RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY
DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY SAM PECKINPAH
INFORMATION FROM IMDb
Aging ex-marshal Steve Judd is hired by a bank to transport a gold shipment
through dangerous territory.
He hires an old partner, Gil Westrum, and his young protege Heck to assist him.
Steve doesn't know, however, that Gil and Heck plan to steal the gold,
with or without Steve's help.
On the trail, the three get involved in a young woman's desire to escape first from her father,
then from her fiance and his dangerously psychotic brothers.
Written by James Meek
Randolph Scott ... Gil Westrum
Joel McCrea ... Steve Judd
Mariette Hartley ... Elsa Knudsen
Ron Starr ... Heck Longtree
Edgar Buchanan ... Judge Tolliver
R.G. Armstrong ... Joshua Knudsen
Jenie Jackson ... Kate
James Drury ... Billy Hammond
L.Q. Jones ... Sylvus Hammond
John Anderson ... Elder Hammond
John Davis Chandler ... Jimmy Hammond
Warren Oates ... Henry Hammond
and many more...
N.B. Stone Jr. ... (written by) (as N. B. Stone Jr.)
Sam Peckinpah ... (uncredited)
William Roberts ... (uncredited)
Richard E. Lyons ... producer
Lucien Ballard ... director of photography
Final film of Randolph Scott.
He retired from acting once he saw the finished film,
saying he wanted to quit while he was ahead and that he would never be able to better his work here.
Joel McCrea was originally cast as Westrum and Randolph Scott was Judd.
But early in the production each actor went to the producer on his own,
dissatisfied and ready to quit, so the roles were reversed.
The film had originally been intended for Gary Cooper and John Wayne,
but Cooper died before filming began.
In the late 1980s Charlton Heston considered starring in a remake with Clint Eastwood.
Heston accepted the title role in Major Dundee (1965) after seeing this film.
The canvas used to make the tents in the mining camp came from leftover sails from
MGM's Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
In addition, an outer set used for How the West Was Won (1962) was also utilized.
Joel McCrea also retired after making this movie, but later agreed to appear in a few more films.
He finally retired from acting at the age of 69 after making Mustang Country (1976).
Contains the quintessential scene of a cowboy riding hell-bent-for-leather toward the camera,
firing his Colt revolver as he comes.
Each shot he fires creates a large cloud of gunsmoke because of the historically correct black powder
in the cartridges, and one such cloud completely obscures him until, a second later,
he rides right through it and into view again.
According to David Weddle's book on Sam Peckinpah, "If They Move, Kill 'Em!',
four days into shooting, a snowstorm on the original Inyo National Forest location
forced the entire cast and crew back to Los Angeles to resume
shooting the film in the Santa Monica Mountains, which resulted
in the soapsuds substitution for real Sierra Nevada snow in the scenes
at the Coarsegold mining camp.
The substitution not surprisingly irritated Peckinpah immensely,
but he pressed on. Despite these problems, the film finished a mere four days over schedule,
and only $52,000 over budget.
This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1992.
This film was shot in 26 days.
The film was shot on various locations in and around Los Angeles,
including Malibu Canyon and the Twentieth Century Fox back lot.
Smoke from fires raging in Topanga Canyon and Bel Air darkened much of the sky over the area,
seriously complicating shooting.
Many of the actors got on well with the director.
L.Q. Jones said he and Sam Peckinpah almost came to blows over how to do a scene,
but in the end he always realized Peckinpah was right.
James Drury said the cast was lucky to have worked with him when
"he was a happy man. We knew him at his best and most likeable."
Drury also praised him for being "innovative, imaginative,
always anxious to work with actors on their characters" without over-directing.
And he noted that Peckinpah, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott
had a tremendous amount of respect for each other.
Sam Peckinpah, who tended to edit in his head as he went along,
didn't shoot much extra coverage beyond the footage he knew he needed for each scene.
After viewing the rushes, MGM management sent him a note: "Who do you think you are, John Ford?"
One location compromise reportedly involved cast and crew sneaking onto the set of
How the West Was Won (1962) to film the confrontation scene between Judd and Westrum.
Mariette Hartley's first film.
To emphasize the enmity between the Hammond brothers and the lawmen,
Sam Peckinpah kept all the actors playing the mining family away from the others,
having them eat by themselves and do everything as a unit.
He would continually remind them, "You hate everybody here!"
Joel McCrea said that although he got along very well with Sam Peckinpah, he didn't like the way the director treated the crew. Like John Ford, Peckinpah used to berate someone mercilessly if they made a mistake or failed to do what he wanted. Richard Lyons said on this picture, Peckinpah began his practice of firing people for one mistake, such as a young sound boom operator who allowed the boom to creep into the shot. The harsh practice became such a habit that even Peckinpah acknowledged he was prone to it, giving Lyons a photo of himself signed "To Dick Lyons - Get rid of 'em - Sam Peckinpah."
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Robert Culp turned down the role of Billy Hammond.
He recalled, "I didn't want to do it because I was trying to create a career in features
and I was fighting to be a leading man.
If I'd done that, I would have wound up like Bruce Dern, playing crazies.
In terms of mistakes in my life, that was one of mine.
He never forgave me. And he never offered me another part.
All the people who were part of his stock company were his friends and, as an actor,
I was bitter at not being one of them that he called on. It was because I turned him down."
The film "should" be set post 1906 as that is the year the Remington model 8 Henry Hammond
mjis toting was released.
By most accounts, Sam Peckinpah had not yet developed the difficult behaviour
that was to plague his productions in later years.
Mariette Hartley did note, however, that on the bus coming down from the Sierras,
he started drinking and playing cards.
At one point he snapped at her viciously.
Having had an alcoholic father, she recognized the behaviour at once
but also said it was the only time she was aware that he drank during the production.
Randolph Scott tried to interest Budd Boetticher in doing the film,
but the director was in Mexico tied up with his documentary Arruza (1972).
Sam Peckinpah apparently took an inordinate interest in Mariette Hartley's costume,
taking her into the bowels of the MGM costume department to find the right dress,
then having the wardrobe department pad it until he thought the chest was sufficiently full.
"Sam always liked breasts," Hartley said, adding that by the time
he was done she was "literally walking at a tilt."
Sam Peckinpah liked to tease the naive, inexperienced Mariette Hartley.
At one point, having been tipped off that Hartley
had worn the wrong socks for a scene in which they would not even be seen,
Peckinpah pretended to have a major fit, accusing her of ruining the shot.
He also kept telling her that if she didn't perform to his liking,
he would give her part to Joan Staley, another aspiring young actress of the time.
But Hartley took the ribbing good-naturedly and had nothing
but admiration and affection for her director.
Average Shot Length = ~5.9 seconds. Median Shot Length = ~5.3 seconds.
Veteran actor Byron Foulger playing the son of Percy Helton, was only five years older than Foulger.
Shooting was completed in less than a month. MGM's chief editor, Margaret Booth,
disliked the daily rushes and thought the film would be impossible to cut.
But studio production head Sol Siegel had had faith in Sam Peckinpah
and offered him the rare chance to make the first cut on the picture.
Peckinpah went into intense editing sessions with veteran editor Frank Santillo,
who Richard Lyons said taught the director about editing.
Santillo, however, also spoke of how impressed he was with Peckinpah's ideas and changes,
bringing out character nuances and other hidden potentials by
substituting different shots, trimming and refining.
But before they could complete the cut, things took a downward turn.
Sam Peckinpah loved the script but said he would only direct if he could do rewrites.
According to Richard Lyons, Peckinpah's contributions sharpened
and polished the story to "really bring out its brilliance."
He worked three to four weeks on the script, giving the story much more impact,
Lyons believed, by changing which character died at the end.
Sam Peckinpah tailored much of the character of Steve Judd to reflect his own father.
Judd's most memorable line, "I just want to enter my house justified,"
was a Bible-reference line he often heard his father say.
On seeing the finished film, Peckinpah's sister cried,
struck by how effectively and completely he had captured the essence of "the old man" on screen.
Sam Peckinpah put a number of other details and impressions from his own life into the script.
His ancestors were true Westerners, and there was a mountain named
for the Peckinpahs near Coarse Gold, the real-life town where the two lawmen
in the movie ride to retrieve a shipment of gold. In his childhood,
Peckinpah had been taken by his grandfather to a town very much
like the mining town in the movie.
Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott thought Peckinpah's rewrites were brilliant.
The question of billing was settled over a lunch at the Brown Derby,
during which Randolph Scott won a coin toss to see who would be billed first.
Mariette Hartley's hair was cut short from playing Joan of Arc on stage in Chicago.
For the screen test, the studio put her in a long wig,
closely matching her natural red hair, that Deborah Kerr wore in Quo Vadis (1951).
Sam Peckinpah hated it. She used her own close-cropped look for the film.
Sam Peckinpah, insisting the background terrain had to change
noticeably during the trek to and from the mountain mining town,
convinced the studio to let him shoot the riding sequences
on location rather than on a back lot.
MGM had no faith in the film and dumped it on the market as the
lower half of double features, despite the protests of Sam Peckinpah and Richard Lyons.
It was ludicrously paired with such movies as the sex comedy Boys' Night Out (1962)
and the Italian-produced medieval drama I tartari (1961).
According to L.Q. Jones, when the studio discovered that the films
was the real moneymaker on the double bills and that audiences
weren't staying around for the main feature, they re-released it to better results.
Sam Peckinpah, who received no credit for his script work on it,
told both MGM and the Academy, "If this film is nominated for Best Screenplay
without my name on it as writer, I will sue every one of you!" The movie received no nominations.
Years later, Lucien Ballard was asked by Leonard Maltin about a striking close-up
of Joel McCrea near the beginning of the picture.
Ballard explained it was there because they had to avoid the water towers
and other contemporary objects in the background of the Metro lot.
"Everything in this business is a compromise,"
Ballard said. "Chances are we had to do it because of necessity."
The rifle used by Warren Oates in the rocky ambush is a Remington Model 8 semiautomatic rifle.
This would have been quite exotic for the time period and location.
Mariette Hartley, whose previous acting experience was only on stage
and who came from a relatively sheltered background,
later admitted she didn't even know who Joel McCrea was when she showed up
to audition for the part of Elsa. Sam Peckinpah kept Hartley all day,
having her read with various actors auditioning for the role of Heck (including Wayne Rogers).
Although she was flattered, she really didn't realize that meant she had the role.
In the original script, Randolph Scott's character doesn't survive
the climatic shoot-out but Joel McCrea's does.
During Sam Peckinpah's rewrite, he felt it more poignant
that the Gil Westrum character (played by Scott) is redeemed by promising the dying Judd
that he will deliver the gold, so the characters' outcome were reversed.
Peckinpah flipped a coin in the presence of a producer
to see which leading man would enjoy top billing, Scott or McCrea. Scott won the toss.
The movie was released on the bottom half of a double bill.
# William Goldman says he spoke to an MGM executive at the time
who says the film had tested strongly but they felt the film "didn't cost enough to be that good".
In the scene in which Joel McCrea enters the bank's bathroom,
attached to the reservoir tank for the toilet is a modern shut-off valve.
There are a number of indications that this film is set no later
than the late 1890s or early 1900s - for example, the date of Elsa's mother death
on her tombstone and the open automobile (characteristic of early twentieth century models).
The heavily-worn dime that Judd (Joel McCrea) bets in the booth
run by Westrum (Randolph Scott) in the opening scenes,
however, is a "Mercury" (Winged Liberty) dime, first coined in 1916.
The dime shown, moreover, could not have become so worn without several more years in circulation.
When Gil pours Judge Tolliver a whiskey he tosses aside the cork
which falls down the back of the chest. When he replaces the bottle the cork is beside it.
The first night by the creek with Elsa, Heck's position with/behind her
changes with each camera angle.... And just before the kiss, his hand reaches her twice; between shots.
On the honeymoon evening: Billy throws his brother out one side of the tent,
but from the outside, that flap is tied shut and his brother falls out the other side.
When Gil pours the judge the drink, his hand changes position on the bottle between shots,
the hat on the bed also changes from old and having a dent to being in mint condition.
Near the beginning, Randolph Scott claims to have been the Oregon Kid,
who tamed Witchita among other cities. It should have been Wichita.
Returning to Elsa's farm at the end of the movie and looking down at it from the hill, a set of dual tire tracks can be seen in the dirt.
When Elsa is cleaning the barn, she has two shadows even though it's daylight and no lanterns in the barn are lit.
(at around 14 mins) In the restaurant fight, the wall moves when one of the fighters bounces off of it.
The "snow" shown on the ground in a number of scenes in the mining camp is obviously foam.
This is clear from, for example, the scene when Billy Hammond (James Drury)
throws his brother Jimmy (John Davis Chandler) out of the "honeymoon" tent onto his back.
The "snow" splatters like foam, not snow.
Joel McCrae, when a riding horse with heavy leather riding gloves on,
opened a pocket knife.This is impossible unless it was handed to him partially opened.
Mammoth Lakes, California, USA (Twin Lake) (Horseshoe Lake)
Inyo National Forest, California, USA
20th Century Fox Ranch, Malibu Creek State Park - 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, California, USA
Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park - 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, California, USA
Merrimac, California, USA
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