studios.
       According to a Mar 1955 DV item, Shaftel sold the distribution rights to Universal. According to a Mar 1955 HR news item, the studio considered changing the film's title to I Love a Stranger . Although Nina and Herman Schneider were given screen credit for the screenplay, the film was actually written by blacklisted writer Julian Zimet, Herman Schneider's brother-in-law. According to a HR article, Zimet's credit was restored by the WGA in 1997. An Apr 1954 HR production chart adds Tony Martinez to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       The Naked Dawn is considered by some modern critics to be the best of director Edgar G. Ulmer's films. Modern sources note that the picture inspired François Truffaut's French New Wave classic, Jules et Jim ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Bandit . According to a DV news item, independent producer Josef Shaftel bought the rights to the screenplay from Sol Lesser in Feb 1954. Shaftel shot the film around Los Angeles, CA, from 25 Mar to 12 Apr 1954. Eight days were spent at Corriganville Movie Ranch and the Chatsworth railroad station, and another eight days at Republic Studios.
       According to a Mar 1955 DV item, Shaftel sold the distribution rights to Universal. According to a Mar 1955 HR news item, the studio considered changing the film's title to I Love a Stranger . Although Nina and Herman Schneider were given screen credit for the screenplay, the film was actually written by blacklisted writer Julian Zimet, Herman Schneider's brother-in-law. According to a HR article, Zimet's credit was restored by the WGA in 1997. An Apr 1954 HR production chart adds Tony Martinez to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       The Naked Dawn is considered by some modern critics to be the best of director Edgar G. Ulmer's films. Modern sources note that the picture inspired François Truffaut's French New Wave classic, Jules et Jim . More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Jul 1955.
---
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1954.
---
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1955.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jul 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
4 Aug 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1997.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Jul 55
p. 538.
Variety
27 Jul 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
SOURCES
SONGS
"Ai Hombre," words and music by Herschel Burke Gilbert and William Copeland.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Bandit
Release Date:
November 1955
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 2 November 1955
Production Date:
late March--early April 1954 at Keystone Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
24 June 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5186
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
up to 2:1
Duration(in mins):
82
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17034
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Mexico, two bandits, Santiago and Vicente, rob a stopped train of its cargo of boxed watches. When a guard shoots Vicente, Santiago shoots him and helps Vicente escape. In the hills, Santiago comforts the dying Vicente by recounting their tale, in which the two friends are forced into a life a crime because of Mexico's frequently changing political alliances, which led them to be imprisoned, even though they were innocent of any wrongdoing. Santiago assures Vicente that in heaven, San Pedro will realize that their jail escape and thefts were performed out of necessity, and will give them their due. After Vicente dies, Santiago buries him and travels on alone. One day he spots a lovely woman, Maria Lopez, gathering water at a stream, and follows her home. Santiago meets her husband Manuelo, a poor young farmer struggling to settle his land. At dinner, Maria reveals to Santiago, to whom she feels drawn, that she was a servant who was sold to Manuelo along with the land. Later that night, Santiago offers Manuelo cash to drive him to a nearby town. They stop at a U.S. Customs office, where Santiago delivers the stolen watches to the shipping agent, Gunts. He asks Gunts why he failed to meet him and Vicente at the train as promised, but Gunts dismisses his concerns. Upon discovering that Vicente has died, Gunts insists that he will pay only half the fee, after which Santiago calmly forces him at gunpoint to put a noose around his neck and step up on a chair. As Manuelo cowers in fear, Santiago kicks the chair out from under Gunts long enough to terrify him into giving them ... +


In Mexico, two bandits, Santiago and Vicente, rob a stopped train of its cargo of boxed watches. When a guard shoots Vicente, Santiago shoots him and helps Vicente escape. In the hills, Santiago comforts the dying Vicente by recounting their tale, in which the two friends are forced into a life a crime because of Mexico's frequently changing political alliances, which led them to be imprisoned, even though they were innocent of any wrongdoing. Santiago assures Vicente that in heaven, San Pedro will realize that their jail escape and thefts were performed out of necessity, and will give them their due. After Vicente dies, Santiago buries him and travels on alone. One day he spots a lovely woman, Maria Lopez, gathering water at a stream, and follows her home. Santiago meets her husband Manuelo, a poor young farmer struggling to settle his land. At dinner, Maria reveals to Santiago, to whom she feels drawn, that she was a servant who was sold to Manuelo along with the land. Later that night, Santiago offers Manuelo cash to drive him to a nearby town. They stop at a U.S. Customs office, where Santiago delivers the stolen watches to the shipping agent, Gunts. He asks Gunts why he failed to meet him and Vicente at the train as promised, but Gunts dismisses his concerns. Upon discovering that Vicente has died, Gunts insists that he will pay only half the fee, after which Santiago calmly forces him at gunpoint to put a noose around his neck and step up on a chair. As Manuelo cowers in fear, Santiago kicks the chair out from under Gunts long enough to terrify him into giving them the combination to the safe. His pockets now loaded with money, Santiago takes Manuelo to a local dance hall, where they drink, dance and fight. At home, where they are all to sleep in one room, Manuelo informs Santiago that if the money was his, he would use it to build his farm rather than wasting it on liquor and women. Angry, Santiago throws some of the bills on the floor and stalks outside to sleep in the barn. When Maria berates Manuelo for insulting their guest, Manuelo beats her and then devises a plan to kill the drifter and steal his money. Trembling, he sneaks out to the barn, but Santiago, hearing a noise, lays in wait. Upon seeing Manuelo, Santiago assumes the young man has come out to apologize, and his kindness strips Manuelo of his drunken courage. The next morning, when Santiago comes inside for breakfast, Maria asks him to tell her about the places he has visited. When he paints glowing pictures of Vera Cruz, she throws herself at his feet and begs him to take her with him, but he then admits that the reality of his life is bleak and lonely. She cries that even being hungry and cold would be better than her current life, but Santiago harshly informs her that he would grow tired of her. Shaken, he prepares to leave the farm, but first stops to say goodbye to Manuelo. The younger man is waiting in the well pit with his gun drawn, but just as Santiago approaches, a rattlesnake climbs into the pit. Santiago shoots it, saving Manuelo, who falls to his knees, begging forgiveness for thinking about killing him. Furious, Santiago almost shoots Manuelo when Maria races out and pleads with him to spare her husband, if only to keep himself out of jail so they can run away together. Santiago agrees, and although Manuelo promises Maria everything will change if she stays, she leaves with Santiago. Immediately, however, they hear a car approach the farm and ride back in time to witness Gunts and two policemen preparing to hang Manuelo for the safe robbery. Santiago shoots Gunts and the police run away. He then instructs Manuelo to join Maria on her horse and tells them he will meet them down the road. Just as they leave, however, Gunts stirs and shoots Santiago in the back. Santiago kills Gunts but, realizing he is mortally wounded, joins Manuelo and Maria long enough to urge them to reconcile and ride ahead of him. As soon as they ride off together, he collapses, repeating to himself that in heaven, San Pedro will award him the peaceful life that he deserves. +

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.