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Death of a Gunfighter (1969)

M/PG | | Western | 8 May 1969 (USA)
A Texas town's council fires the town's old-fashioned marshal who refuses to resign, thus leading to violence from both sides.

Directors:

Don Siegel (as Allen Smithee), Robert Totten (as Allen Smithee)

Writers:

Joseph Calvelli (screenplay), Lewis B. Patten (novel)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Widmark ... Marshal Frank Patch
Lena Horne ... Claire Quintana
Carroll O'Connor ... Lester Locke
David Opatoshu ... Edward Rosenbloom
Kent Smith ... Andrew Oxley
Jacqueline Scott ... Laurie Mills
Morgan Woodward ... Ivan Stanek
Larry Gates ... Mayor Chester Sayre
Dub Taylor ... Doc Adams
John Saxon ... Lou Trinidad
Darleen Carr ... Hilda Jorgenson
Michael McGreevey ... Dan Joslin
Royal Dano ... Arch Brandt
Jimmy Lydon ... Luke Mills (as James Lydon)
Kathleen Freeman ... Mary Elizabeth
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Storyline

In the turn-of-the century Texas town of Cottownwood Springs, marshal Frank Patch is an old-style lawman in a town determined to become modern. When he kills drunken Luke Mills in self-defense, the town leaders decide it's time for a change. They ask for Patch's resignation, but he refuses on the basis that the town on hiring him had promised him the job for as long as he wanted it. Afraid for the town's future and even more afraid of the fact that Marshal Patch knows all the town's dark secrets, the city fathers decide that old-style violence is the only way to rid themselves of the unwanted lawman. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Marshall Patch... he lived by the law of the gun...

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

M/PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 May 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Patch See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Richard Widmark character is in a relationship with the Lena Horne character: in other words, an interracial relationship. That aspect of things is not a plot point in the movie - she's his girlfriend, and nothing more is said. At the time of the movie's release, this was touted by some involved (Widmark for one) as a sign that society had finally reached the point where such things were no longer a controversy or a big deal, and didn't need to be dealt with as part of the narrative. See more »

Goofs

Near the end of the film you can see the electrical wires running (presumably buried for most of their length under the differently-coloured soil) to a man's body as he is 'shot'; the last yard or so of wire -which is presumably for the gunshot SFX- is clearly visible running towards the man's ankles. See more »

Quotes

Dan Joslin: It's awful seeing a man kill himself. One minute he's there... alive... then he's dead. Blood and the smell of powdersmoke. And it's all over and done with. It's awful!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Who Is Alan Smithee? (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

SWEET APPLE WINE
Lyrics Carol Hall
Music Oliver Nelson
Sung by Lena Horne
See more »

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User Reviews

 
You're fired
15 May 2016 | by Prismark10See all my reviews

Death of a Gunfighter was directed by Robert Totten and finished by Don Siegel who took over when Totten was fired as he did not get on with star Richard Widmark.

The gunfighter is Marshall Patch Frank (Widmark) the long tome sheriff in a small town in transition at the tail end of the nineteen century. The bad guys have gone and the town council wants to become respectable and attract new people and new industry. Their once feared Marshall in an anachronism and after one shooting too many they want him out.

The Marshall does not one to leave, he was promised the job for as along as he wanted. He also has dirt on these important men in the council. In the background are some slimy men such as Carroll O'Connor who wants to see the back of the Marshall for their own reasons.

I once heard a critique of the film Shane. One man rides into town, gets rid of the bad guys and then leaves. In reality he would stay, feted as a hero at first and eventually morphs into another bad guy before some years later he is confronted by someone else.

This has what happened in this town. The Marshall did not leave and is now out of place. When he is confronted by the country sheriff a Mexican that he recruited once as a deputy despite the misgivings of the then town council, he punches him and throws him out on the street. It becomes clear to this viewer that the Marshall's unbending ways will be his undoing.

Richard Widmark gives a fine performance of a confused man who realises that he past his sell by date and wants to stick around not knowing that he is stinking the place out. Belatedly he marries Lena Horne the local Madame and for the time it is a daring interracial romance.

This is small scale character study. A western with veterans of the genre such as Royal Dano and Harry Carey jr but not always the stereotypes of the normal western films. It does suffer by trying to paint Widmark as too black and white a good guy when he needed more shades of grey. Maybe this is the creative differences that led to the original director departing.

We see other characters telling him that it is always Marshall's way or no way without it being properly spelt out.

At the end the town decides to get its own type of justice as the only way to bring the violence to an end.


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