Helldorado (1934)

74-75 mins | Drama | 21 December 1934

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HISTORY

The plot summary was based on a screen continuity in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, and the onscreen credits were taken from a screen billing sheet in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, both of which are at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. According to information in the legal records, Ernest Pascal and Jesse L. Lasky, Jr. worked on the screenplay before Rex Taylor began his adaptation, but Taylor did not use any of their work. SAB, however, credits Pascal with contributing to screenplay construction. In response to a claim by G. Louis Peters that the story plagiarized Peters' story, "Fool's Gold," Harry Chandlee, who worked on the screenplay, detailed the development of the project in correspondence in the legal records. According to Chandlee, Frank Mitchell Dazey wrote the original story around 1930 under the title "Ghost Town" and registered it with the Screen Writers' Guild. Taylor wrote an adaptation using the story's basic idea, but changed much of the detail. Chandlee then wrote a more complete adaptation, after which Frances Hyland wrote the final script. Following this, Philip Dunne and Chandlee rewrote two sequences, which were filmed as retakes.
       According to a DV news item dated 26 Sep 1934, Spencer Tracy, who was originally cast in the male lead, failed to show up for work on the film by noon on the first day of shooting, 24 Sep 1934, and was still absent on 25 Sep. Fox then dropped him from the payroll and was planning on instituting measures to collect from Tracy all costs incurred by the delay, which was estimated to be about $7,500. According to DV ...

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The plot summary was based on a screen continuity in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, and the onscreen credits were taken from a screen billing sheet in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, both of which are at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. According to information in the legal records, Ernest Pascal and Jesse L. Lasky, Jr. worked on the screenplay before Rex Taylor began his adaptation, but Taylor did not use any of their work. SAB, however, credits Pascal with contributing to screenplay construction. In response to a claim by G. Louis Peters that the story plagiarized Peters' story, "Fool's Gold," Harry Chandlee, who worked on the screenplay, detailed the development of the project in correspondence in the legal records. According to Chandlee, Frank Mitchell Dazey wrote the original story around 1930 under the title "Ghost Town" and registered it with the Screen Writers' Guild. Taylor wrote an adaptation using the story's basic idea, but changed much of the detail. Chandlee then wrote a more complete adaptation, after which Frances Hyland wrote the final script. Following this, Philip Dunne and Chandlee rewrote two sequences, which were filmed as retakes.
       According to a DV news item dated 26 Sep 1934, Spencer Tracy, who was originally cast in the male lead, failed to show up for work on the film by noon on the first day of shooting, 24 Sep 1934, and was still absent on 25 Sep. Fox then dropped him from the payroll and was planning on instituting measures to collect from Tracy all costs incurred by the delay, which was estimated to be about $7,500. According to DV, this was the second time Tracy went "AWOL" in two months. He previously disappeared while working on Marie Galante (see entry) with only ten days to go in the production. In the case of that film, Tracy agreed to reimburse the studio $25,000 and appear in the film rather than be held liable for the substitution of another actor and remake costs of $125,000. After Richard Arlen replaced Tracy, DV reported that "a mysterious eye infection," which victimized Arlen, director James Cruze and actor Ralph McCullough, caused Fox to close down production on 28 Sep 1934. According to DV, "shortly after starting work, the eyes of all three started to close and were shut tight within a few minutes." Production resumed on 4 Oct 1934.
       According to information in the pressbook for the film, this was Arlen's first film as an independent free-lancer after leaving Paramount. The pressbook states that Jesse L. Lasky, the producer of this film, gave Arlen his first screen role, and that Cruze and Lasky hadn't worked together since the silent era.

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PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
CREDIT TYPE
CREDIT
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1934
p. 3
Daily Variety
26 Sep 1934
p. 1
Daily Variety
29 Sep 1934
p. 1
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1934
p. 3
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1934
p. 3
Film Daily
5 Jan 1935
p. 4
Harrison's Reports
5 Jan 1935
p. 2
HF
27 Oct 1934
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 1934
p. 3
Motion Picture Herald
10 Nov 1934
p. 46
Motion Picture Herald
15 Dec 1934
p. 40
New York Times
7 Jan 1935
p. 13
Variety
8 Jan 1935
p. 18
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
WRITERS
Adpt
Contr on spec seq
Contr on spec seq
Contr on spec seq
Contr to scr const
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
John Seitz
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 December 1934
Production Date:
24 Sep--late Oct 1934
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Fox Film Corp.
21 December 1934
LP5233
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
74-75
Length(in feet):
6,735
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
PCA No:
464
SYNOPSIS

Arthur T. Ryan, a hitchhiker, gets a ride from haughty, society girl Glenda Wynant and her fiancé, wealthy J. F. Van Avery after he helps them to replace the top of their convertible when it begins to rain. As they approach a bridge, Art notices a few stalled cars, and when the storm worsens, the bridge washes away, leaving Art, Glenda, Van and several others stranded in a canyon. Art, Glenda and a black father and son decide to climb out and go to nearby ghost town, Helldorado, a relic of the California gold rush, while Van and the others take shelter in an old mine shaft. In Helldorado, the group seem to be alone, and Art finds a gold pan which bears the words "First Gold in Helldorado washed in this pan by John P. Ryan," who was Art's grandfather. Art and Glenda meet Abner Meadows, an old man who talks to ghosts and who believes that Art and Glenda are John Ryan and his wife, Molly, both of whom are dead. Abner reveals to Art and Glenda, who decide to "play" the phantom married couple, that many years earlier, he and John discovered a valuable gold mine, the location of which Abner is unable to recall. The rest of the stranded group arrive, and Glenda worries about Van's reaction to her playing Art's wife. When Art finds the mine, he offers to give everyone present a share and also discovers a way out of Helldorado. After climbing out of Helldorado, Art, Glenda and Van go to a hotel in nearby Digby. Art announces his discovery to the proprietor, and reporters arrive ...

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Arthur T. Ryan, a hitchhiker, gets a ride from haughty, society girl Glenda Wynant and her fiancé, wealthy J. F. Van Avery after he helps them to replace the top of their convertible when it begins to rain. As they approach a bridge, Art notices a few stalled cars, and when the storm worsens, the bridge washes away, leaving Art, Glenda, Van and several others stranded in a canyon. Art, Glenda and a black father and son decide to climb out and go to nearby ghost town, Helldorado, a relic of the California gold rush, while Van and the others take shelter in an old mine shaft. In Helldorado, the group seem to be alone, and Art finds a gold pan which bears the words "First Gold in Helldorado washed in this pan by John P. Ryan," who was Art's grandfather. Art and Glenda meet Abner Meadows, an old man who talks to ghosts and who believes that Art and Glenda are John Ryan and his wife, Molly, both of whom are dead. Abner reveals to Art and Glenda, who decide to "play" the phantom married couple, that many years earlier, he and John discovered a valuable gold mine, the location of which Abner is unable to recall. The rest of the stranded group arrive, and Glenda worries about Van's reaction to her playing Art's wife. When Art finds the mine, he offers to give everyone present a share and also discovers a way out of Helldorado. After climbing out of Helldorado, Art, Glenda and Van go to a hotel in nearby Digby. Art announces his discovery to the proprietor, and reporters arrive assuming that Art is partners with the rich and renowned Van. Art begins making grand plans to turn Helldorado into a major industrial center when a call comes in from the assay office informing him that his mine contains only fool's gold. The news of gold has spread like wildfire nonetheless, and a crowd of shovel-bearing men gathers in Helldorado demanding to know the mine's whereabouts. Art is frantic, but Glenda arrives and gives him a document that turns out to be Abner's original deed stating the true location of the mine. Art shows the crowd the area where the mine was discovered, being careful to protect Abner's claim. Glenda informs him that she won't return to Van, and the two embrace.

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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.