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Escape from Fort Bravo (1953) is a classic western, shot in Death Valley and New Mexico, and set during the Civil War. William Holden plays a Union captain guarding a group of Confederate prisoners. The prisoners escape, Holden goes after them, and all of them face a climactic Indian attack.
After seven years as a director and four years at MGM, John Sturges had built a career "of solid and prolific mediocrity," according to DuPre Jones, in his study of Sturges' work (1974, Films and Filming). With Escape from Fort Bravo, Sturges broke out of that rut, and found his niche as "a very good action director with a near-genius for staging gunfights." In Escape from Fort Bravo, Sturges meticulously builds the tension towards one of those long, complex and exciting climaxes which would become a trademark of Sturges hits like Gunfight at the OK Corral(1957), The Magnificent Seven (1960), and The Great Escape (1963).
Escape from Fort Bravo was an important film in William Holden's career as well. Fresh from his success in Stalag 17 (1953), Holden had negotiated a new contract with Paramount which tied him to the studio for only three months a year, and allowed him to freelance. Escape from Fort Bravo was his first film at MGM. Holden, a rugged outdoorsman, relished the strenuous location work. And he earned excellent reviews for his portrayal of the rigid cavalry officer.
Holden's co-star, Eleanor Parker, was saucy and elaborately-gowned as a Confederate spy. She had more to do than most women in Sturges films, and critics found her appealing. One commented, "Eleanor Parker demonstrates that the desert air does just as much for a girl's complexion as a couple of weeks at Helena Rubinstein's."
It was the height of the 3-D craze, and Escape from Fort Bravo was originally shot in 3-D. But by the time it was ready for release, the gimmick had gotten schlocky, and the 3-D version was dumped. However, Escape from Fort Bravo was the first MGM film to be shot for the increasingly popular wide screen -- a plus with the dramatic locations.
Director: John Sturges
Producer: Nicholas Nayfack
Screenplay: Frank Fenton
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editor: George Boemler
Art Direction: Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: William Holden (Capt. Roper), Eleanor Parker (Carla Forester), John Forsythe (Capt. John Marsh), William Demarest (Campbell), William Campbell (Cabot Young).
C-99m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri