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Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated American serviceman of WWII, acted in over 40 movies after the war, most famously playing himself in To Hell and Back (1955). His lack of acting training limited his effectiveness, however, and most of his films were of average quality. In the western Cast a Long Shadow (1959), he plays a drifter who tries to reform after he inherits a ranch from a man who may or may not have been his father. When he learns that the property is riddled with debt, he organizes a cattle drive to save it.
Cast a Long Shadow came and went without much fanfare; in fact, it was sandwiched among some of Murphy's better pictures: No Name on the Bullet (1959), Hell Bent for Leather (1960) and The Unforgiven (1960). Today it's probably most interesting for its cast. Fans of the 1980s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, for example, will get a kick out of seeing that show's "Rosco P. Coltrane" (James Best) and "Uncle Jesse" (Denver Pyle) together here. (For the record, Best and Pyle also acted together in The Left Handed Gun (1958), Shenandoah (1965), and episodes of the TV westerns Cheyenne (1962) and Rawhide (1963).)
James Best's career, however, encompassed much more than just Dukes of Hazzard. This was the fourth of five movies that Murphy and Best appeared in together. The first was Kansas Raiders (1950), one of the very first movies that Best, then 24, ever acted in. Best is still active, and among his dozens of movies and TV shows are such credits as Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 (1950), Budd Boetticher's Ride Lonesome (1959) and Sam Fuller's Verboten! (1959).
Ann Doran, here playing Ma Calvert, enjoyed an exceptionally long career as a character actress, appearing in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows starting as a child in the silent era. Many parts were uncredited, and she racked up tiny roles in 'A' productions as well as larger parts in 'B's. In 1938, for example, moviegoers could see her as an uncredited maid in Holiday and as the female lead in the Charles Starrett B-western Rio Grande. By the time of Cast a Long Shadow, she'd been in everything from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and So Proudly We Hail! (1943) to Pitfall (1948) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
Producer Walter Mirisch was very successful, though Cast a Long Shadow remains one of his minor efforts. He'd go on to produce The Magnificent Seven (1960) and In the Heat of the Night (1967), for which he won the Best Picture Oscar. From 1973-1977, he served as President of the Motion Picture Academy.
Producer: Walter Mirisch
Director: Thomas Carr
Screenplay: Martin Goldsmith, John McGreevey, Wayne D. Overholser (novel)
Cinematography: Wilfred M. Cline
Film Editing: Richard V. Heermance
Art Direction: Dave Milton
Music: Gerald Fried
Cast: Audie Murphy (Matt Brown), Terry Moore (Janet Calvert), John Dehner (Chip Donohue), James Best (Sam Mullen), Rita Lynn (Hortensia), Denver Pyle (Harrison).
by Jeremy Arnold