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A follow-up to The Carpetbaggers (1964), Nevada Smith (1966) finds McQueen in the Alan Ladd role, but traces his background in a manner that we'd today call a "prequel." Young Nevada finds his parents brutally slain by a gang of thugs (led by Martin Landau), then teams up with an aging gunfighter (Brian Keith) to learn the skills of gunplay and find the men who murdered his family. A fairly routine story is given life by McQueen's flinty screen presence, with Suzanne Pleshette cast improbably as a Cajun farm worker and character actors like Pat Hingle, Howard Da Silva, Gene Evans and Lyle Bettger rounding things out.
Hathaway was faced with staggering logistical problems, with the movie set amidst 42 locations (in the California mountain ranges of the Long Pine, Bishop and Mammoth mountains) and with 68 speaking parts to contend with. Cinematographer Lucien Ballard used the spectacular scenery to full advantage; Hathaway had used the mountains so many times before that Ballard's camera never catches the same place twice.
Interestingly, McQueen's role is quite similar to his character on the then-popular TV series Wanted: Dead Or Alive, with the exception being that bounty hunter Josh Randall stalked men for money while Nevada Smith hunted them for vengeance. Still, it's intriguing to think ofMcQueen's volatile nature running up against Henry Hathaway's authoritarian direction in this film.
Producer/Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: John Michael Hayes
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Editor: Frank Bracht
Art direction: Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen, Al Roelofs
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Steve McQueen (Nevada Smith/Max Sand), Karl Malden (Tom Fitch), Brian Keith (Jonas Cord), Arthur Kennedy (Bill Bowdre), Suzanne Pleshette (Pilar), Pat Hingle (Big Foot Work Camp Trustee), Raf Vallone (Father Zaccardi), Martin Landau (Jesse Coe), Howard De Silva (Warden of Work Camp), Paul Fix (Sheriff Bonnell), Gene Evans (Sam Sand).
C-131m. Closed captioning.
by Jerry Renshaw