Seven Cities of Gold (1955)

103 mins | Drama | September 1955

Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Gun and the Cross . In a spoken foreword, the film announces that only "one language" would be used in the dialogue, despite the varying ethnic backgrounds of the characters. In the onscreen credits, actor Julio Villarreal's surname is incorrectly spelled "Villareal."
       According to an Aug 1954 HR news item, Edward Dmytryk was originally assigned to direct the picture. According to an 18 Jan 1955 HR news item, Cameron Mitchell had been cast in a lead role, and in Feb 1955, HR announced that singer Russell Evans was considered for a part in the picture. HR news items include Felipe Méndez, Jan Svelk, Jaime Rosario, Jack Maner and Gilda Fontaine in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A 4 Apr 1955 HR news item stated that the "famous choir" of Franciscan Cathedral Toluca, a four-hundred-year-old church near Mexico City, was going to be used in the film for "special choral effects," but the choir's participation in the released picture has not been confirmed.
       Seven Cities of Gold was mostly filmed in Mexico, in and around the west coast town of Manzanillo and the deserts of Guadalajara. An Indian village was built as a set in the hills near Manzanillo, and a reproduction of the original San Diego mission was constructed on the beach. Although studio publicity material credits Mexican director/producer René Cardona as Robert Webb's co-director, and Mexican director of photography Jorge Stahl as Lucien Ballard's camera operator, it is likely that they were hired only to fulfill union requirements ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Gun and the Cross . In a spoken foreword, the film announces that only "one language" would be used in the dialogue, despite the varying ethnic backgrounds of the characters. In the onscreen credits, actor Julio Villarreal's surname is incorrectly spelled "Villareal."
       According to an Aug 1954 HR news item, Edward Dmytryk was originally assigned to direct the picture. According to an 18 Jan 1955 HR news item, Cameron Mitchell had been cast in a lead role, and in Feb 1955, HR announced that singer Russell Evans was considered for a part in the picture. HR news items include Felipe Méndez, Jan Svelk, Jaime Rosario, Jack Maner and Gilda Fontaine in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A 4 Apr 1955 HR news item stated that the "famous choir" of Franciscan Cathedral Toluca, a four-hundred-year-old church near Mexico City, was going to be used in the film for "special choral effects," but the choir's participation in the released picture has not been confirmed.
       Seven Cities of Gold was mostly filmed in Mexico, in and around the west coast town of Manzanillo and the deserts of Guadalajara. An Indian village was built as a set in the hills near Manzanillo, and a reproduction of the original San Diego mission was constructed on the beach. Although studio publicity material credits Mexican director/producer René Cardona as Robert Webb's co-director, and Mexican director of photography Jorge Stahl as Lucien Ballard's camera operator, it is likely that they were hired only to fulfill union requirements and did not actually work on the production. A few sequences of the picture were shot on location in Topanga Canyon, CA, according to a 19 May 1955 HR news item.
       As depicted in the film, in 1769, Padre Junípero Serra (1713--1784) accompanied the expedition of José de Galvez to Upper California and founded the Mission San Diego de Alcala. It was the first of twenty-one Franciscan missions established in California. On 25 Sep 1988, Serra was beatified, the first step leading to sainthood in the Catholic Church. The MPH reviewer remarked that Seven Cities of Gold was the "first important film dealing with" Serra's contributions, while the HR review commented that it was "the first film to pay attention to the important contributions of culture and humanity made by the Spanish to the development of more than half of the new world." Director-producer Webb and producer Barbara McLean were married at the time of this production. Seven Cities of Gold marked the first producer assignment of longtime Fox film editor McLean. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Sep 1955.
---
Daily Variety
9 Sep 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Sep 55
p. 8.
Harrison's Reports
17 Sep 55
p. 151.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1955
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1955
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1955
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1955
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1955
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1955
pp. 2-3.
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Sep 55
p. 593.
New York Times
8 Oct 55
p. 13.
The Exhibitor
21 Sep 55
p. 4034.
Variety
14 Sep 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Addl dial
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
Asst props
Greensman
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
MUSIC
Vocal supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styling by
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Casting dir
Scr supv
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Livestock
Livestock
STAND INS
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Nine Days of Father Serra by Isabelle Gibson Ziegler (New York, 1951).
SONGS
"Señorita Carmelita," words and music by Ken Darby
"El capotin (The Rain Song)" and "El trobador," composers undetermined, adapted by Ken Darby.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Gun and the Cross
Release Date:
September 1955
Premiere Information:
World premiere in San Diego, CA: 8 September 1955
Los Angeles opening: 21 September 1955
Production Date:
22 March--26 May 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
8 September 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5558
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
lenses by Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
103
Length(in feet):
9,243
Length(in reels):
12
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17451
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1769, Don Gaspar de Portola and his friend, Lt. José Mendoza, travel by carriage to Mexico City, New Spain. At their insistence, the carriage travels so fast that it hits an old woman and kills her. Padre Junípero Serra gives the woman last rites and then chastises the soldiers for their carelessness. Upon arriving at their destination, the soldiers are given orders to occupy California, which, although discovered by the Spanish in 1536, has not yet been conquered. The soldiers also hope to discover the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. Two parties are dispatched by sea, and an advance group takes an overland route to San Diego Bay. The main expedition, commanded by Portola, is ordered to meet the other three parties at San Diego and then proceed northward to Monterey Bay. Padre Serra, who hopes to found a string of missions in California, is named spiritual director of the expedition. As he blesses the departing soldiers, however, Serra startles the men with an accusation. Serra denounces the Spanish military's plans to enslave the "childlike" Indians and plunder their Seven Cities and, pressing a burning torch to his breast, urges the men to behave like "children of God." Before they depart, José complains that Serra carries too many religious "trinkets," but after the expedition is surrounded by armed Indians, the priest prevents an attack by giving the curious visitors strings of colorful beads. When a soldier is killed by an arrow in camp that night, however, José argues that Serra's method of handling Indians is ineffective. Determined to be rid of Serra, Portola feigns concern about an abscess ... +


In 1769, Don Gaspar de Portola and his friend, Lt. José Mendoza, travel by carriage to Mexico City, New Spain. At their insistence, the carriage travels so fast that it hits an old woman and kills her. Padre Junípero Serra gives the woman last rites and then chastises the soldiers for their carelessness. Upon arriving at their destination, the soldiers are given orders to occupy California, which, although discovered by the Spanish in 1536, has not yet been conquered. The soldiers also hope to discover the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. Two parties are dispatched by sea, and an advance group takes an overland route to San Diego Bay. The main expedition, commanded by Portola, is ordered to meet the other three parties at San Diego and then proceed northward to Monterey Bay. Padre Serra, who hopes to found a string of missions in California, is named spiritual director of the expedition. As he blesses the departing soldiers, however, Serra startles the men with an accusation. Serra denounces the Spanish military's plans to enslave the "childlike" Indians and plunder their Seven Cities and, pressing a burning torch to his breast, urges the men to behave like "children of God." Before they depart, José complains that Serra carries too many religious "trinkets," but after the expedition is surrounded by armed Indians, the priest prevents an attack by giving the curious visitors strings of colorful beads. When a soldier is killed by an arrow in camp that night, however, José argues that Serra's method of handling Indians is ineffective. Determined to be rid of Serra, Portola feigns concern about an abscess on the priest's leg and orders him back to Mexico City. Serra becomes even more determined to found his missions, and that night, submits to a painful procedure that cures his leg. Later, Serra and José become separated from the column and lose their way in a fierce desert windstorm. Out of nowhere, a shack appears, and they receive food and water from the man, woman and child who live inside. Serra believes they have been miraculously rescued by the Holy Family, but José, an agnostic, is skeptical. The Portola expedition finally arrives at San Diego Bay, only to discover that Rivera's advance party has been decimated by disease. Portola sends the San Antonio back to Mexico City for supplies, places José in charge of the San Diego camp and proceeds northward to Monterey. That night, the Diegueño Indians attack the camp, and Matuwir, grandson of Diegueño chief Miscomi, is wounded. Serra nurses Matuwir back to health and then releases him, thereby infuriating José. Serra soon befriends the villagers, however, and although none of them agrees to be baptized, they begin to visit Serra's Mission San Diego de Alcala regularly. When Miscomi dies, Matuwir is named chief of the Diegueños. Unknown to him and Serra, José pursues and finally makes love to Matuwir's sister Ula. Months later, exhausted and starving, Portola and his men appear, reporting that they were unable to find anything but parched lands and "savages too useless to fight." Because the supply ship has not yet returned from Mexico City, Portola decides to abort the entire California expedition, but Serra persuades him to remain in camp until Saint Joseph's Day. Ula receives Matuwir's permission to accompany José to Mexico City as his wife, but José advises her to remain with her own people. Deeply distressed, Ula runs from José and falls from a cliff to her death. Portola refuses to have José punished "for the benefit of Indians," and Serra refuses to turn him over to the vengeful Matuwir. War drums sound for several days, and the Diegueños sabotage Portola's remaining supply of fresh water. Finally, aware that they will be destroyed by the Indians, Portola orders his men to attack. As Serra blesses them, José confesses his sins and slowly walks out of the camp toward Matuwir's warriors. Serra weeps when José's body, with its heart cut out, is returned to the camp. Because Saint Joseph's Day has dawned without the supply ship having arrived, the expedition abandons the mission and sets out for Mexico City. Shortly after their departure, however, the San Antonio sails into the bay, and the exuberant party returns. As the sailors unload bells meant for the mission at Monterey, Serra rings out a loud, clear tone, "one my Indians will love. I can hear them coming!" +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.