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LINDA DARNELL for Star of the Month October 2013


Arturo
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A LETTER TO THREE WIVES was an all around success, both critically and with audiences. Trenchant, sparkling and witty dialogue, full of incisive performances, it has become a classic study of mid-20th century suburban mores. Writer/Director Joe Mankiewicz came in for his share of praise; this is considered the first of his "typical Mankiewicz' movies. The cast was uniformly excellent. Jeanne Crain's playing in the adult surroundings must've convinced Zanuck that she was ready to tackle more serious subject matter, such as PINKY. Ann Sothern had perhaps the best role of her long movie career. She and Kirk Douglas played well together, feeling like a real married couple with an occasional serious flare-up. Best received were Linda Darnell and Paul Douglas, she hardbitten and he bellowing, each giving as good as they got. Paul Douglas achieved stardom as a result, and Linda received te best notices of her career; there was widespread talk that Linda would be nominated for an Oscar. Standouts among the supporting players were Thelma Ritter as the maid, Connie Gilchist as Linda's mother, and Florence Bates as Ann Sothern's single-minded boss. Special mention should be made to Celeste Holm's voiceover narration; despite wanting to play the Sothern role, she is just as memorable playing the unseen Addie Ross..

 

 

 

 

 

The Academy Awards celebrating movies from 1949 took place in April 1950. Joseph Mankiewicz would win for Best Writer and Best Director; he would repeat this twin feat the following year, for ALL ABOUT EVE. However, Linda Darnell did not get the expected nomination for Best Actress, nor was anyone else from the cast nominated for the acting awards. Perhaps it was because the movie came out at the beginning of 1949, but that didn't keep it from getting other nominations. With Linda, it was probably that the studio decided to put their promotional muscle behind Crain's subsequent performance in PINKY, who did get a nomination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well I agree that when I view Douglas in this film it is hard for me to forget the later Douglas persona.

 

As I asked before I wonder if this somewhat 'odd' paring was done on purpose as it relates to the plot? e.g. did the plot require an older women married to a young man (a well worn plot line e.g. All About Eve,,,), or an intense man with a subdued gal?

 

As mentioned by TP and you the Douglas Darnell relationship was a standard one (rich, average looking man with poor young beauty wanting to get away from the streets), so I wondered if the Douglas Sothern relationship had one. I don't remember much about the 'issues' with their marriage as portrayed in the movie. Thus when one says the pairing 'works', to me this is defined by what the producers where trying to convey. i.e. were they to convey an odd match that, regardless, have a strong marriage? If yes, than, yea, it sure works.

 

 

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jamesjazzguitar:

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is nothing about the relationship between Rita and George Phipps that's supposed to convey older woman/younger man. The script states that the character played by Jeffrey Lynn (Brad), Rita, George, AND the unseen Addie, all grew up together. Brad, by way of identifying Rita and George to his wie (Jeanne Crain), states, "George and Rita were engaged by exchanging beetles at the age of 8; Rita was never my type", or something to that effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, it has to do with what one KNOWS about the actors: Sothern is some years older than Douglas. I completely buy the premise that they are of the same age, as nothing onscreen tells me otherwise, just like I buy Kirk as a high school teacher; his later persona does not play into it. My suspension of disbelief is never called into question. Kirk Douglas does quite well in this role; his acting totally makes the part work. Especially surprising considering he didn't normally do comedies later, or have a very light touch doing them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BTW, their segment has them stressed over Rita earning more money than he does as an English teacher, she writing "moronic" radio tripe he feels is beneath her. He also feels she kowtows to her boss, Florence Bates, who lives and breathes these programs and their commercials, "Why, they're perfection!". Rita, in turn wonders why Addie is sending him classical music recordings with a note quoting Shakespeare, "If music be the food of love, play on"

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 13, 2013 11:22 PM

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After Linda Darnell's unqualified triumph in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, she was hoping to be given more careful consideration in her movie assignments at 20th Century Fox. This would not seem to be the case. She had begged Zanuck to cast her as Lola Montez, in a biography of that colorful lady, but despite that this could've made a superb vehicle for her, he wouldn't do it. She would've probably done well if she had been considered for the female lead in I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE, sparring opposite Cary Grant, having proven in ALTTW that she could trade barbed wits with her leading man. Zanuck chose to borrow Ann Sheridan instead. She would have been happily as the female lead in her lover's next film, HOUSE OF STRANGERS, with Edward G. Robinson and Richard Conte. Or with Conte in THIEVES' HIGHWAY, playing the trampy femme fatale Rica. The studio cast new contractees Susan Hayward and Valentina Cortese, respectively. Also announced for Linda, but never filmed, was a version of Conrad Woolich's WALTZ INTO DARKNESS, which was to have re-teamed her with Cornel Wilde. The role of a mysterious mail-order bride in 19th Century New Orleans might've made a strong vehicle for the stars of FOREVER AMBER.

 

Linda did get cast in a melodrama next up, but she was very unhappy about it. She felt that SLATTERY'S HURRICANE would a routine picture, with the technical aspects of incorporating actual footage of a hurricane being the main selling point. Despite a strong cast that included Richard Widmark, Veronica Lake and John Russell, Linda thought that it was quite a comedown from her last two movies. She was also reluctant to travel to Florida late in the summer rainy season in 1948, for some location work, especially since she would be separated from Joe Mankiewicz, with whom she was having an affair.

 

Linda was right about SH being a comedown, but it isn't that bad. It is a melodrama of a four way triangle. Linda is married to Russell, who is a wartime buddy of Widmark, who was once involved with Linda, but is now with Lake. The cast is uniformly good, if the script has a number of holes in it. Some, like Lake's character, were changed by the production code; she could not be a drug addict, as originally written, so her illness is kept mysterious. My main objection is why Darnell, happily married, would take up with Widmark, quite an unpleasant character, without much resistance. Oh well, such is this melodrama. Linda never looked more beautiful, IMHO, and that's saying A LOT. She could still come off as innocent or wise to the world.

 

With that cast, SLATTERY'S HURRICANE was a hit when it was released in the summer of 1949, but it wasn't the best movie for Linda at this time, as she had feared, more like treading water.

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Linda Darnell and Paul Douglas had audiences rolling in the aisles with their verbal sparring in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, so in early 1949, Darryl Zanuck decided to re-team them in another comedy, and for good measure, throw in the unseen Addie Ross from that movie, Celeste Holm, in EVERYBODY DOES IT. This comedy was a(n almost word for word) remake of 1939's WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND, a screwball comedy which had starred Loretta Young, Warner Baxter and Binnie Barnes.

 

In EDI, Celeste Holm plays a would-be professional singer, dying for a career on the stage. A viewing in concert of diva Cecile Carver (Linda) has her interest renewed, and voice lessons resumed, to the chagrin of husband Paul. He feels she is no good, as does her father, played by Charles Coburn, who had to deal with her mother, Lucile Watson, go through a similar phase. Well, Paul meets up with Linda, to get her professional opinion about his wife's singing, and lo and behold, they discover that he has a concert-potential baritone. Linda convinces him to show up his wife by singing professionally, as well as allowing her to spend time with him, since she is interested in him. Celeste assumes that they are having an affair.

 

All in all a fun movie, with a riotous finale, with Paul falling all over the sets while performing with Linda in an opera. It is as good as the original, and an ideal vehicle for the three stars. It did well at the boxoffice in the fall of 1949, but of course, this didn't mean much to Linda, who by then was upset that she did not get cast in PINKY. More on that to come.....

 

 

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*EVERYBODY DOES IT. This comedy was a(n almost word for word) remake of 1939's WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND, a screwball comedy which had starred Loretta Young, Warner Baxter and Binnie Barnes.*

 

FYI, the original WIFE HUSBAND AND FRIEND is scheduled this month as part of Loretta Young's SOTM. I believe it's on next Wednesday, January 23, as part of a night of mostly screwball comedies, if I remember the schedule correctly.

 

 

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Linda Darnell desperately wanted to do PINKY, but Zanuck refused to consider her for the role of the light-skinned black girl, who, having passed for white up North, runs smack into the pervasive, prevailing racism of the South in the mid-20th century. The problem was, that she was tainted by her image of playing Amber and other shady women. As screenwriter Phillip Dunne put it "Linda Darnell had the taint of the adventuress. Pinky had to be purer than pure", or something to that effect. Zanuck wanted the "whitest girl on the lot", Jeanne Crain. However, she was on a maternity leave. but she wrote Zanuck, asking him to hold the start of production a few weeks for her. For the first, and probably the last time, Zanuck waited for Crain to come back from her leave, instead of assigning it to someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

Crain got the best role of her career, and an Oscar nomination to boot. And Linda's frustration grew, as she saw the indifferent way Zanuck was managing her career, totally unsympathetic towards her wish to be given roles that would stretch her as actress, instead of just parts that had no more need of her than her glamour and beauty. Ironically, she would get such a challenging part soon.

 

 

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Linda Darnell has spent much of 1949 doing nothing. After she had completed filming EVERYBODY DOES IT in the early part of the year, the studio didn't assign her to anything until the fall of that year; this while she was receiving praise for her performance in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES. She had wanted to do PINKY, but that went to Jeanne Crain. WALTZ INTO DARKNESS, to have filmed during the year was cancelled. So it was with a sense of relief as well as profound elation when Linda found out she had been cast in NO WAY OUT, not least because it would be directed by her lover, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A searing drama about the racism a black intern experiences at the hands of his patient, bigoted white hoodlum, NO WAY OUT marked the film debut of Sidney Poitier as the doctor. Richard Widmark plays the racist Ray Biddle, who feels that the black doctor had deliberately killed his brother. Linda Darnell plays the brother's wife, and Widmark's sometimes girlfriend. Biddle uses her to whip up a race riot against "Beaver Canal", the black neighborhood. Also featuring Stephen McNally, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee, among others, the cast is unformly excellent. The hardhitting harrowing script pulls few punches. It was much more gritty than other movies coming out at that time also dealing with aspects of the "negro problem". Even now, it pack a whallop.

 

 

 

 

 

Linda, besides her joy to be reteamed with Mankiewicz, was thrilled with her role of Edie Biddle. She was quoted as saying something along th lines of "My whole wardrobe cost $25.00, and at that, consisted mostly of black and blue bruises". She wore little makeup, and was deglamorized for once. She felt proud in being in such an important film about such an difficult social problem. She clearly rose to the occasion, delivering what many consider to be her finest peformance on film. She felt the long wait for a decent part was more than vindicated with this great drama.

 

 

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NO WAY OUT wrapped filming at the end of 1949; 20th Century Fox, however, would not release it until the end of summer 1950. The reasons for this included the studio's desire to distance the release from that of its other racial drama, PINKY, which had come out Fall 1949. A more important reason is that certain areas of the country, namely the South, refused to play this hard-hitting drama. Even in other parts of the country, some exhibitors felt that the material was too inflamatory. So the studio found that the movie would not have play in significant sections of the US. When the studio finally released it, it was with a low-key adertising campaign, the crux of which featured trendsetting Saul Bass ads, showing Linda Darnell's eyes, or a finger to her lips going, "shhh". The stars' names were omitted. Coming at the end of the cycle of "race problem" films of 1949-50, and with its curtailed playdates, controversial subject matter and lowkey promotion, NWO was not a hit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews for NO WAY OUT were quite heartening, if some felt the story a little far-fetched. But with th race riots of the 1940s (notably Detroit), it doesn't seem all that implausible, as the many disturbances in the 60s of this sort attest. Praise for the cast was widespread, with every one of the main performances getting raves. However, at awards time, NWO was overlooked in the nominations, when compared to director Mankiewicz' subsequent movie, ALL ABOUT EVE, with its record number of nods. IMHO I think that Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell and Sidney Poitier should have been nominated. But as mentioned, Fox focused on AAE, spending its promotional push and budget on the more successful and accesible film. And in a year with a less exemplary list of actresses vying for Best Actress nominations, maybe Darnell would have gotten the nomination she deserved. In any event, she always considered her non-glamourous role in this important film as the best in her career.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 19, 2013 10:17 PM

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Reposting this as I highly recommend it, and coming up within four hours;

 

 

 

 

 

Head's Up: TCM will be showing NO WAY OUT this Monday morning, January 21, at 6 AM Eastern, 3 AM Pacific. It is featured as part of the programming commemorating Martin Luther King Day.

 

 

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1950 was a watershed year for Linda Darnell. Despite being at the peak of he career, she found herself with new problems on her home lot, as she found that her career was not a priority. Linda was unhappy that after her exemplary performance in NO WAY OUT, Zanuck cast her in TWO FLAGS WEST. First of all, she didn't care for westerns, as she was allergic to horses. But mostly, she felt that the role was lackluster, without the fire of her previous assignment, and that she'd get lost in th shuffle of the male-dominated action. Linda was feeling the slapdash way that the studio was handling her career, with no consistent push to find strong roles for her.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the main problems she faced at this point was that Susan Hayward had been signed by Fox, her contract bought from Walter Wanger, who found himself overextended after the loss he suffered from JOAN OF ARC. Linda, never in Zanuck's good graces, woul find strong competition from Susan for roles, since their images overlapped substantially. Already in 1949 Susan had the female lead in HOUSE OF STRANGERS, a part that would have suited Linda. In 1950, the movies Susan filmed could have easily been done by Linda, and some even meant originally for her: RAWHIDE, I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE, and DAVID AND BATHSHEBA. Even the atypical I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (which had been intended as a vehicle for Jeanne Crain-who became pregnant), might;ve offered a strong role for Linda. These movies, when released the following year, would solidify Hayward's rise to top stardom. So Linda would definitely feel the pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

In her private life, Linda also was at a crossoads. After the adoption of daughter Lola was finalized in 1949, it became obvious that she would be divorcing husband Pev Marley. He agreed to the divorce, IF she paid him $125,000. She acquiesced to this, mainly because she didn't want him to publicize her affair with Joe Mankiewicz. So she gathered up he assets in order to meet this payment, and filed for divorce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think some of these gals were suffering from the Bette Davis syndrome, where they expected to be the main attraction in all their films. Sometimes the studio just needed to round out an ensemble, or use a female in a smaller, but still consequential role, to balance out a male-dominated action flick. Not every picture could be built around a female lead, because not every genre and certainly not every story was about the woman in peril or the woman seductress. Do we hear reports of George Brent or Wendell Corey having complained about being cast in a Davis picture or a Crawford picture, or about losing parts to Clark Gable?

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I agree that there were less female stars that movies were built around than males stars especially for some studios like Warner Brothers. While rights to material would be purchased as vehicles for Bette Davis, the other actresses at WB were generally left backing up the male stars (until Crawford joined WB). This clearly impacted the careers of DeHavilland, Lupino, and Sheridan.

 

For MGM films were built around Crawford and Garbo and than Garson.

 

But do you think 'second tier' female stars (for lack of a better term), were not utilized as much as their male counterparts (Brett and Corey for example)? In those male-dominated action flick there were often juicy parts for other male actors, while the female role was often very secondary. E.g. Gunga Din, where any actress could of played the role given to Joan Fontaine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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*I think some of these gals were suffering from the Bette Davis syndrome, where they expected to be the main attraction in all their films. Sometimes the studio just needed to round out an ensemble, or use a female in a smaller, but still consequential role, to balance out a male-dominated action flick. Not every picture could be built around a female lead, because not every genre and certainly not every story was about the woman in peril or the woman seductress. Do we hear reports of George Brent or Wendell Corey having complained about being cast in a Davis picture or a Crawford picture, or about losing parts to Clark Gable?*

I am not saying that Linda expected for every picture to be built around her, because she didn't. Nor do I think that they should have. She was happy to be part of the ensemble that made up A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, and adored her director for UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (in a different way than she adored the director for ALTTW) and being in the cast, despite her role definitely subsidiary to that of Rex Harrison. And she was thrilled to be a part of NO WAY OUT, where her role, despite being subsidiary again, was an important one to the plot machinations. And I mentioned she would have done well in parts that went to Susan Hayward in HOUSE OF STRANGERS and DAVID AND BATHSHEBA; again the female role was not the main focus. So while she may have not needed to be dominating every role as a Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, she did strive to have her parts be challenging in the acting department. And that is why she had problems with Zanuck's handling of her career; she objected to being cast in a movie where all that was required of her was her looks, sultryness or glamour. And as one of the top female stars at Fox, she should have expected the studio to look after her career with a more long-term view. And Bette Davis and Joan Crawford weren't handed those roles on a silver platter initially; they fought tooth and nail for them, and when their careers experienced a downward shift, they again sharpened their teeth and claws on studio executives. Why begrudge Linda for trying to get better roles, and especially, better acting opportunities.

And btw TB, if I remember correctly, awhile back you took Gene Tierney to task for not having fought for more domineering Bette Davis type roles.
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*I agree that there were less female stars that movies were built around than males stars especially for some studios like Warner Brothers.*

 

As I mentioned before, 20th Century Fox did not go out of its way to build vehicles for its female stars, other than its musical stars. Zanuck admitted that female issues bored him stiff, and he therefore did not look too hard, at least not consistently, for stories that could have made effective movies for Loretta Young, Linda Darnell, Gene Tierney, etc. So yes, they were often the female lead in a story centered around men, and Young and Darnell resented this. Especially when this was compounded, as I've mentioned before, when really good roles for women at Fox would often get cast with a borrowed talent.

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jamesjazzguitar wrote:

 

 

 

 

 

For MGM films were built around Crawford and Garbo and than Garson.

 

 

 

 

 

jjg:

 

 

 

 

 

And Shearer and Harlow and MacDonald, and then Powell and Turner and Garland and Williams, and much later, Taylor

 

 

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>For MGM films were built around Crawford and Garbo and than Garson.

 

>And Shearer and Harlow and MacDonald, and then Powell and Turner and Garland and Williams, and much later, Taylor

 

And Lamarr and Ball and Hepburn and O'Brien and Allyson and...there were quite a few of them.

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Yes, I knew my MGM example was weak, that is because MGM is one of my least favorite studios because, related to this topic, I'm a fan of more male dominated type roles than so called 'women pictures' (with the exception of WB Davis films). Thus I only sited what I felt where the top of the crop (expect I should of listed Shearer since we all know why MGM featured her). But of course the actresses TP and you site did have films built around the talents of those stars by MGM.

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*And Lamarr and Ball and Hepburn and O'Brien and Allyson and...there were quite a few of them.*

 

O'Brien and Allyson yes....Lamarr was more akin to Darnell in that she was usually slotted into whatever called for a beautiful glamorous personality, at least after early attempts at vehicles like I TAKE THIS WOMAN didn't do well. Hepburn was more an adjunct to Spencer Tracy (the money name in that duo), and movies without him were not crafted specifically for her. Ball had her contract bought from RKO in order to do the Broadway hit DUBARRY WAS A LADY. Her next movie assignment, also from a Broadway hit, BEST FOOT FORWARD, was a Lana Turner vehicle, but Lana became pregnant, so Lucy was substituted at the last minute (kinda explains why the dialogue had the military cadets going ga-ga over her, because beautiful as Lucy was, she wasn't quite the sexy screen siren the part called for). After this came the one and only vehicle MGM fashioned for her, MEET THE PEOPLE, another Broadway success, turned out to be an indifferent programmer, and MGM seemingly gave up on her (no fault of hers), keeping her off screen for over a year, then assigning her second leads.

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I would be inclined to agree with you about Lamarr, but I think there were several attempts to build her up. COMRADE X seems tailor-made for her and so does COME LIVE WITH ME, and both of those did well. Now, where she is definitely being used as a glamourous personality is her later work at Paramount, where she is exotically displayed in SAMSON AND DELILAH, and in the western COPPER CANYON or the Bob Hope comedy she made, which basically required her to show up and look alluring.

 

With regards to Miss Ball, you are forgetting to mention TWO SMART PEOPLE, a 1946 production in which she was top-billed with John Hodiak. This came after her supporting roles in WITHOUT LOVE and EASY TO WED. The problem with Ball at MGM is that they originally used her as a musical star, and she could not sing. Putting her in the same company with MacDonald, Grayson and Powell probably caused Arthur Freed to pull his hair out! She could do comedy as well as pal Ann Sothern, but she lacked the necessary musical skill that Sothern possessed in addition to her comic abilities to really be a big star at MGM. Lucy fared better at Columbia and Paramount later in the decade when she focused specifically on comedy. Of course, she liked working at MGM and gladly returned there in the mid-50s for two pictures with Desi. But again, they have her singing in THE LONG, LONG TRAILER (without the benefit of dubbing) and the results are less than desired..something she disastrously repeated years later in MAME.

 

As for Kate, I think we are historically used to looking at her with Spence and rating her with regards to the vehicles they did together. I think MGM humored her and when she wanted to try something, they let her, unlike RKO in the previous decade. At one point, I think she really hits her stride at MGM without Spence. DRAGON SEED gives her a serious acting challenge and so do UNDERCURRENT and SONG OF LOVE which both cast her as a piano-playing heroine. While DRAGON SEED was intended for Luise Rainer and SONG OF LOVE meant for Ingrid Bergman, Hepburn was the first choice for UNDERCURRENT. These seem like projects that nobody else on the lot would have been able to pull off so well dramatically. These scripts were written, or else polished, just for her.

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In the Spring of 1950, Linda Darnell commenced filming of her next movie, TWO FLAGS WEST, on location in New Mexico. She did so with reservations: she was unhappy with her role, which she felt was colorless; she didn't care to do westerns, since she was allergic to horses; and she would be far away from the man she loved, director Joseph Mankiewicz. On the plus side, she was fond of the New Mexico vistas; she had friends there, expressed her desire to live there, and would later purchase a ranch.

 

The set was a congenial affair, and she made the best of the situation, having the studio send out a record player as well as her record collection. In the end, her misgivings about the movie were misplaced; it turned to be an interesting, exciting western. With wide vistas, the story of Confederate POWs given amnesty to fight Indians on the western frontier had layers of distrust among the various factions, of which Linda's beautiful Mexican widow compounded some of the feelings among the men. With Jeff Chandler as the commander of the fort, as well as Linda's brother-in-law (and in love with her), Joseph Cotton as the leader of the platoon of rebels, and Cornel Wilde as a Yankee scout.

 

Edited by: Arturo on Jan 23, 2013 7:33 PM

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