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Stewart Granger was in the process of selling off one ranch and buying another when he made the Western Gun Glory for MGM in 1957, where he had been under contract for seven years. Considering the mishaps he encountered during production, Granger might well have considered whether he was actually cut out for the rugged life.
Granger plays a gunslinger who returns home after three years to find his wife dead and his son bitterly turned against him. When a cattleman threatens to run his herds through the peaceful farming valley, the locals ignore Granger's warning that the cattleman will meet any attempts to resist the drive with deadly violence. It then falls to the ex-gunman to save the town, gain back his son's respect and win the heart of a sexy widow.
Granger was not pleased about being assigned to this picture. After several years of top stardom in such high-budget adventure movies as King Solomon's Mines (1950), Scaramouche (1952), and Bhowani Junction (1956), he felt the studio was handing him routine work as punishment for not renewing his contract. Nevertheless, he chose to take on the project rather than spend a year on suspension, and dove into training as a "quick draw" for his first role as a gunman. The broad-shouldered Granger thought he was built all wrong for it, but with the assistance of a Native American trainer named Lightfoot, he soon learned how to "fan" a pistol - at least an empty one. When the time came for the actor to perform the stunt with full-charge blanks loaded into the gun, he flubbed the draw and fired it in the holster, burning the entire side of his leg. Trying to shake the incident off as a joke, Granger attempted a second take. This time he managed to get the gun out, but in the fanning action the sharp striker of the hammer went into his palm. Embarrassed and in a great deal of pain, he required assistance removing the heavy revolver dangling from his palm. On the third take, he performed the stunt impressively. Unfortunately, camera problems required a fourth take; Granger managed to pull off the last attempt without a hitch or injury.
The star didn't fair a whole lot better on horseback. An experienced rider, Granger decided to bring his own horse, Sundown, from his ranch. A well-trained and intelligent animal, Sundown nearly threw Granger when the unfamiliar sound of the camera whirring spooked him. After that, he performed superbly on cue. Granger did admit, however, that he fell off his horse a couple of times during the stampede scene. Although relatively unscathed, he was happy when the shoot was finished and he could hang up his guns. "I thought I'd better stick to sword-fighting in the future," he wrote in his autobiography.
Granger had other complaints about this production, too. He resented what he perceived as a high degree of studio nepotism at work. Producer Nicholas Nayfack, the star said, was only given the assignment because he was the nephew of MGM executive Nicholas Schenck, an old nemesis of Granger's. He also claimed director Roy Rowland was somehow related to Louis B. Mayer (who by this time had been ousted as head of the studio) and carped about having to act opposite Rowland's son, cast as his character's son in Gun Glory. "He'd never appeared in a film before and I don't think he's been seen since," Granger wrote in his autobiography. In fact, Steve Rowland had played small roles in several pictures and TV shows for the five years previous to this and continued acting into the mid-1960s. He also wrote the title song for a teen exploitation film he appeared in - Naked Youth (1960).
One cast member whose credits were unimpeachable was May McAvoy. In pictures since 1917, she had been a leading lady in a number of major silent films, including Ben-Hur (1925) and The Jazz Singer (1927). By this point in her career, in her late 50s, her early work had been largely forgotten, and she received no on-screen credit for Gun Glory.
Also missing a credit here was screenwriter Ben Maddow. A talented writer who had done notable work on The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Maddow was a victim of the Hollywood blacklist. His friend, writer Philip Yordan, "fronted" for him for a few years, taking the screen credit for his work until Maddow's career was rescued from the witch-hunts with credit for the Western The Unforgiven (1960). Yordan was himself a respected and busy writer - Detective Story (1951), Johnny Guitar (1954), an Academy Award for Broken Lance (1954) - who helped out a few people in his profession by putting his name on their screenplays when the blacklist prevented them from working openly.
Director: Roy Rowland
Producer: Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay: William Ludwig, Philip Yordan (front for Ben Maddow)
Cinematography: Harold J. Marzorati
Editing: Frank Santillo
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Merrill Pye
Original Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Stewart Granger (Tom Earley), Rhonda Fleming (Jo), Chill Wills (Preacher), Steve Rowland (Tom Earley, Jr.), James Gregory (Grimsell).
by Rob Nixon