There Was a Crooked Man (1970)

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  • There Was a Crooked Man (1970)



    For continuity, all discussion
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    Kirk Douglas- There Was a Crooked Man


    Plot Summary
    Charm, intelligence and success in criminal career doesn't prevent Paris Pitman Jr. to start doing ten years in prison, in the middle of the Arizona desert. However, those years should pass quickly because of a $500,000 loot previously stashed away. New idealistic warden would only make Pitman think of getting his fortune even sooner. He starts to manipulate everyone to achieve his goal.
    Written by Dragan Antulov

    Kirk Douglas ... Paris Pitman, Jr.
    Henry Fonda ... Woodward W. Lopeman
    Hume Cronyn ... Dudley Whinner
    Warren Oates ... Floyd Moon
    Burgess Meredith ... The Missouri Kid
    John Randolph ... Cyrus McNutt
    Lee Grant ... Mrs. Bullard
    Arthur O'Connell ... Mr. Lomax
    Martin Gabel ... Warden LeGoff
    Michael Blodgett ... Coy Cavendish
    C.K. Yang ... Ah-Ping
    Alan Hale Jr. ... Tobaccy (as Alan Hale)
    Victor French ... Whiskey
    Claudia McNeil ... Madam
    Bert Freed ... Skinner
    Jeanne Cooper ... Prostitute
    Barbara Rhoades ... Miss Jessie Brundidge
    Gene Evans ... Col Wolff
    Pamela Hensley ... Edwina
    J. Edward McKinley ... The Governor
    Karl Lukas ... Otis
    Larry D. Mann ... Harry
    Ann Doran ... Mrs. Lomax
    Paul Prokop... Paul Prokop
    Bart Burns ... Dr. Loomis
    Danny Borzage Danny Borzage ... Prisoner (uncredited)
    Boyd 'Red' Morgan ... Hobbs (uncredited)
    and many more...

    Joseph L. Mankiewicz

    Writing Credits
    David Newman ... (written by) &
    Robert Benton ... (written by)

    C.O. Erickson ... executive producer
    Joseph L. Mankiewicz ... producer

    Charles Strouse

    Harry Stradling Jr.

    The "enormous" dressing trailer for Kirk Douglas stood just outside the location's prison set. Reportedly, it had a white picket fence, a mailbox, two flower boxes and a green lawn planted in front with a water fountain and lounge chairs.

    Final film of Byron Foulger.

    Final film of James Seay.

    In the climactic prison uprising, Barbara Rhoades is last seen wearing a corset (with amply jiggling cleavage), a decorative hat and one elbow-length glove. However, interviews with Rhoades, and an actress who'd turned down the role, reveal that the scene went further and Rhoades was filmed virtually nude. At least one still photo (apparently from the movie) shows her nude from the waist up, wearing the same hat and elbow-length glove mentioned above (she turned down a proposed "Playboy" pictorial). In a pre-release interview, Rhoades told interviewer Dan Lewis that she didn't realize her scene would be so "explicit" until the day of shooting. Her character reportedly flees "after her clothes are torn off in a prison scene and she races across the desert in her birthday suit". Eileen O'Neill was offered the role but turned it down. "When I read the script, my character is ravaged by the revolting prisoners and they tear her clothes off. She then had to run nude from the prison to an outside area lit with floodlights." Even co-star Michael Blodgett "excitedly" told Hollywood gossip columnist Marilyn Beck, "It's a prison story, wild and new . . . man, such nudity!" Why the explicit nudity was deleted is unexplained, and the footage is presumed lost. By today's standards, what remains is fairly tame: a couple glimpses of the bare backside of Kirk Douglas, a glimpse of a bare breast here and there and some mildly risqué drawings. Promoted as a "cynical western," the film was released on Christmas Day 1970. It did poorly at the holiday box office.

    The prison set took seven weeks to build. When construction began, it was snowing. When it ended, the temperature was 100 degrees. Upon completion of filming, the entire set had to be removed and the area it occupied restored to its original pristine state, so that no trace would be left.

    Much of the filming was done in the Joshua Tree National Monument, 50 miles northeast of Indio, California. This was the first time a movie was allowed to be filmed in the 500,000-acre National Park. The location was so remote that a wagon-rutted road had to be bulldozed and widened for a distance of three miles to provide vehicular access.

    The poem recited by the schoolteacher at the dedication is "Invictus" written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley.

    Warner Brothers' front office was very worried about this film. It was shot over a five-month period in the first half of 1969, but it was well over a year before it was given any commercial showings. Like Joseph L. Mankiewicz's previous film, The Honey Pot (1967), it opened in Britain some two months before the US, in late 1970. According to Mankiewicz's biographer, Kenneth Geist, his preferred version of the film ran to 165 minutes; however, Warners objected to this and re-cut the film, to his great irritation, to a more manageable 126 minutes. One notable casualty of this re-cutting was the prominently-billed Lee Grant, a very well-known actress at the time, whose appearance is now barely a couple of minutes in length.

    A realistic 1880s territorial prison replica was constructed on four acres in the high-desert country of the Joshua Tree National Monument. Designed by Edward Carrere, Oscar-winning designer of such movies as The Wild Bunch (1969), it was one of the most massive location sets ever built. The prison's 20-foot-high, four-feet-thick walls enclosed 14 buildings, including a guards' barracks, warden's quarters, mess hall, kitchen, hospital, blacksmith shop, a mule shed, corral, seven guard towers, a solitary confinement cell and a gallows. Unlike a typical movie set, the buildings had to be roofed because aerial footage of the location would be filmed. Some 80 loads of rocks were trucked in (and later removed) to create the enormous hard-labor rock pile in the movie. Since no indigenous plants could be harmed, thousands of desert plants also had to be trucked to the location.

    Twelve rattlesnakes were used for a key scene but failed to hiss on cue. The hissing had to be dubbed in during post-production.

    Hume Cronyn was diagnosed with optic cancer, which required the surgical removal of an eye. Cronyn volunteered to work past 5 p.m. and revamp his shooting schedule so he could finish up his role as soon as possible. Although the situation was very stressful for director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Cronyn handled the situation very professionally.

    At an early stage, Joseph L. Mankiewicz was hoping to get Warren Beatty and John Wayne for the two leads.

    The construction of the vast prison set cost $300,000.

    After escaping from prison, Pitman visits the widow Bullard and leaves the prison mule in her corral and takes a horse. After being bitten by the snake and dying, the warden takes his body back on the horse he rode, which now is a mule again.

    One of the escaping prisoners is shot from behind and falls on his stomach. Although there is an exit wound in his right abdomen, when he falls, there's apparently no entrance wound.

    The angel that Whinner draws on the wall of their cell looks slightly different at the end of the scene than the beginning.

    During the first riot scene, Dudley and Cyrus try to help Coy Cavendish, who is handcuffed to a post. They appear right next to him, then - in a wide shot - 20 meters away from him in the center of the fight, then again right next to him.

    Memorable Quote

    Filming Locations
    Joshua Tree, California, USA
    La Joya, New Mexico, USA
    Laramie Street, Warner Brothers Burbank Studios - 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA
    Mojave Desert, Arizona, USA

    Watch the Movie

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    The post was edited 1 time, last by ethanedwards ().

  • There Was a Crooked Man... is a 1970 western starring
    Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

    This was the only western made by Mankiewicz, director of such notable films as
    All About Eve, Guys and Dolls and Cleopatra.
    It was written by David Newman and Robert Benton,
    their first script after Bonnie and Clyde.

    Vincent Canby of The New York Times was generally positive:
    "Although There Was A Crooked Man...
    is rather low-keyed and takes its own sweet time to reveal itself,
    it is a movie of the sort of taste, intelligence and somewhat bitter humor
    I associate with Mr. Mankiewicz who, in real life, is one of America's most sophisticated,
    least folksy raconteurs, especially of stories about the old Hollywood.

    User Review

    Uneven western that is difficult to recommend
    3 October 2001 | by roegrocks (China)

    roe wrote:

    My commentary refers to minor elements of the plot of the film in question, revealing, to an inconsequential extent, some of the events of the movie. Some may interpret this as a SPOILER, but I am very careful not to expose anything specific crucial.
    Similar to "Paint Your Wagon" (1969) in it's use of a comedic western as a vehicle for social commentary, "There Was a Crooked Man" has a comic tone at times, but has difficulty being consistently one kind of movie: Is it a satire? Is it a comedy? Is it a bawdy western with a serious disguise? Is it a social commentary about the penal system? Is it an arc for Fonda's upright and uptight sheriff to find disillusionment?

    Kirk Douglas portrays a robber who will sacrifice anyone and anything to get the loot and come out on top, while Henry Fonda is a town sheriff who seems the exact opposite of Douglas, and who specializes in moral correctness. While attempting to practice what he preaches, kindness before cruelty, Fonda is shot apprehending a drunken Warren Oates. The town quickly and easily gives up hope in Fonda's ability to do his job, leading Fonda to volunteer as warden for the prison where both Douglas and Oates are incarcerated.

    Fonda begins a crusade to uplift the inmates of this desolate Arizona penal colony by abolishing obligatory hard labor and restricting cruel punishments upon the men. It seems the only way to earn Fonda's enmity as warden is to draw lascivious pictures of scantily clad women, as all other crimes are forgivable and reformable in Fonda' eyes.

    While Fonda is trying to teach the prisoners self-respect, Douglas is luring them into his aid with promises of sharing the money he stole in the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to the prison. Those he can't persuade he tricks into helping him by various plots and devices, all the while Fonda thinks Douglas should become the prisoners' leader and help give them hope by improving their living conditions. Burgess Meredith frequently steals the spotlight as a former flashy train robber that has been transformed by years in prison into a tired, gritty, petty old man who does nothing for free.

    The problem with this movie is not the excellent acting, but the tone and the Mickey Mouse musical score. It deals with murder and betrayal carelessly, it refers to revenge and cruelty with humor, and it moves back and forth from serious to light-hearted scenes so quickly and easily that it becomes difficult to maintain any clear perspective. In the middle of a murderous rampage an (apparently) hilarious food fight ensues while a buxom visitor to the prison is gradually, but incompletely, disrobed.

    Unlike other satires released that year such as "Catch-22" (1970) or "M.A.S.H." (1970), "There Was a Crooked Man" doesn't succeed in delivering a message, but only appears to chronicle an improbable series of events that have no meaning outside of itself, all the while the most irritating and thematically contrary music imaginable scores nearly every scene.

    Despite good acting and some laughs, it's a tough film to recommend. If there was a DVD version that allowed you to keep the dialog and eradicate the music, this would be a totally different, and much improved, movie.
    Best Wishes
    London- England