The Kid from Texas
The titles with live links in this post will take you to this blog’s full reviews of the pictures concerned.
For summaries of the Westerns of other actors, click on aab WESTERN ACTORS near the top of the sidebar to the right of the homepage.)
The Kid from Texas, the title of Audie Murphy’s first Western movie, will do very well also to head up this look at his Western career because he was very much a Texan and his youthful appearance was, throughout, a key element of his appeal.
From spring 1950, when The Kid was released, all though the 1950s Audie made Westerns at a rate of nearly two a year on average, and when the dreaded 60s dawned, a time when the public seemed to have lost interest in the big-screen oater, Audie rode on regardless, being one of the few to buck the trend. He appeared in fifteen in that decade, as well as episodes of Whispering Smith on TV. Altogether, therefore, counting Whispering Smith as one, he did 34 Westerns, and he must be regarded one of the chief figures in our noble genre.
The Westerns weren’t all excellent, but some were, and even in the weaker ones he always seemed the fresh-faced Westerner roamin’ the range and beating the mean hombres when the going got tough. He was enormously popular, and though he sometimes seemed fed up with what he saw as the rut he had got himself into (he once said tiredly “I guess my face is still the same, and so is the dialogue; only the horses were changed”) for the audiences who paid to see his regular Western movies that was a good thing, not a bad one. They liked the formula and wanted it to continue.
The kid as kid
Audie Leon Murphy (right as a small boy) was born in Hunt County, Texas in 1925, the sixth of twelve children of a far from prosperous family of sharecroppers. The boy was a loner with mood swings and an explosive temper. His father deserted them in 1939 and his mother died of pneumonia in 1941. Audie left school in fifth grade to pick cotton for a dollar a day and find other work to help support his family. It must have been a truly traumatic time. He once said, “I can't ever remember being young in my life.” Trauma was to pursue him into young adulthood. After Pearl Harbor Audie tried to enlist but was refused because of his youth and lack of weight and height. In June 1942 he tried again, falsely declaring his age to be 18, and was enlisted. He went to Europe in the Army. There, remarkable things happened.
When he was discharged from the Army in September 1945 he was one of America’s most decorated soldiers. For example, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor after he single-handedly held off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour in France in January 1945, when he was 19, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition. He had a chest full of other medals too.
He was self-deprecating about it. He said, "I never liked being called the 'most decorated' soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did--guys who were killed."
The fact remains that it made him a national hero.
Murphy was affected by what would now be called PTSD, then known as battle fatigue. He suffered from insomnia and bouts of depression, and he slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow. A medical examination revealed symptoms of headaches, vomiting, and nightmares about the war. He took sleeping pills to help prevent the bad dreams and became dependent on them, until he locked himself alone in a hotel room for a week to break the addiction.
When actor and producer James Cagney saw the July 16, 1945 issue of Life magazine with its profile of Murphy, he invited the young man to Hollywood. Cagney and his brother William gave him training in acting, voice and dance, but the association ended in disagreement.
Cagney was interested
Audie and Wanda
1950: Audie is Billy and Jesse
There was an astonishing average of over one Western per week released throughout the 1950s, 600 in total, a figure we can only dream of now, and Universal made 72 of them. Audie was in at the start with The Kid from Texas (1), released by the studio in March 1950.
Audie as Billy and Billy as Billy
But as a Western movie it’s still a lot of fun. Purely as a Billy the Kid film it was no worse than many another and a lot better than some, despite the monkeying about with "the facts". It did well at the box-office. Murphy's fame helped a lot and casting him as a troubled youth resorting to violence didn't hurt.
Later the same year Audie would give another violent youth the same treatment when he played Jesse James in Kansas Raiders.
But before Kansas Raiders Audie appeared in Sierra (2), released in May. Sierra, based on the Stuart Hardy novel The Mountains Are My Kingdom, was a remake of Universal’s 1938 black & white melodrama Forbidden Valley with Noah Beery Jr. It was far from Audie’s greatest Western. It had a rather improbable plot and in it Murphy showed limited range as an actor. He spent most of it being surly, like his part in Bad Boy.
With Wanda in Sierra
The co-star was Wanda Hendrix, still Mrs. Murphy at the time, though the marriage was on the rocks and they would soon divorce. There’s a story that during the filming the Murphys camped in the bed of the dry Kanab Creek but a sudden cloudburst caused a flash flood. Audie “leaped on the back of his horse, grabbed Miss Hendrix and rode up the canyon-side to safety.” Pity the cameras weren’t rolling. They could have used that footage in the movie.
In Kansas Raiders (3), Murphy’s Jesse is a decent boy shocked by the brutalities of Quantrill’s band. He leaves Missouri to join Quantrill in Kansas because Redlegs have burnt his farm, hung his Pappy and maimed his Ma in a fire-bombing (all hooey, of course). He’s a goodie Jesse just as he was a goodie Billy the Kid in The Kid from Texas.
Because he’s so good he can’t take the slaughter meted out by the Quantrill band and shoots Bloody Bill Anderson dead during the sack of Lawrence when Anderson wants to hang a Union captive. Of course Jesse was not at Lawrence and did not shoot Anderson, but poetic license, you know. In the end, however, he is the only one to stand by Quantrill (played as a cruel megalomaniac by Brian Donlevy, who was also Quantrill in Woman They Almost Lynched later). We also get brother Frank (Richard Long), two Youngers (James Best and Dewey Martin) and a junior Dalton (Tony Curtis).
Audie is Jesse
Still a kid
There were, curiously, no Audie Westerns in 1951 (when he was loaned out to MGM for The Red Badge of Courage). When ’52 arrived, well, he’d played Billy the Kid and Jesse James. Why not make him outlaw Bill Doolin this time? The Cimarron Kid (4) - Audie inevitably the kid - was the first Western (or proper Western) of Budd Boetticher. Once again it’s complete baloney historically but once again it’s fun.
As Bill Doolin he looks very like Jesse
Later in ’52 Audie swapped Budd Boetticher for Don Siegel and made Siegel’s first feature Western (and first film in color) The Duel at Silver Creek (5), in which Audie played the (still inevitable) Silver Kid. It’s a fast-paced, almost lurid picture, a revenge plot as slick gunman/gambler in black leather the Silver Kid hunts down the malefactors who killed his daddy. He hires on as deputy to Sheriff Stephen McNally. “He didn’t have a face of a killer,” says McNally in voiceover narration, “but he had the cold-steel look of one.” This seems to reference what a fellow soldier once said of Murphy: “Don't let that baby face fool you, that's the toughest soldier in the Third Division.” Murphy was in fact actually very tough. He reputedly once frightened a drunken, misbehaving Lawrence Tierney, one of the more notorious brawlers in Hollywood, into leaving a party without raising his voice or physically harming Tierney.
The Silver Kid
Don's first too
Audie sheds the ‘kid’ tag
Audie seemed more confident somehow, and his next Western, Gunsmoke (6), released in early 1953, in which he was once again paired with Susan Cabot, was even better. Audie was now becoming established as a Western lead, much as the likes of Rory Calhoun, say, or George Montgomery, and Gunsmoke showed him on good form. The story tells of gun for hire Reb Kittridge (Murphy) who wants to settle down and get a ranch in 1890s Montana. Audie, in keeping with his tough-guy gunman part, appears unshaven and in dirty clothes sometimes, which was quite a departure for him. He at last seemed ready to ditch the ‘kid’ label.
Nathan Juran directed 3 Audie oaters
This was Nathan Juran’s first Western as director. He’d been art director on seven, including Winchester ’73, so presumably had learnt something of the craft. Indeed, the movie is properly paced, with the right blend of action and conversation/plot. He would do two more Audie oaters.
In uniform now, Column South
The star of Tumbleweed (and co-star on the right)
Murphy: Don't overact, Dan!
Duryea: Overact, moi?
Audie did many of his own stunts and wasn't always too good at pulling his punches. After a scene in Ride Clear of Diablo Bob Steele needed medical treatment.
DD did 3 Audie oaters
Western No. 10 was also in 1954 (as in ‘52, he did three this year). Drums Across the River (10) was Nathan Juran’s third and last Western with Audie. It’s very much in the tradition of the post-Broken Arrow pro-Indian Western. The story starts in Crown City, Colorado when young freighter Audie, whose Ma has been killed by the Utes, is planning an expedition with ultra-slimy Lyle Bettger – a villain from his first camera shot – and his henchmen to cross the river in defiance of a treaty and prospect for gold in Ute lands. Audie’s dad is statesmanlike Walter Brennan, who has forgiven the Utes for killing his wife and tries to dissuade his son from crossing that river. But oh, the intemperance of youth; Audie will not heed these paternal words of wisdom (though we sense he will by the end of the movie) and all hell is let loose - luckily for an action Western.
Drums Across the River
It’s quite a watery Western, with some good wet scenes, such as Audie walking to the scaffold under a beating rain, a fistfight in a drinking trough and multiple crossings of the river. You might almost accuse it of being art.
The last Western for a bit
Next came a remake of Universal’s hit Destry Rides Again, this time called simply Destry (11) and directed once again by George Marshall (occasionally directors did remake their own pictures; Cecil B DeMille was a past master at it).
Taking over from James Stewart was always going to be very challenging and poor Audie was doomed from the get-go. To be fair to him, his baby-faced modesty and quiet manners were ideal for the part. But how are you going to follow Jimmy Stewart’s Destry? Audie does his best and he wasn’t half as bad an actor as he thought himself to be but it was a hard act to follow.
The ’54 Destry does have two great character actors in small parts, Thomas Mitchell as the town drunk made sheriff (Mitchell of course did drunks, as all Stagecoach fans knew) and the great Edgar Buchanan as the rascally mayor, who is an artist this time, not a chess player.
Audie’s Tom Destry ties complex knots in pieces of rope rather than whittling (Joel McCrea’s Tom in Frenchie whittles though). The town is called Restful, not Bottleneck (it was Bottleneck in Frenchie). But these are tiny differences. Many of the director’s mises en scène are identical and many of the lines too (good old DD Beauchamp the Great wrote this one too but both versions were very loosely based on the Felix Jackson adaptation of the Max Brand novel Twelve Peers). It was a big hit at the box-office, opening on Christmas day 1954.
Back in the saddle
There were no Westerns in ’55, Audie instead concentrating on playing himself in To Hell and Back, which remained the biggest commercial hit movie until Jaws in 1975. By the time he returned to our noble genre, in 1956, Audie had perhaps different ideas than just churning out formulaic B-Westerns. His next few Westerns were rather different - but, honestly, not so good.
He starred in a ‘serious’ biopic of Indian Agent John Clum (1851 to 1932), Walk the Proud Land (12), based on Woodworth Clum’s 1935 book about his father, Indian Agent. John Clum’s career was indeed very interesting (after running the San Carlos reservation he became the first mayor of Tombstone and founded The Tombstone Epitaph, a pro-Earp paper) but this film, directed by Jesse Hibbs, is a bit ponderous. There was limited action and it concentrated on Clum’s attempts to gain the Apaches’ trust and capture Geronimo, and his relationship with an over-made-up Anne Bancroft. It was also historically very dubious, normally OK for a Western but if it’s plugged as a biopic and opens with the pronouncement “The story you are about to see is true”, well, it should be better in that regard.
Clum as Clum, Audie as Clum
"Come on, men!" Frightfully amusing.
Marshall: two Audie oaters
Jimmy was 6' 3"
The quality returns
For in 1958 it was back to Jesse Hibbs, still at Universal, for Ride a Crooked Trail (15).
Jesse Hibbs on the set of To Hell and Back with Audie and Audie's former commanding officer. Hibbs directed 3 Audie oaters.
And it was back to quality mid-budget Westerns which have high production values (this one was in widescreen) and are great fun to watch. The movie is made by Walter Matthau as a judge. It’s a pity Matthau didn’t do more Westerns; he was good in them. And this one was his best, I think. He plays a Judge Roy Bean-ish figure quick to resort to a firearm and a bottle. The love interest is the ravishing Gia Scala. She has great beauty, with a delicious accent and a sparkle in her eye. Actually, Audie is quite saucy with her, for Audie. But who can blame him? Anyway, it was good to have Mr. Murphy back, in his proper métier, i.e. the well-made Universal Western.
Audie quite saucy
Jack brought his talents to bear
The picture’s great quality is tension. A famous hired killer, John Gant (Murphy) comes to Lordsburg, NM. Menacing and sinister, a gunslinging angel of death, Gant throws the population into panic. For whom has he come? They all have guilty consciences; they all have enemies. It’s real high quality.
The Wild and the Innocent (17) a few months later (1959 was another three-Western year for Audie) was directed and written by Jack Sher, who had co-written Shane and Audie’s Walk the Proud Land. But this was his only Western as director and it is rather stodgy. His co-writer on The Wild and the Innocent was Sy Gomberg, the campaigner against "gratuitous and unpunished violence" in movies, and the screenplay is didactic, earnest and preachy, despite the fact that writers and director went for a slightly light-hearted treatment, which doesn’t really work.
Audie is a country bumpkin - but with grit
The town is run by the apparently friendly but actually corrupt sheriff, third-billed Gilbert Roland, as usual with his caddish mustache. He owns the saloon/dance hall/bordello (though of course in a 50s family Western the word bordello could never be pronounced, nor its activities described). Rosalie is offered work in the dance hall and Sheriff Roland clearly wants her as his next conquest. Innocent Yancy eventually comes round to understanding what is going on and rescues her. Joanne Dru is one of the senior whores, the cynical and worldly Marcy, and she provides counterpoint (and temptation) for the hero, though of course we all know he will finally go off with Rosalie.
Audie and Gilbert
Like most of these Universal Westerns, the picture is visually appealing. DP Harold Lipstein, who shot Across the Wide Missouri for William Wellman, did a fine job on the San Bernadino National Forest locations. It’s in CinemaScope again.
Despite the attempt at homespun humor (a running gag with skunks, for example) of an almost 50s-Disney kind, this film does in fact treat quite dark themes. But it is poorly written and directed, and while they have may have aimed at light-hearted, it ends up being just light.
Cast a Long Shadow (18), the last of the trio of Audie’s ’57 oaters, was one of the least. He signed with Walter Mirisch but that meant a United Artists release, and in black & white. Cast a Long Shadow had structural weaknesses too: it can’t make up its mind whether to be a story about a prodigal son taking over dead daddy’s ranch or a cattle-drive picture, and it tries to do both. It was directed by Thomas Carr, more used to Poverty Row B-movies and Western TV shows. Audie starts the movie as a drunken unshaven bum but has a last-reel – last minute, actually – conversion to nice guy, which is unexplained. Of course you couldn’t give an Audie Murphy Western a one-revolver rating, the very idea!, but still this was one that came close.
Actually, at 5' 10" he cast quite a short shadow but I don't want to be picky
Seriously classy A-picture
1960 was the year of The Unforgiven (19). This was an Alan Le May story starring Burt Lancaster (who also produced) and Audrey Hepburn, budgeted by United Artists at $5m and directed by John Huston. It was a major cinematic event. It was Huston’s own statement about racial intolerance and it ranks with the likes of Mann's Devil’s Doorway, Ford's The Searchers and Siegel's Flaming Star as an indictment of American attitudes to Native Americans, or indeed any ‘other’. Audie was given the part of Lancaster’s younger brother, an Indian-hating, rash, hard-drinking bigot – with a mustache! Audie’s public must have been astounded. But he was superb. He is powerful, weighty and strong, and showed himself to be a serious actor of considerable ability. The Unforgiven is very, very good. It is a marvelously written, intense psychological Western with fascinating characters, splendid acting, fine photography and stirring action.
Audie 'n' Audrey
Director Huston advises
The recipe as before
For me someone is hell bent on something or goes for it hell for leather but the first of the series combined these phrases. Audie starred in Hell Bent for Leather (20). It was directed by George Sherman. Pint-sized Sherman (he barely reached five foot) was involved in 158 Westerns altogether, from 1935 to 1971, nearly all Bs. He was a real pro, and knew exactly what was needed and how to do it. The delicious Felicia Farr was the leading lady and they drafted Stephen McNally back in to play the bad guy. It was a really professional effort, well directed, acted and photographed, and it ranks up there as one of the best Audie Westerns.
They laughed on the set, but not on camera
Audie plays second fiddle in the Barry Sullivan Show
Saxon and Acosta are in his posse
What with To Hell and Back, Hell Bent for Leather and Posse from Hell, they sure gave Audie Hell in his titles. It was Herbert Coleman’s only Western feature film as director, though he did direct quite a few Whispering Smith TV episodes with Audie (see below). The Joseph Gershenson score is dark and modern, suitably sinister, and well done. Apparently he reused music from It Came from Outer Space! It's tough, quite violent and hard-boiled. Audie is unusually grim.
Like so many Western movie stars, Audie now turned to TV. He had completed a first-class run of Westerns, establishing his leading position in the genre and defying the declining market trend for big-screen oaters. Now he wanted to do something different. Whispering Smith (23), was a season of 26 black & white 30-minute episodes, 20 of which aired on NBC from May to September 1961.
It didn't work out well
I’ll be reviewing Whispering Smith in July.
Back to the big screen, then
The other Western leads were falling away. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea retired. Lesser lights such as George Montgomery, Rod Cameron or Rory Calhoun did the odd oater but fewer and fewer – maybe the odd spaghetti or AC Lyles ‘geezer Western’, or TV work. “I seem to be the only one left,” Murphy told a reporter in 1963. “I’ll keep on making them till they get wise to me.”
Six Black Horses (24) was released by Universal in March 1962. They took no risks: the picture was directed by Seven Ways from Sundown helmsman Harry Keller, produced by Gordon Kay and co-starred Dan Duryea again.
Harry Keller, 52 Western movies, 2 of which with Audie
It’s the ‘woman and two men facing danger from hostile Apaches’ plot. Actually, Six Black Horses was to have been the eighth Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott Western. Wow, that would have been something. But it never happened and the picture came to Harry Keller, who first wanted Richard Widmark in the lead. In fact the whole picture has a definite Boetticher/Scott vibe: few characters, desert terrain, searching for someone, beset by danger, and glam blonde. The writing (Burt Kennedy) is good. The action scenes are well done (top-notch stuntmen, inc. Henry Wills). The scenery is fine. Yup, it was another goodie.
Don't worry, Dan will save him
There were a couple of differences, though. To Audie’s annoyance, it was in black& amp; white, like Cast a Long Shadow, which for a 60s Universal Western was a bit penny-pinching. Actually, though, Ellis W Carter’s cinematography is rather fine and personally I have always had a penchant for well-shot b&w Westerns. And then there’s the interesting idea of the jail-less town using a post in the main street to chain lawbreakers to. This idea – a post or a log - appears in quite a few Westerns, in fact (see, for example, Fury at Furnace Creek). It appears barbaric, perhaps because it’s more public than a jail cell, and there’s a resemblance to the medieval stocks or pillory.
Tough Audie chained in Showdown
RG Springsteen, photographed in 1989, helmed two Audie oaters
Universal were at last beginning to have doubts about the viability of repeated big-screen Westerns, and it began to show in their commitment and allotted budgets - and Audie kicking up a stink about the black & white didn’t help. New management was less interested in contract stars and thought Westerns were a thing of the past, the dolts. So it was Allied Artists who put out Audie’s second Western of ’63, Gunfight at Comanche Creek (26), released in November. It was produced by Ben Schwalb (only 5 Westerns) and directed by Frank McDonald, a highly experienced director of oaters (45 of them, from 1936 to this one, his last) who, however, didn’t exactly rival John Ford, if you see what I mean. He was described as “not entirely comfortable as a director.” Still, the great Joe Biroc was DP and it was in color (Audie wouldn’t have done it otherwise), so that’s something.
Allied's Audie Western not so hot
So the AA experience wasn’t exactly positive. To Columbia then.
Audie rides for Columbia now
It was another remake, or rehash anyway. The Quick Gun (27) was remarkably similar in plot to Top Gun with Sterling Hayden (1955) and Noose for a Gunman with Jim Davis (1960). Never mind, it had good production values (Columbia was like Universal in that regard). It was in Technicolor and the new Techniscope widescreen.
He's quick alright
It was directed by Sidney Salkow (Sitting Bull, The Great Sioux Massacre, Robbers' Roost, etc.) and written by Robert E Kent and Steve Fisher. These guys knew what they were doing. It had a strong supporting cast. It’s no classic, far from it, but it was better than Audie’s recent oaters.
Hold up, it’s back to Universal
Murphy wasn’t under contract at Universal any more but that didn’t stop him doing Westerns released by the studio. It must have seemed like old times: RG Springsteen back in charge, Joe Biroc at the camera once more, Gordon Kay producing, happy days were here again. Bullet for a Badman (28) was written by Audie’s pals the Willinghams (who had done Whispering Smith) and the supporting cast included Skip Homeier, Alan Hale Jr., Mort Mills, Ray Teal and Bob Steele. Darren McGavin was the bad guy. Ruta Lee and Beverley Owen shared the leading-lady honors.
Audie back on form with Bullet
It was a return to form for Audie and a picture of some weight. Many regard it as Audie’s best 60s Western. One good feature of this movie is that there are shades of gray in the characters; they aren’t all simply white hats or black hats, though it is true that the headgear shade was generally on the darker side.
No, wait, Fox
By 1964 the dreaded spaghetti westerns were coming and the standard what you might call 1950s American Western seemed to have less and less to say. But Audie bashed on regardless. He starred in Apache Rifles (29), a Fox picture directed by old vet William Witney. It was produced by Grant Whytock, better known for sword-and-cloak dramas but he also did quite a few oaters – he had produced The Quick Gun.
Back in uniform
The same team of producer, director and writers did the next one too, but this time released by Columbia. Arizona Raiders (30), which came out in August 1965, was also a remake of a George Montgomery outing, this time The Texas Rangers, and once again the original was better. It’s yet another Quantrill tale (how Westerns loved him) and this time Fred Graham was Quantrill (or Quantrell). It’s quite 60s, with blood, torture, people shot down without mercy, and so on. Audie co-starred with Buster Crabbe, pushing 60 but still ridin’ and shootin’ with the best of them. Buster’s glorious Western career had started back in 1933 when he appeared with Randolph Scott in To The Last Man. Arizona Raiders and the rather odd little film The Bounty Killer, both in ’65, were to be his swansong.
The end of the affair
Later in 1960 Audie followed the dusty trail of many of his compadres, the one that led through the LAX departure lounge, and flew off to Spain to make a spaghetti (or paella) western. The result was The Texican (32), released by Columbia in the US. Like most Eurowesterns of the time, it was pretty bad.
Weak Panhandle remake
The screenplay was by Laramie writer John C Champion, who was also one of the producers. Champion and Murphy formed a company, MCR Productions, to make Westerns in Europe, though in the end this was the only one they did. It was in fact a remake of Champion’s own script for Panhandle, the 1948 Allied Artists picture, Champion's first film, also directed by Selander. Audie would take Rod Cameron’s part, Brod that of Reed Hadley. You do rather get the impression that Murphy, Crawford, Selander and Champion, their careers all flagging, got together one evening in Laurel Canyon or somewhere and cooked up the idea of a really cheap and quick Western made in Spain that they could get Columbia to release Stateside. I don’t know if that’s how it happened, but it could have been.
Apart from Audie and Brod, all the rest of the cast were Spanish, and the movie was post-dubbed, often not very well. We get this kind of thing: “There’s nothing to worry. About folks.” Audie goes through the motions and is barely credible as the bad guy with a price on his head coming back for vengeance. As usual he doesn’t have a hair out of place and his duds are fresh from the dry cleaners. Brod mumbles and gabbles his way through his part, as per usual.
The sound is poor and the music sometimes drowns out the dialogue. The gunshots are those stupid overloud spaghetti ones which always have a ricochet whine even when they don’t hit anything. I’m afraid the whole thing is pretty grim. Panhandle wasn’t bad, in a ’48 B-Western kind of way, but this one is certainly not an improvement.
The last proper Western Audie led in was 40 Guns to Apache Pass (33), released by Columbia in May 1967. It was not a glorious filmic farewell, being an average Western at best. It was also the last Western movie to be directed by William Witney (though he went on with TV Westerns till ’82). By the late 60s we had a right to expect slightly more nuanced films about Apaches. But the Indians in this picture are out-and-out baddies, referred to as savages and no one contradicts that.
The movie isn’t lousy or anything. But it’s routine and derivative, and Audie had certainly done better. And the picture looked an anachronism in theaters flooded with spaghetti westerns, which were then (unfortunately) in full flow.
Witney directed 3 Audie oaters
A Time for Dying (34) was almost a PS. It was Budd Boetticher’s last Western as well as Audie’s. It is a flawed film. It has its moments and on paper it should have been good, or at least solid: it was written by Boetticher, it was produced by Murphy and he played Jesse James in it, as he had all those years ago in Kansas Raiders. Victor Jory took the part of Judge Roy Bean. It was shot on location round Tucson by the great Lucien Ballard. All that should have made it top-notch.
Though shot in 1969 it didn’t screen till 1982. In ’69 Audie was ill and he had not made a film at all in 1968, the first year that happened since he started doing movies. Boetticher was also going through a bad patch. The two formed their own company, Fipco, to make films. This was to have been the first of several.
Audie adieu: he is Jesse again
It was to have starred Peter Fonda but that didn’t happen and Richard Lapp, who looks like a teenage Charles Bronson, was OK but, to be brutally frank, only OK. Audie’s son (from his marriage to Pamela Archer) Terry has a bit part as a youth casually hanged by the drunken bully Bean and a younger son, Skip, has a small part too.
Skip, Audie and Terry
It was a sad end to the big-screen Western.
So long, Audie, and thanks
It was indeed a time for dying. In May 1971, Audie Murphy was killed when the private plane in which he was a passenger crashed into a mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. He was 45. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. His is the cemetery's second most-visited gravesite, after that of President John F Kennedy.
Thanks for reading if you got this far!