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Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

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A one-armed stranger comes to a tiny town possessing a terrible past they want to keep secret, by violent means if necessary.

Director:

John Sturges

Writers:

Millard Kaufman (screen play), Don McGuire (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.

Director: Howard Hawks
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Spencer Tracy ... John J. Macreedy
Robert Ryan ... Reno Smith
Anne Francis ... Liz Wirth
Dean Jagger ... Tim Horn
Walter Brennan ... Doc Velie
John Ericson ... Pete Wirth
Ernest Borgnine ... Coley Trimble
Lee Marvin ... Hector David
Russell Collins ... Mr. Hastings
Walter Sande ... Sam
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Walter Beaver Walter Beaver ... Cafe Lounger (unconfirmed)
Billy Dix Billy Dix ... Cafe Lounger (unconfirmed)
Mickey Little Mickey Little ... Cafe Lounger (unconfirmed)
K.L. Smith K.L. Smith ... Cafe Lounger (unconfirmed)
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Storyline

From the time John J. Macreedy steps off the train in Black Rock, he feels a chill from the local residents. The town is only a speck on the map and few if any strangers ever come to the place. Macreedy himself is tight-lipped about the purpose of his trip and he finds that the hotel refuses him a room, the local garage refuses to rent him a car and the sheriff is a useless drunkard. It's apparent that the locals have something to hide but when he finally tells them that he is there to speak to a Japanese-American farmer named Kamoko, he touches a nerve so sensitive that he will spend the next 24 hours fighting for his life. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Suddenly you realize murder is at your elbow! - and there's no way out! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 May 1955 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Bad Day at Hondo See more »

Filming Locations:

Mojave Desert, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,271,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$1,966,000, 31 December 1955

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,788,000, 31 December 1955
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm optical prints) (Western Electric Sound System)| 4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints)

Color:

Color (Eastman Color)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Exteriors for this film (particularly the trip to "Adobe Flat") were filmed in and around Lone Pine, CA (a location often used by other films, especially westerns). The Japanese farmer central to the plot was (supposedly) sent to an (unnamed) internment camp after Pearl Harbor. Coincidentally, Lone Pine is just five miles from Manzanar, the best known internment camp. Present-day visitors may inspect both the Alabama Hills and Manzanar locations. See more »

Goofs

Spencer Tracy is said to be 5' 9 1/2" tall, although he appears to be the same height as Anne Francis, who is said to be 5' 8" tall. Either way, he could hardly be described as "big". Yet, several times, his character Macreedy is pointedly described by various townspeople as a "big man". See more »

Quotes

Pete Wirth: My memories are so pleasant as it is...
John J. Macreedy: It's gonna take an awful lot of whiskey to wash out your guts. Go on, go on! Swill it! What is there left for you to do? You're as dead as Komoko and you don't know it...
Pete Wirth: You don't have to remind me. I've never forgotten.
John J. Macreedy: Oh, isn't that noble of you. You haven't forgotten. And you're ashamed. That's really noble of you. I suppose four years from now, you'll be sitting around here telling people you haven't forgotten me either. That's real progress. In the...
See more »

Alternate Versions

To receive an 'A' (PG) certificate in 1955 the UK cinema version was subject to heavy BBFC cuts. These included Macreedy striking Hector with the brass fire hose nozzle and the climactic shots of Reno on fire. Later TV showings and video releases were fully uncut. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sanctimony (2000) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Tense moral fable
9 November 2002 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

For the first time in 4 years the train stops at the small desert town of Black Rock. An one armed war veteran gets off looking for a man whose name causes hostility among the residents of the town, led by Reno Smith. Macreedy digs deeper to find a town hiding a shameful secret that they were too apathetic to deal with. But will they stand up now?

Most people will tell you this film is famous because it was one of the first times an American film acknowledged that, after Pearl Harbour, oriental Americans were abused and treated badly. However to me this film is a damnation to those who stand back and refuse to take a stand against wrong doing. The whole plot is hinged on whether or not people ill stand up and do the right thing with Macreedy. The film plays well as a moral fable but also as a tense thriller and both are enjoyable.

The film is quite short, but builds well from hostile locals to eventual violence and confrontation in the desert. The moral of taking a stand is weaved into it well without taking away from the main drama and tension. It isn't perfect as it is a bit simplified but in the desert heat of the small town the tension is really well recreated.

The cast is surprisingly deep in hindsight. Tracy is manners himself as the man who gets more irate by the apathy around him as he gets to uncover more and more of the town. Ryan is cool but a little too inhuman for my tastes. Jagger and Brennan are suitably trapped in their performances and represent those happy to watch bad things happen if they get a quiet life. In retrospect Borgnine and Marvin add star power and do well with what could have been just thug/heavy roles.

Overall this film worked for me on several levels. The heat of the desert adds to the tension in the actual drama story itself. However it also works as a moral fable with a very clear message – stand up for what is right or watch what you believe slip away at an alarming rate.


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