In the turn-of-the century Texas town of Cottownwood Springs, marshal Frank Patch is an old-style lawman in a town determined to become modern. When he kills drunken Luke Mills in ... See full summary »
In the turn-of-the century Texas town of Cottownwood Springs, marshal Frank Patch is an old-style lawman in a town determined to become modern. When he kills drunken Luke Mills in self-defense, the town leaders decide it's time for a change. That ask for Patch's resignation, but he refuses on the basis that the town on hiring him had promised him the job for as long as he wanted it. Afraid for the town's future and even more afraid of the fact that Marshal Patch knows all the town's dark secrets, the city fathers decide that old-style violence is the only way to rid themselves of the unwanted lawman. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Star Richard Widmark and original director Robert Totten had "artistic differences," and Totten was replaced by Don Siegel. When the film was completed, Siegel, saying that Totten directed more of the film than he did, refused to take screen credit for it, but Widmark didn't want Totten's name on it. A compromise was reached whereby the film was credited to the fictitious "Alan Smithee" (originally to be called Al Smith, but the DGA said there had already been a director by that name), thereby setting a precedent for directors who, for one reason or another, did not want their name on a film they made. See more »
Death of a Gunfighter was Lena Horne's only straight drama
In continuing to review African-Americans on film and television in chronological order for Black History Month, we're now at 1969 with Death of a Gunfighter with Lena Horne in her only straight role though you do hear her recording of the song, "Sweet Apple Wine" in the beginning and end credits. Though she's billed above the title with Richard Widmark, her role of Claire Quintana is very much a supporting one that's mainly there as one of the few people who stands by Marshal Frank Patch (Widmark) as the townspeople are fed up with his violent ways of dealing with justice. Also among the supporting cast are Michael McGreevey as Dan-a young man who also likes the marshal, Darleen Carr-sister of The Sound of Music's Charmian Carr-as his girlfriend Hilda, Jacqueline Scott-probably best known as Richard Kimble's sister Donna on "The Fugitive-as the widow, Laurie Mills, of the first man killed by Patch at the beginning of the movie, Harry Carey, Jr. as Rev. Rork, John Saxon as county Sheriff Lou Trinidad who tries to get Patch to get out of town peacefully, and, in a nice surprise from his later role as Archie Bunker, Carroll O'Connor as the bar owner, Lester Locke, who bides his time in letting other people get Frank before he himself tries. Many of the cast I just mentioned and lots of others I haven't contribute great tension as the film chronicles the last days of the Marshal. Horne acquits herself nicely with her few scenes and it's nice seeing her and Widmark kiss at their wedding especially when one knows that Widmark played a racist opposite Sidney Poitier in his movie debut, No Way Out (1950). Love the music score, by Oliver Nelson, and direction especially many of the close-ups. That direction, by the way, was credited to one "Allen Smithee" which is the name used when the real director doesn't want his own name used. In this case, they're Robert Totten-who had "creative differences" with Widmark, and Don Siegel-who had filmed the actor previously in Madigan. This marked "Smithee's" feature film debut. All in all, Death of a Gunfighter was another pleasant surprise for me.
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