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The Baron of Arizona (1950)

Approved  |   |  Drama, History, Romance  |  4 March 1950 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,252 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 23 critic

Master swindler James Reavis painstakingly spends years forging documents and land grants that will make his wife and him undisputed owners of the entire state of Arizona.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vladimir Sokoloff ...
Reed Hadley ...
Robert Barrat ...
Judge (as Robert H. Barrat)
Robin Short ...
Tina Pine ...
Rita (as Tina Rome)
Karen Kester ...
Sofia as a Child
Jonathan Hale ...
Edward Keane ...
Surveyor General Miller
Barbara Woodell ...
Mrs. Carrie Lansing
Mr. Richardson
Fred Kohler Jr. ...


The U.S. government recognizes land grants made when the West was under Spanish rule. This inspires James Reavis to forge a chain of historical evidence that makes a foundling girl the Baroness of Arizona. Reavis marries the girl and presses his claim to the entire Arizona territory. Written by Erik Gregersen <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


FASCINATING TRUE STORY...of the most daring rogue the world has ever known! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 March 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Baron von Arizona  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


James Addison Reavis (1843-1914) was a real person who, as depicted in the movie, was found guilty of attempting to steal most of Arizona by forging land grant documents. He paid a fine of $5,000 and served two years in jail. See more »


John Griff: There's only one thing about this case I can't understand.
James Addison 'The Baron' Reavis, aka Brother Anthony: What's that?
John Griff: After devoting so many years to this scheme, what made you confess?
James Addison 'The Baron' Reavis, aka Brother Anthony: I fell in love with my wife.
See more »


Referenced in Johnny Guitar (1954) See more »

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User Reviews

THE BARON OF ARIZONA (Samuel Fuller, 1950) ***
27 May 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Despite the Western setting and the involvement of maverick writer/director Fuller, this is no rip-roaring, six-shooting oater but a slow-burning, compelling and exciting conspiracy thriller that, while telling one of the most incredible tales ever spun, happens to be based on fact!; indeed, Fuller's journalistic background and flashback structure lends the film a 'torn from the headlines' feel. The film provides star Vincent Price with one of his best-ever non-horror roles: it is a testament to both the actor and Fuller that the character is no ordinary villain – in fact, while we are not asked to approve of what he does, we are at least invited (via the opening statement by the very man who exposed him) to admire his audacity and ingenuity and, indeed, we ardently root for Price through much of the proceedings!

The narrative involves a talented forger's near-successful attempt to defraud America of one of its states, Arizona, by planting evidence and tampering with old documents that mark it as a bequest to an obscure Spanish family by a 16th century ruler! Then, all he has to do is seek a female foundling of Hispanic origins, groom her into becoming a proper lady (amusingly, at one point, she asks him to read to her from a book she casually picks up…which happens to be an authoritative book on forgery, penned by Price's own – atypically formidable – future nemesis and which had given him the idea for the whole ruse in the first place!) and then, when she comes of age, marry her! Of course, while it seems he is doing all this for the girl's benefit, he intends not only to share in the profits but actually run all her affairs (which she being grateful, and even in love, is all-too-willing to let him handle at first)!

While her education is under way, he goes on with his fantastical scheme, which is so elaborate that he goes so far as to take the habit and lead a monastic life for a number of years because the original copy of the certificate he needs to amend is stored in the library of a remote religious community – apart from this turn-of-events being similar to a later "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode starring Oscar Homolka (that I had watched on late-night Italian TV), watching the star here don such humble clothing made me think of the improbable holy man portrayed by Arturo De Cordova at the end of Luis Bunuel's EL (1953)…not to mention ponder the notion of what a formidable Gregory Rasputin Price would have made! A touch of humor in this sequence has the protagonist panic and run off with a horse-driven wagon-load of provisions when he sees the Police approaching (only they had come on a trivial matter)!; also, having diligently undertaken to falsify the all-important document, he learns that a copy exists in the vault of a nobleman. When he is hurt after being thrown off the wagon (which tumbles down a cliff!), he is cared for by a band of gypsies: even here, however, he turns the situation to his advantage as he seduces the female leader and has her persuade them to attack the afore-mentioned aristocrat's home by claiming he had heard him say he wanted to banish their people from the land! Again, in order to gain entrance to the library, he ingratiates himself with the lady of the house…and Price's posing as a gypsy Casanova is yet another sure fount of entertainment!

The acquisition of the proof of ownership is only the first half of the story, as we then see the American Government busy at work studying them in the hope of finding a flaw that would shoot down Price's grandiose plans. In the meantime, he lords it all over the place, rubbing the townsfolk the wrong way and threatening to evict them if they do not pay up for trespassing on his property (when their land had been lawfully granted them by the U.S. Government)! Of course, the latter will not go quietly (again, this brought to mind Bunuel's THE BRUTE {1952}) and make various attempts on Price's life – at one point, he loses it before a rioting crowd and is about to strike a man with the butt of a shotgun (an image that actually graced the film's theatrical poster!) but is brought back to his senses in time by Ellen Drew, equally fine as the grown-up Baroness Of Arizona.

Constantly flanked throughout by dirt-poor Vladimir Sokoloff (Drew's adoptive father) and Beulah Bondi (her governess), the couple are eventually taken to court: it is Price's cold-blooded, supercilious attitude here that suggests to Drew that they may be in the wrong. In the end, his falsehood is exposed by way of the specialized ink that had been originally utilized to write the decree manipulated by the protagonist! Even before this revelation, however, Price had decided to admit his guilt and face the music (after Sokoloff's own complicity in the hoax is brought to bear: he is nearly shot to death while attempting to protect the Baron during the crowd's raid of his office intent on lynching him…but he gets out of this scrape, too, by telling them that the Government can prove nothing if he dies!). Though he tells Drew not to wait for him, he finds her (and their devoted companions) outside the prison door upon emerging – incidentally, it seemed to me that 6 years was a very lenient prison sentence for one to have been convicted of defrauding the American people of untold millions!

In spite of its only enjoying a minor reputation, the film was issued on DVD as part of a Samuel Fuller Box Set - the very first release from Criterion's sister label Eclipse that also included his previous (and first) effort, I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949) and his subsequent one THE STEEL HELMET (1951).

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