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The Naked Hills (1956)

Passed  -  Adventure | Crime | Romance  -  17 June 1956 (USA)
5.4
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Ratings: 5.4/10 from 63 users  
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Tracy Powell, an Indiana farmer, gets the gold fever and heads for Stockton, California in 1849. There, he abandons his first partner, Bert Killian, and teams up with Sam Wilkins, a claim ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Tracy Powell
...
Sam Wilkins
James Barton ...
Jimmo McCann
Marcia Henderson ...
Julie
...
Willis Haver
...
Bert Killian / Narrator
Myrna Dell ...
Aggie
Lewis L. Russell ...
Baxter (as Lewis Russell)
Frank Fenton ...
Harold
Fuzzy Knight ...
Pitch Man
Jim Hayward ...
Counter Man
Christopher Olsen ...
Billy as a Boy (as Chris Olsen)
Steven Terrell ...
Billy as a Young Man
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Storyline

Tracy Powell, an Indiana farmer, gets the gold fever and heads for Stockton, California in 1849. There, he abandons his first partner, Bert Killian, and teams up with Sam Wilkins, a claim jumper employed by Willis Haver. Six years later, Powell returns to Indiana and his sweetheart, Julie. They marry and he tries farming again but, on the night their son is born, he takes off again searching for gold. This time he heads for the hills with an inveterate prospector, Jimmo McCann. A decade later, the two are still hunting for their big strike when McCann is killed in an accident. Powell returns home with news of a big strike but the deserted Julie will have nothing to do with him. His friend Killian will not believe him but Haver, now a banker gives him a small loan and then beats him out of his claim. Many years pass before he comes home, now sixty-years-old, and this time, his wife and son open their home to him. But he vows to go prospecting come next spring. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Passed | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

17 June 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alastomat vuoret  »

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Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Pathécolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

The Four Seasons
Music by Herschel Burke Gilbert
Lyrics by Bob Russell
Sung by James Barton
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User Reviews

 
No gold in them thar hills, but some merits anyway
25 August 2004 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'The Naked Hills' is an Allied Artists picture, and it follows the very distinctive format of that low-budget studio: at the very beginning of the movie, we see a clip of the most exciting scene in the picture, shown out of sequence as a teaser ... even though we don't yet know who these characters are, nor their relationships to each other. After this scene, the opening credits roll, and then the film proper begins. Eventually, we reach the teaser scene in the middle of the movie, at its proper point in the plot line ... at which point we sit through a verbatim repeat of this scene exactly as it ran in the teaser. Other Allied Artists films that use this structure are 'Indestructible Man' and cult favourite 'Attack of the 50-Foot Woman'. I really dislike this teaser structure: it always confuses the audience at the beginning of the film ... and when we reach the most exciting scene in the picture, we already know what will happen because we've seen it before. In 'The Naked Hills', the teaser scene is a violent confrontation between meek hero David Wayne and tough villains Jim Backus and Keenan Wynn.

'The Naked Hills' is a very low-key (and low-budget) western, extremely downbeat, with little emphasis on gunplay or the usual elements that appeal to horse-opera audiences. Wayne plays a family man obsessed with striking gold. He stakes a claim in the middle of the desert, which is his first mis-stake: any good prospector knows that the best place to look for gold is near running water, just as the best place to look for silver is above the timber line. Wayne incurs the anger of local tyrant Jim Backus. Backus was an underrated actor, now sadly remembered for 'Gilligan's Island' and Mr Magoo instead of for his dramatic roles. This film is the only one in which I've seen Backus play a villain, and he's excellent. Keenan Wynn is good too, as Backus's goon, but in Wynn's case the casting is no surprise.

The most pleasant aspect of 'The Naked Hills' comes during the opening credits, when James Barton sings a Western ballad. Barton was a Broadway star who never quite caught on in films; among his other stage roles, he starred in the musical 'Paint Your Wagon', in the role Lee Marvin did in the film. As a character type, Barton was similar to Walter Huston ... and had a similar singing voice.

SPOILERS COMING. 'The Naked Hills' has a very simple plot. Basically, family man Wayne gradually abandons every other aspect of his life in order to work a goldmine stake that shows absolutely no promise of ever striking gold. His wife and their son Billy plead with him to give up the mine and settle into a normal life with them. The end of the film is surprisingly downbeat: after years of following his obsession, during which son Billy has grown to manhood largely without a father, the defeated Wayne calls it quits. He gives up the mine, and rejoins his family. This is a very surprising ending for a Hollywood film. The clichés require that the obsessive hero must eventually be vindicated, finally striking gold. Failing this, he must die tragically. 'The Naked Hills' avoids those clichés in favour of a far more uncertain ending: the protagonist abandons his obsession, but we never learn if he goes on to a better life with his wife and son. This ending is the best, most original and most surprising aspect of 'The Naked Hills', which in all other ways is an extremely routine Western: slower, duller, less violent (and made on a much lower budget) than most. (Denver Pyle and Fuzzy Knight turn in precisely the same performances they've given in a hundred other sagebrush sagas.) For that courageous ending and the pleasant theme song - and the performances of Wayne, Wynn and especially Backus - I'll rate this movie 6 out of 10.


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