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Three Violent People (1956)

 -  Western  -  December 1956 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 551 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 10 critic

Former dance hall girl Lorna, masquerading as a lady, meets and marries Confederate ex-officer Colt Saunders, returning to his rich Texas ranch. Everyone there is enchanted with Lorna. But ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (based on a story by), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Capt. Colt Saunders
Lorna Hunter Saunders
Innocencio Ortega
Beauregard 'Cinch' Saunders
Deputy Commissioner Cable
Commissioner Harrison
Ruby LaSalle
Lt. Marr
John Harmon ...
Mr. Massey
Ross Bagdasarian ...
Asuncion Ortega
Rafael Ortega (as Bobby Blake)
Pedro Ortega (as Jameel Farah)
Leo Castillo ...
Luis Ortega
Don Devlin ...
Juan Ortega


Former dance hall girl Lorna, masquerading as a lady, meets and marries Confederate ex-officer Colt Saunders, returning to his rich Texas ranch. Everyone there is enchanted with Lorna. But the carpetbag government is set to grab all the big ranches, unless the ranchers (led by Colt) decide to fight. And one of the carpetbaggers knows Lorna's secret. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

December 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Maverick  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In one scene, Colt Saunders (Charlton Heston) leans against a rustic mantelpiece in his family home. Over the mantelpiece are two portraits, a seated woman and a standing military officer. These paintings were done from photos of Heston's grandparents so they would bear a family resemblance. See more »


At one point the sun goes down, the screen is black for several seconds, then the sun comes up - in exactly the same spot, with exactly the same clouds. See more »


Music by Margery Wolpin (as Martita)
Lyrics by Mack David
Performed by Ross Bagdasarian (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

You know, you're the first person to understand I got hurt that day.
23 May 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Three Violent People is directed by Rudolph Maté and adapted to screenplay by James Edward Grant from a story co-written by Leonard Praskins and Barney Slater. It stars Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter, Gilbert Roland and Forrest Tucker. Out of Paramount Pictures, it's a VistaVision production with Technicolor photography by Loyal Griggs and music scored by Walter Scharf.

It's post Civil War Texas and Confederate Captain Colt Saunders (Heston) finds himself with a bride (Baxter) who has a secret past, and taxable assets at his ranch that scheming Carpetbaggers want for themselves. Into the mix comes Colt's brother Cinch (Tryon), who is minus an arm from an accident in childhood; where Colt was his heroic saviour. Things will come to a head as resentments, skeleton's in closets and post war greed will fracture the dynamic of the Bar S ranch.

Try to remember that people aren't perfect. They just aren't. They make mistakes. And when they do, they suffer. They pay. Inside themselves they pay.

It made little impact back on release in 56, where the release of Heston's other film that year, The Ten Commandments, dwarfed it considerably and simultaneously propelled Heston into the big league. It didn't help that Three Violent People is a very character driven picture, literate and heavy on the melodrama. This is no gunslinging action based bonanza, this features interesting characters talking a lot, where the screenplay has the big players nicely drawn, creating a pot boiler that only rewards those open to an intelligently paced structure. The title, sadly, is misleading and doesn't do the film any favours.

You were one of the rear echelon heroes who hid on General Butler's staff while better men were getting killed in battle.

Film has definite links to another "literate" Heston picture from 1954, The Naked Jungle. Sanctimonious macho male takes a wife and recoils when learning of her past. Cue the fleshing out of relationships for an hour until the pot starts boiling over and the pace ups and unfolds with a pleasingly suspenseful third act. Action until that third act is sparse, though there's good drama to keep one interested, very much so. This is also a gorgeous picture to look at, not just the rugged but beautiful landscape around the Bar S (Arizona), but also the colours that beam out from the screen, Loyal Griggs' (Shane) photography reason enough to seek this undervalued Western out.

I got the one with the red hair ready for the buzzards.

Lead cast performances are up and down, Baxter and Heston's chemistry is fine and sexy, but they do appear to be in competition with each other to see who can steal a scene. Baxter, looking positively ravishing throughout, really over does it early in the pic, while Heston forgoes his most agreeable subtlety from those early passages to ham it up later in the day. The best performance comes from Roland (Cheyenne Autumn), who as Bar S gran vaquero, Innocencio Ortega, not only looks immeasurable cool, he also casts a humanistic shadow over proceedings. Tryon, whose edgy one armed brother adds major spice to the narrative, turns in a rare effective performance.

The problems are evident throughout, some over soaping by actors who should have known better and the villains are badly in need of flesh on their bones. Yet this is a Western that plays better now to Western fans than it would have done back in the 50s. Where the character driven bent can be appreciated without expectation of a "yeehaw" fuelled Oater. This be one for the ears, eyes and the brain rather than the pulse. 7/10

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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