In 1909, when young Paiute Indian Willie Boy returns to his California reservation to be with Lola, whose father disapproves of him, a killing in self defense takes place, triggering a massive man hunt for Willie.
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. They 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>
The Richard Widmark character is in a relationship with the Lena Horne character: in other words, an interracial relationship. That aspect of things is not a plot point in the movie - she's his girlfriend, and nothing more is said. At the time of the movie's release, this was touted by some involved (Widmark for one) as a sign that society had finally reached the point where such things were no longer a controversy or a big deal, and didn't need to be dealt with as part of the narrative. See more »
Near the end of the film you can see the electrical wires running (presumably buried for most of their length under the differently-coloured soil) to a man's body as he is 'shot'; the last yard or so of wire -which is presumably for the gunshot SFX- is clearly visible running towards the man's ankles. See more »
[Mr. Brant, the undertaker, tries to console Mrs. Mills, the "grieving" widow]
Needless to say, Mrs. Mills, we all share your grief.
What's the price of your cheapest funeral?
See more »
Second cousin to Monte Walsh and Lonely Are The Brave.
Death of a Gunfighter is directed by Don Siegel and Robert Totten under the pseudonym of Alan Smithee. It's adapted to screenplay by Joseph Calvelli from the novel written by Lewis B. Patten. it stars Richard Widmark, Lena Horne and Carroll O'Connor. A Technicolor production it sees music is by Oliver Nelson and cinematography by Andrew Jackson. Plot sees Widmark as Patch, an old style lawman in the town of Cottonwood Springs, a town that the community elders want to see move with the times. When Patch kills a drunk in self defence, the town denizens see it as the ideal opportunity to oust him from office. But Patch isn't that keen to leave his post....
It carries with it some historical cinematic value in that it was the first time the name Alan Smithee was seen on the directing credits. A name that come to be associated with films where the director who worked on it wanted his name off of the credits. Here it was Don Siegel, who only came in for the last two weeks of filming after Widmark and Totten fell out. The finished product, whilst no duffer, is still a lukewarm experience, not helped by the fact that the theme at its core has been done considerably better in other Western offerings. On the plus side there is Widmark stoically giving his anachronism role some real emotional depth, and the finale does not want for dramatic impact. But it plays out like a TV movie, with no visual flourishes, and the cosmopolitan make up of the townsfolk is not utilised to aid the story. 6/10
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