The Iron Mistress (1952)

109-110 mins | Western | 22 November 1952

Director:

Gordon Douglas

Writer:

James R. Webb

Producer:

Henry Blanke

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Production Designer:

John Beckman

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The role of "Jim Bowie" was Alan Ladd's first under his contract with Warner Bros. As Bosley Crowther remarked in his NYT review, the film bears little resemblance to Paul Wellman's best-selling book, in which the legendary Bowie was portrayed as "something of a rascal in New Orleans in the days of Jean Lafitte." The real-life Jim Bowie was born in 1796, in either Georgia, Kentucky or Tennessee. As a young man, he moved to Texas, becoming a naturalized Mexican citizen, and in 1830, enlisted in the Texas Rangers. After fighting against the Indians, he joined the rebellion against Mexico and formed a small volunteer force. In Feb 1836, Bowie was designated the commander of the Alamo along with William B. Travis. When Bowie fell ill during the Mexican siege of the Alamo, however, Travis took over as sole commander. The rebels were defeated by a superior Mexican force, and Bowie was killed during the battle on 6 Mar 1836. Bowie is credited with inventing the Bowie knife, a weapon widely used in the old West. According to Crowther, "the early career of Bowie is thoroughly fabled and carpentered" in the film. Although Richard Crane is listed in the role of "John Bowie" in the CBCS, the part was actually played by Dick Paxton.
       Since Alfred Paget's portrayal of Jim Bowie in the 1915 Triangle production, The Martyrs of the Alamo , Bowie has appeared in several films. Two films in which the character is featured prominently are the 1950 Universal production Comanche Territory , which was directed by George Sherman and starred MacDonald Carey and Maureen O'Hara, ... More Less

The role of "Jim Bowie" was Alan Ladd's first under his contract with Warner Bros. As Bosley Crowther remarked in his NYT review, the film bears little resemblance to Paul Wellman's best-selling book, in which the legendary Bowie was portrayed as "something of a rascal in New Orleans in the days of Jean Lafitte." The real-life Jim Bowie was born in 1796, in either Georgia, Kentucky or Tennessee. As a young man, he moved to Texas, becoming a naturalized Mexican citizen, and in 1830, enlisted in the Texas Rangers. After fighting against the Indians, he joined the rebellion against Mexico and formed a small volunteer force. In Feb 1836, Bowie was designated the commander of the Alamo along with William B. Travis. When Bowie fell ill during the Mexican siege of the Alamo, however, Travis took over as sole commander. The rebels were defeated by a superior Mexican force, and Bowie was killed during the battle on 6 Mar 1836. Bowie is credited with inventing the Bowie knife, a weapon widely used in the old West. According to Crowther, "the early career of Bowie is thoroughly fabled and carpentered" in the film. Although Richard Crane is listed in the role of "John Bowie" in the CBCS, the part was actually played by Dick Paxton.
       Since Alfred Paget's portrayal of Jim Bowie in the 1915 Triangle production, The Martyrs of the Alamo , Bowie has appeared in several films. Two films in which the character is featured prominently are the 1950 Universal production Comanche Territory , which was directed by George Sherman and starred MacDonald Carey and Maureen O'Hara, and the 1955 Republic The Last Command , which was directed by Frank Lloyd and starred Sterling Hayden. The Adventures of Jim Bowie , a television series starring Scott Forbes in the title role, aired on the ABC network from Sep 1956 through Aug 1958. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Oct 1952.
---
Daily Variety
16 Oct 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Oct 52
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
18 Oct 52
p. 167.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 52
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 52
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Oct 52
p. 1565.
New York Times
19 Nov 52
p. 27.
New York Times
20 Nov 52
p. 39.
The Exhibitor
22 Oct 52
p. 3400.
Variety
22 Oct 52
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Donald Beddoe
Ramsey Hill
Ivan Browning
Dave McMahon
Dick Bartell
Bill Griffith
Alberto Morin
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Iron Mistress by Paul Iselin Wellman (Garden City, NY, 1951).
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 November 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 19 November 1952
Production Date:
early April--early June 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 November 1952
Copyright Number:
LP2072
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
109-110
Length(in feet):
9,844
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15877
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1825, Jim Bowie journeys to New Orleans from his family's backwoods home in Bayou Sara to sell some lumber. His brothers caution Jim, a carefree young man whose only interest is in throwing knives, to hold out for a good price. In New Orleans, Jim makes the acquaintance of French painter James Audubon, who has angered the wealthy de Bornay family by painting birds instead of completing his portrait of the beautiful Judalon de Bornay. For verbally defending Audubon, Jim is challenged to a duel by Judalon's brother Narcisse. The challenge surprises Jim, who never intended to insult Narcisse, but Audubon explains that the upper classes of Louisiana's French-dominated society are strictly governed by "the code" of honor. Jim's use of gentle humor to prevent the duel charms Narcisse, and the two become friends. Narcisse worries, therefore, when Jim falls in love with Judalon, who is proud and spoiled. Judalon allows Jim to kiss her at a ball, but his passionate marriage proposal makes her angry, as Judalon has no intention of living on a bayou. Assuming that Jim has insulted Judalon, another suitor named Henri Contrecourt challenges him to a duel. Narcisse intervenes and is killed in the ensuing confrontation with Contrecourt. Jim then agrees to face Contrecourt, an excellent swordsman, armed only with his knife, and the two fight in a darkened chamber. To the surprise of the assembled crowd, Jim kills Contrecourt. He then sells the lumber mill and returns home with a plan to get rich by planting cotton in the bayou country. Over the next few years, the Bowies do become wealthy, but their business ... +


In 1825, Jim Bowie journeys to New Orleans from his family's backwoods home in Bayou Sara to sell some lumber. His brothers caution Jim, a carefree young man whose only interest is in throwing knives, to hold out for a good price. In New Orleans, Jim makes the acquaintance of French painter James Audubon, who has angered the wealthy de Bornay family by painting birds instead of completing his portrait of the beautiful Judalon de Bornay. For verbally defending Audubon, Jim is challenged to a duel by Judalon's brother Narcisse. The challenge surprises Jim, who never intended to insult Narcisse, but Audubon explains that the upper classes of Louisiana's French-dominated society are strictly governed by "the code" of honor. Jim's use of gentle humor to prevent the duel charms Narcisse, and the two become friends. Narcisse worries, therefore, when Jim falls in love with Judalon, who is proud and spoiled. Judalon allows Jim to kiss her at a ball, but his passionate marriage proposal makes her angry, as Judalon has no intention of living on a bayou. Assuming that Jim has insulted Judalon, another suitor named Henri Contrecourt challenges him to a duel. Narcisse intervenes and is killed in the ensuing confrontation with Contrecourt. Jim then agrees to face Contrecourt, an excellent swordsman, armed only with his knife, and the two fight in a darkened chamber. To the surprise of the assembled crowd, Jim kills Contrecourt. He then sells the lumber mill and returns home with a plan to get rich by planting cotton in the bayou country. Over the next few years, the Bowies do become wealthy, but their business rivals, headed by Natchez cotton grower Juan Moreno, try to ruin them. Undeterred, Jim buys an unknown racehorse that defeats Moreno's steed in a race. Most of Moreno's cohorts pay Jim the money they bet, but Jim expects trouble and asks an expert blacksmith named Black to make him a strong knife. Black shapes a piece of a meteor into the knife, thereby making it unusually durable and sharp. Later, Jim discovers that Judalon has wed a New Orleans gentleman named Philippe de Cabanal, but after kissing Jim, she tells him that she is planning a divorce. Jim's brother suspects that she now wants to marry Moreno, but Jim is devoted to Judalon and refuses to listen. Following a duel, Moreno and his colleagues begin shooting at Jim and his friends, and after Moreno injures him, Jim stabs him to death. Judalon, unhappy because Moreno had promised to secure a bill of divorcement for her, promises to accompany Jim to a new home in Texas if he first has her husband released from a gambling debt owed to "Bloody Jack" Sturdevant. Jim defeats Sturdevant in a knife fight, but Judalon sends word that she has decided to remain with Philippe. En route to Texas, Jim is nearly killed by Sturdevant's men. He is found and nursed to recovery by Ursula de Veramendi, the Spanish daughter of the Texas vice governor. Jim soon proposes to Ursula, but she suspects he still loves Judalon. Jim returns to Louisiana to sell his lands, and on a steamboat, he encounters Judalon and Philippe. Jim learns that Philippe has lost all his money in a card game, but he exposes the gamblers as cheats and returns Philippe's money. After Judalon threatens to leave Philippe for her old admirer, the angry husband sneaks into Jim's room with a gun. At the same time, Sturdevant, seeking revenge for his earlier injury, hides in Jim's cabin, intending to kill him, but instead stabs Philippe by accident. Philippe shoots Sturdevant before dying himself, and Judalon's obvious glee at her husband's death stuns Jim. He leaves her, then drops his knife into the river and returns to San Antonio to marry Ursula. +

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.