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The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) Poster

Trivia

Body count: 4.
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This trivia item contains spoilers. Click to view
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Henry Fonda was generally unhappy with the quality of the films he had to do while under contract to 20th Century-Fox. This was one of only two films from that period that he was actually enthusiastic about starring in. The other was The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
Henry Fonda always regarded this as one of his favorite films.
This was the last movie ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture which received no other Academy Award nominations.
Although made in 1941, this sat on the shelf for two years as 20th Century-Fox had no idea how to market a film with such inflammatory politics.
Henry Fonda, who had a deferment, enlisted in the U.S. Navy immediately upon completing filming for this movie.
The role played by Henry Fonda was originally offered to Gary Cooper, who turned it down.
Director William A. Wellman loved the novel "The Ox-Bow Incident" and had long wanted to make it into a film, but the rights-holders insisted that he cast Mae West in any adaptation, which Wellman thought was ridiculous. Finally, Wellman bought the rights himself, and proceeded to make the film "his" way.
A very unusual film for its time in that it features an African-American character as one of the main voices of conscience.
Sara Allgood was originally cast in the role of "Jennie 'Ma' Grier," but was replaced by Florence Bates. Bates was then injured in a horseback riding scene, necessitating her replacement by Jane Darwell, who appears in the finished film.
The western street in this film is the same one used in The Gunfighter (1950).
One of a select group of films to secure just one Oscar nomination, albeit in the Best Picture category. Counting only official nominations, other members in this club include The Racket (1928), East Lynne (1931), Trader Horn (1931), Five Star Final (1931), One Hour with You (1932), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Smilin' Through (1932), She Done Him Wrong (1933), Here Comes the Navy (1934), The House of Rothschild (1934), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), Libeled Lady (1936), La Grande Illusion (1937), and One Foot in Heaven (1941).
Head of 20th Century-Fox Darryl F. Zanuck overcame his objections to the contentious nature of the film by insisting that it be made cheaply on studio sets.
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The rights to Walter Van Tilburg Clark's book were originally acquired in 1941 by Harold Hurley, a former Paramount producer who tried unsuccessfully to make a distribution deal with United Artists. Modern sources note that director William A. Wellman bought the rights from Hurley and then interested Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck in producing the story. Zanuck agreed on the condition that Wellman direct two other films for the studio, Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air (1942) and Buffalo Bill (1944).
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The production on the film would be shut down for a week or ten days "due to the $5,000-per-film limit on new construction materials." During the shutdown, already used sets were torn down so that their material could be re-used to build the mountain pass set. Studio publicity noted that the Ox-Bow Valley setting was "the largest set ever constructed" by Fox, and that it covered 26,703 feet.
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Clint Eastwood selected this film as his favorite when polled by the AFI for its publication "Private Screenings."
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The film takes place in 1885.
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The opening scene in the saloon was later imitated in Yellow Sky (1948).
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Henry Fonda's commitment to this film was partly due to having witnessed the lynching of Will Brown in Omaha, Nebraska on September 28, 1919 when he was fourteen.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30-minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 18, 1944 with William Eythe reprising his film role.
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The film was a box office flop, outgrossed by one of the studio's Laurel and Hardy comedies released at the same time.
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Henry Fonda was so keen to make the film that he worked for scale.
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Henry Fonda didn't take his Western clothes off, even sleeping in them, to help convey an authentic feel.
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After filming was completed, Henry Fonda immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy, in which he served until 1946.
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William A. Wellman had wanted to adapt the novel for the screen for years and he harangued Darryl F. Zanuck until the mogul finally caved in. Wellman pointed out that he had successfully delivered social messages in the past, in such well-received films as The Public Enemy (1931) and A Star Is Born (1937). But Zanuck was concerned that the American public wasn't ready for a film that centered on lynching. Zanuck relented when Wellman happily agreed that he would also direct two far-less adventurous pictures for the producer- Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air (1942) and Buffalo Bill (1944).
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William A. Wellman had discussed making the film in 1940, with producer Harold Hurley. But Hurley had a completely different sort of film in mind, one that would revolve around Mae West as a saloon hostess! When Hurley left Paramount, he sold Ox-bow's rights to Wellman for $6,500. "I bought the property from Harold Hurley," he later said, "after he had gotten into some sort of beef with the big boys and was relieved of his job...then I went to all the producers for whom I had worked and got turned down. Zanuck was the only one with the guts to do an out-of-the-ordinary story for the prestige, rather than the dough."
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The Hays Office--the industry's censors--initially was reluctant to approve the script because of its suggestion that the sheriff condoned the lynchings. The treatment of the lynchings and the characterization of those participating were discussed by the PCA and the studio at great length, and in a June 9, 1942 letter, PCA director Joseph Breen advised studio public relations head Jason S. Joy that the script would be approved if: "Major Tetley's" suicide is retained, "thus constituting a punishment for the ring-leader of the lynching party;" there is an indication that the whole gang will be arrested; the character of "Gil" is rewritten to make him less callous and more active in trying to stop the lynchings; and "Davies'" denunciation of the killings is retained.
The early versions of the script included the suicide of "Gerald Tetley" and that the film was to end with the reappearance of "Rose Mapen" and her husband in the saloon rather than with "Gil" and "Art" leaving to take the letter to "Martin's" wife. The contents of Martin's letter are not revealed in the book, but director William A. Wellman thought that it was important to make them explicit and had Lamar Trotti compose the letter.
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