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Death of a Gunfighter (1969)

M | | Western | 8 May 1969 (USA)
A Texas town's council fires the town's old-fashioned marshal who refuses to resign, thus leading to violence from both sides.


Don Siegel (as Allen Smithee), Robert Totten (as Allen Smithee)


Joseph Calvelli (screenplay), Lewis B. Patten (novel)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Widmark ... Marshal Frank Patch
Lena Horne ... Claire Quintana
Carroll O'Connor ... Lester Locke
David Opatoshu ... Edward Rosenbloom
Kent Smith ... Andrew Oxley
Jacqueline Scott ... Laurie Mills
Morgan Woodward ... Ivan Stanek
Larry Gates ... Mayor Chester Sayre
Dub Taylor ... Doc Adams
John Saxon ... Lou Trinidad
Darleen Carr ... Hilda Jorgenson
Michael McGreevey ... Dan Joslin
Royal Dano ... Arch Brandt
Jimmy Lydon ... Luke Mills (as James Lydon)
Kathleen Freeman ... Mary Elizabeth


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 <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Marshall Patch... he lived by the law of the gun...




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Did You Know?


Don Siegel says in his biography that Richard Widmark did not like playing in a movie directed by Robert Totten. 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 »


[discussing Frank Patch]
Lester Locke: There's that mayor over there drumming up a meeting with all those rich and proper jackasses - hollering and shouting around, quoting some stupid law or bylaw. Then they'll all go stomping down to the jailhouse, take a look at God Almighty, then he'll take one good look back at 'em, and they'll all wet their britches and go on home.
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Lyrics Carol Hall
Music Oliver Nelson
Sung by Lena Horne
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User Reviews

Another unsung classic that needs remembering
27 February 2007 | by SHAWFANSee all my reviews

How many times have I seen films on television which have astounded me with their depth and profundity and whose titles I have never heard before? Or which never come up in discussions of the classics? Death of a Gunfighter was one such movie. (The Devil's Doorway from 1950 with Robert Taylor is another.) Gazineo from Brasilia rightly compared DoaG with the Shootist (John Wayne) as portraying the passing of the frontier into more modern political structures. Especially the sharply etched scenes in the town council showing all the ethnics (Cathoic priest, Jewish merchant) being led around by the nose by the progressive Episcopalian (or whatever denomination he's supposed to be.) But there's one movie nobody has compared this film to: High Noon (Gary Cooper). DoaG is like a "High Noon noir." In High Noon the hero manages to conquer his enemies entirely on his own despite being deserted by the Establishment. But in DoaG the members of the whole establishment are the enemies and the hero does not manage to conquer them; on the contrary they get their own way most gruesomely in the end. This is somewhat of a unique plot in the history of westerns. Beautiful music by Oliver Nelson (1932-1975). What a loss to the movies! Imagine Carroll O'Connor in a pre-Archie Bunker role. That's a rarity in itself! When classic westerns are discussed DoaG must be included..

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Release Date:

8 May 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Patch See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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