Cowboy (1958)

89 or 92 mins | Western | March 1958

Director:

Delmer Daves

Producer:

Julian Blaustein

Cinematographer:

Charles "Bud" Lawton

Production Designer:

Cary Odell

Production Company:

Phoenix Pictures
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Frontier and Reminiscences of a Cowboy . The film's title cards are presented against a background of bold blocks of color. Some of the titles are embedded in a Chicago newspaper page, while others are interspersed with animated drawings of cattle brands, stars in the sky and cows. Frank Harris (1856-1931) was an Irish-born writer who immigrated to the United States in 1869. Harris was known for his novels, short stories and studies of Shakespeare. He also wrote biographies of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, but perhaps his best known work was the multi-volumed novel My Life and Loves (1922-27).
       According to a May 1953 HR news item, John Huston originally owned the screen rights to Harris' semi-autobiographical novel On the Trail: My Reminiscences as a Cowboy , and was planning to star his father Walter Huston in the film. When Walter died in 1949, the project was abandoned. A Jan 1953 DV news item adds that the Huston production was also to star Montgomery Clift. The same news item announced that writer-producer Ranald MacDougall was assigned the Columbia project, that would also star Clift. By Jun 1954, a HR news item announced that Peter Viertel was rewriting the script, and that Jerry Wald would produce the film with Spencer Tracy as its star. A Jul 1956 LAT news item adds that Alan Ladd and Gary Cooper were mentioned for the male leads.
       A Feb 1958 HR news item noted that a single recording written by George Duning and ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Frontier and Reminiscences of a Cowboy . The film's title cards are presented against a background of bold blocks of color. Some of the titles are embedded in a Chicago newspaper page, while others are interspersed with animated drawings of cattle brands, stars in the sky and cows. Frank Harris (1856-1931) was an Irish-born writer who immigrated to the United States in 1869. Harris was known for his novels, short stories and studies of Shakespeare. He also wrote biographies of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, but perhaps his best known work was the multi-volumed novel My Life and Loves (1922-27).
       According to a May 1953 HR news item, John Huston originally owned the screen rights to Harris' semi-autobiographical novel On the Trail: My Reminiscences as a Cowboy , and was planning to star his father Walter Huston in the film. When Walter died in 1949, the project was abandoned. A Jan 1953 DV news item adds that the Huston production was also to star Montgomery Clift. The same news item announced that writer-producer Ranald MacDougall was assigned the Columbia project, that would also star Clift. By Jun 1954, a HR news item announced that Peter Viertel was rewriting the script, and that Jerry Wald would produce the film with Spencer Tracy as its star. A Jul 1956 LAT news item adds that Alan Ladd and Gary Cooper were mentioned for the male leads.
       A Feb 1958 HR news item noted that a single recording written by George Duning and Dickson Hall entitled "Song of the Cowboy" was released simultaneously with the film's soundtrack. That song was not performed in the picture, however. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Editing, and directors Delmer Daves and Sam Nelson were nominated for a Screen Director's Guild Award for their work on Cowboy . An Aug 2000 HR news item noted that the WGA had restored the credit of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who co-wrote the film with Edmund H. North. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Feb 58
p. 22.
Box Office
24 Feb 1958.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1953.
---
Daily Variety
11 Feb 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Feb 58
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1954.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 1957
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4-6 Aug 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1957,
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Feb 58
p. 716.
New York Times
20 Feb 58
p. 29.
Variety
12 Feb 58
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
2d unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
SOUND
Rec supv
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Title des
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel On the Trail
My Reminiscences as a Cowboy by Frank Harris (London, 1930).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Reminiscences of a Cowboy
Frontier
Release Date:
March 1958
Premiere Information:
Oklahoma City premiere: 7 January 1958
New York opening: 19 February 1958
Production Date:
14 June--26 July 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Phoenix Pictures
Copyright Date:
10 March 1958
Copyright Number:
LP11335
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
89 or 92
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18818
SYNOPSIS

When the manager of a luxurious Chicago hotel learns of the imminent arrival of trail boss Tom Reece, he tells hotel clerk Frank Harris to clear out a wing of the hotel to make room for Reece. Harris then goes to the suite of Mexican cattle baron Vidal to ask him to move to a different part of the hotel. Harris is sternly greeted by Vidal, who has just learned that the clerk has been romancing his daughter Maria and, consequently, orders Harris never to see her again. Soon after, Reece arrives, fresh from a cattle drive, and makes a deal with Vidal to buy his herd in Guadalupe, Mexico. Later, as a trail-weary Reece soaks in a hot bath, Harris delivers a tray of whiskey and eagerly asks to join the trail drive to Mexico. As Reece idly shoots cockroaches off the bathroom wall, he derides Harris as an idealistic tenderfoot whose head is filled with romantic delusions about the West. After attending the opera that night, Reece settles in for a game of poker in which he loses the majority of his profits. When Harris offers to give Reece his life savings of $3,800 if Reece will make him his partner, Reece accepts and uses the money to win back his losses. The next morning, Reece and his men go to the freight yard to catch a west-bound train. When Harris meets them there, Reece tries to renege, but Harris insists that he honor their agreement. At Wichita, Reece and his foreman, Paco Mendoza, are met by his trail gang: Charlie, Paul Curtis, Joe Capper and Peggy, the cook. ... +


When the manager of a luxurious Chicago hotel learns of the imminent arrival of trail boss Tom Reece, he tells hotel clerk Frank Harris to clear out a wing of the hotel to make room for Reece. Harris then goes to the suite of Mexican cattle baron Vidal to ask him to move to a different part of the hotel. Harris is sternly greeted by Vidal, who has just learned that the clerk has been romancing his daughter Maria and, consequently, orders Harris never to see her again. Soon after, Reece arrives, fresh from a cattle drive, and makes a deal with Vidal to buy his herd in Guadalupe, Mexico. Later, as a trail-weary Reece soaks in a hot bath, Harris delivers a tray of whiskey and eagerly asks to join the trail drive to Mexico. As Reece idly shoots cockroaches off the bathroom wall, he derides Harris as an idealistic tenderfoot whose head is filled with romantic delusions about the West. After attending the opera that night, Reece settles in for a game of poker in which he loses the majority of his profits. When Harris offers to give Reece his life savings of $3,800 if Reece will make him his partner, Reece accepts and uses the money to win back his losses. The next morning, Reece and his men go to the freight yard to catch a west-bound train. When Harris meets them there, Reece tries to renege, but Harris insists that he honor their agreement. At Wichita, Reece and his foreman, Paco Mendoza, are met by his trail gang: Charlie, Paul Curtis, Joe Capper and Peggy, the cook. New to the crew is Doc Bender, a former marshal of Wichita. After Harris struggles to tame a bucking bronco, the cowboys head for Mexico. When they stop to make camp, Reece asks Doc why he quit his job as marshal. Doc, who has gained notoriety for being fast with a gun, replies that too many men came to test his prowess, and he was sick of all the killing. For amusement, Paul teases the men with a live rattlesnake. Harris watches in horror as the snake digs its fangs into one of the cowhands. As the men hold vigil over their wounded compatriot, Joe recalls the time that he was so hungry he ate an Indian. After the cowhand dies, Reece utters a few gruff words over his grave and then comments that death awaits them all. Seven weeks later, they reach Guadalupe just in time for the town's big fiesta. While the trail hands wait in town, Reece, Harris and Paco ride to the Vidal ranch to arrange to pick up the herd. There, Harris learns that Maria has married Manuel Arriega. When Maria tries to explain to Harris that she had no choice, Arriega sees them together and warns Harris never to try to see Maria alone. The final event of the fiesta calls for a ring to be slipped over the horn of a killer bull. When Arriega, the first contestant, challenges the Americans, Harris immediately volunteers. Arriega then enters the bullring and, although he successfully puts the ring over the bull’s horn, his horse is gored in the process. Reece then initiates a round of betting and insists on answering Arriega’s challenge himself. To spare his horse, Reece approaches the bull on foot and after a grueling contest, slips the ring around its horn. As the crowd watches the festivities, a young boy hands Harris a note from Maria asking him to meet her at the mission that night. There she explains that her father arranged her marriage to Arriega. When Harris asks if she is in love with her husband, Maria kisses him and leaves. Disconsolate, Harris rides to the cantina where Charlie is flirting with another man’s woman as a group of Mexicans glower at him. When he tries to help Charlie, the Mexicans escort Harris to his horse. Upon returning to camp, Harris tries to rally the men to help Charlie. When Reece orders him to go to bed, Harris denounces him as caring more about his cattle than his men. The next morning, Charlie rides into camp, his arm in a sling from being wounded by one of the Mexican’s knives. As they begin the cattle drive back to Wichita, Reece tries to console Harris over his loss of Maria. After they bed down for the night, Harris rides out to an arroyo to round up some strays. Reece, concerned about a group of Indians that have been trailing them, tells his men to prepare for an attack. When the Indians bypass the camp, however, Reece realizes that they have decided to steal the strays from Harris. To save Harris’ life, Reece orders the cattle stampeded into the arroyo, prompting Paco to warn that they will never be able to retrieve all the scattered cattle. Stating that Harris is more valuable than cattle, Reece gives the go-ahead for the stampede. The stampede routs the Indians, but after Reece is wounded by an Indian bullet, Harris assumes command and drives the men day and night until they have recovered all but 200 cows. Harris then declares that the missing cows belong to Reece and will be deducted from his profits. When the drive reaches Wichita, Doc decides to settle down there. As the cattle are being loaded onto the train, word comes that Doc hanged himself after an old friend challenged him to a gunfight, thus forcing Doc to kill him. When Harris appears unmoved by the news, Reece accuses him of “not giving a damn.” On the train trip to Chicago, several steers are in danger of being trampled to death after losing their footing and falling to the floor of the cattle car. After Harris risks his life by climbing into the car to right the steers, Reece goes to help him and finds Harris trapped on the floor, surrounded by a herd of restless cows. Reece jumps into the car and helps Harris to his feet, after which Harris agrees to split the loss of the 200 cattle with him. Upon reaching Chicago, Reece and Harris check into the hotel and take side-by-side baths while Harris shoots the cockroaches off the wall. +

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

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