The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

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  • I watched this movie last night with some friends and I had truly forgot how good it is.

    One thing regarding this movie that has puzzled me is did the townsfolk including Billy the sheriff know who killed Bass Elder? I get the feeling they did but didn't do anything for fear of retaliation from Hastings. What are your thoughts on this?



  • I think that they knew, esp the sherif had ideas and the mortician seemed like he knew something but i havent watched it in awhile so I cant exactly pin point things to prove this. Just a feeling i had.

  • Great film... Haven't seen it in about a year. Time to pull out the DVD.

    "Monseur, you are a LuLu!" (The Comancheros)

  • When you watch it, check the dates in the family bible. If you look carefully you see Katie got married in 1850 and died in 1865. So it looks like John Elder was supposed to be around 44-45 and Bud Elder was 18. 26 or 27 years between them which is just about possible


  • Here is something interesting I found a few days ago. Tommy Kirk (Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson) was signed to play in The Sons of Katie Elder (assuming it was the Bud Elder part), but was fired just before production because he was arrested at a party that had pot, and he was under the influence of the drug. The John Wayne Productions found out about it and didn't want that kind of publicity on this, so they canceled his contract. It was probably Michael Wayne who did that.

    Just something that might have been a better fit, had Tommy kept out of trouble. He would have been better than Michael Anderson, Jr.

    Cheers :cool: Hondo


    "When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it"

    - John Wayne quote

  • I've promised this for a long time so here it is: the true story of the REAL Sons of Katie Elder. Warning - this is a complex story, so it's a long post. This is a much shortened version of an article I did for the Ridgway, Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

    The Sons of Katie Elder is a western classic. Who can forget the tale of four brothers falsely accused of the murder of a popular sheriff, chained together while fighting off a vicious mob. What is not generally known is that this movie was very loosely based on the story of a real family that later lived near Ridgway, Colorado, where they were well-liked and served as lawmen for many years. Their story reads like fiction, but this tale of courage and gunplay is all true. Their name wasn't Elder, though, it was Marlow

    The full story of the Marlow brothers is complex. To get the full story, read The Marlow Brothers' Texas Ordeal and Life in Ouray County, by Jim Pettengill, in the Ouray County Historical Society Journal Vol. 4, available online from Mount Sneffels Press at; Life of the Marlows: A True Story of Frontier Life of Early Days, Revised by William Rathmell, reprinted recently (2004) by University of North Texas Press; and The Fighting Marlows: Men Who Wouldn't be Lynched, by Glenn Shirley, Texas Christian Press 1994.

    This is still a controversial subject, and you are likely to get different versions of the story depending on where you ask. The following is as accurate as I can determine from the available publications, information from the family, and newspaper accounts of the day.

    In 1888 the Marlow family was living in Indian Territory - present-day Oklahoma. There were five brothers: George, Charley, Alfred (Alf), Boone and Llewellyn (Epp), and their mother, Martha Jane Marlow. While George was visiting his friend "Doc" Shores, sheriff of Gunnison County in Colorado, the other brothers worked on Oklahoma ranches. One day in September they were arrested by a Deputy US Marshall from Texas named Ed Johnson on false charges of stealing horses near Trinidad, Colorado and taken to jail in Graham, Texas for trial. When George returned, he took his mother and his brother's families to Texas to seek his brothers' release.

    When they arrived in Graham, George was also arrested. The brothers were eventually released on bail, and went to work on a nearby ranch as they awaited their day in court. One day the local sheriff, who was friendly to the Marlows, and his deputy arrived at the Marlows' rented cabin with an arrest warrant for Boone, who had killed a cowboy in another part of Texas several years previously in self-defense. The deputy entered the Marlow home at dinnertime, drew his pistol and fired a shot at Boone while the rest of the family sat in disbelief. Boone ducked, grabbed his nearby Winchester and fired two shots at the deputy. Both shots missed, but the second shot struck the sheriff, who had just walked into the line of fire from outside.

    While the rest of the family cared for the mortally wounded sheriff, Boone fled and Epp was sent to town to bring a doctor. Epp was arrested in town, and when the doctor arrived, the deputy and a posse arrested George, Charley, and Alf as well, even though George and Alf had been a couple of miles away.

    Graham, Texas had a reputation for treating prisoners badly, with more than one recent lynching, so the brothers attempted to escape. When they were recaptured, they were chained together by the ankles, two by two, and returned to jail. The next night a mob of about 40 people walked into the jail and tried to take the Marlows out to be lynched. The brothers fought off the mob that night, and the next day the Deputy Marshal was ordered to move them to Fort Worth, where they would be safe and get a fair trial.

    That evening Deputy Johnson took his prisoners out to a trio of wagons, which were manned by many members of the previous night's mob. The brothers knew thay would be attacked again. About a mile outside of Graham the wagons stopped and the mob attacked, The brothers jumped out of the wagon, grabbed weapons from their guards and fought back. The battle lasted almost a half hour, and when the mob finally fled the scene, several of the attackers lay dead, Alf and Epp Marlow had been killed, and George and Charley had both been seriously wounded. To make their escape, George and Charley had to cut the feet off their dead brothers to remove their leg irons.

    They returned to the family cabin and held off a posse from Graham, declaring that they would surrender to the regional US Marshall and no one else. The marshal came and took the wounded brothers to Fort Worth.

    The members of the mob were arrested and charged with murder. George and Charley were tried and acquitted. Once they were free, they headed to southwestern Colorado in 1889 where George had made friends, and settled outside the new town of Ridgway in Ouray County.

    They quickly proved to be hard-working and popular citizens. When two Texas Rangers came to town in 1890 with a warrant to take Charley back to Graham for another trial related to the murder of the sheriff, a large crowd gathered and told the Rangers that it would take 2000 Rangers to arrest the Marlows. Unknown to the Ridgway folks, these were not just any rangers - they were Captain William MacDonald and Sergeant A. J. Brittan, the two top Rangers in West Texas. MacDonald became one of the four most famous Rangers in history, the man who inspired the phrases "One riot, one ranger", and "He would charge Hell with a bucket of water". The governors of Colorado and Texas got involved and determined that the Marlows were important witnesses in the trial of the mob and were outside of the Rangers' jurisdiction. the Rangers went home empty handed.

    In 1892 Ouray Judge William Rathmell ghost-wrote a book of the brother's adventures. George and Charley became highly respected, and both served as lawmen in Ouray County until the early days of the 20th Century, as Ridgway town marshalls, Deputy County Sheriffs, and Deputy US Marshalls.They served on the school board and George joined the local Elks lodge. In 1905 they bought a large ranch 10 miles north of Ridgway, which is now part of the Billie Creek Special Wildlife Area, administered by the Department of Wildlife. Martha Jane Marlow is buried on the ranch, and some structures remain.

    George and Charley both had large families, and many descendants still live in western Colorado. Both men lived well into their eighties and were remembered at their deaths as gentle, caring members of the community.

    In the 1950s, a Hollywod scriptwriter discovered a copy of Rathmell's book in a used book store and paid the descendants for the film rights to the brothers' remarkable story. Several years later it became the basis for The Sons of Katie Elder.

    Artifacts form the Marlow family are on display at the Ouray County Historical Museum, and at the Museum of the Mountain West in nearby Montrose, Colorado.

  • Outstanding post! Never mind the "print the legend" philosophy, I would like to see a movie made from those facts. I always have enjoyed "Katie Elder" - it's a relaxed, genial and well made film - but never knew it was based on any historical incident or family.
    Here's hoping that Hollywood picks up on this one.

    We deal in lead, friend.

  • Quite a few films from that era had theme songs that weren't used in the film itself. Besides Katie, there were "The Comancheros", "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Rio Conchos" and "The Guns of Navarone".
    I blame the whole song thing on Dimitri Tiomkin and the success of "High Noon". However, if it weren't for that film, we wouldn't have "Gunfight at the OK Corral", "The Green Leaves of Summer" and "The War Wagon".

    We deal in lead, friend.

  • "The Sons Of Katie Elder" (1965)
    -John Wayne

    Plot: IMDB
    The Elder boys return to Clearwater, Texas for their Mother's funeral. John the eldest is a well known gunfighter and trouble follows him wherever he goes. The boys try to get back their ranch from the towns gunsmith who won it from their father in a card game with which he was shortly murdered there after but not before getting through the troubles that come with the Elders name.

    Phantom's Review: One of Wayne's best 1960's westerns. Good acting, great story, plenty of action, some nice doses of humor and solidly directed by Henry Hathaway. Highly enjoyable for fans of the western genre.

    They'd never forget the day,the stranger rode into town