The King and Four Queens


1h 26m 1956
The King and Four Queens

Brief Synopsis

When four outlaw brothers are killed, a con man tries to win the confidence of their widows.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Last Man in Wagon Mound
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Western
Release Date
Dec 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 Dec 1956
Production Company
Gabco Productions, Ltd.; Russ-Field Corp.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
St. George, Utah, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

In the Old West, confidence man Dan Kehoe outrides a trio of pursuing horsemen and reaches a small town where a funeral director and a bartender tell him about the five McDade widows in the nearby town of Wagon Mound. Ma McDade had four sons, Boone, Matt, Prince and Roy, who two years earlier, robbed a stagecoach of one hundred thousand dollars in gold and retreated to Wagon Mound, but were followed by a sheriff and his posse. The boys were hiding in a barn when an explosion shattered it, killing all but one of the brothers. The identity of the brother who escaped is unknown. The bartender, a member of the posse, tells Dan that the gold's location was never discovered and that the brothers' respective wives, Sabina, Ruby, Birdie, and Oralie, joined their husbands' tough, old, widowed mother to await the return of the one living brother and their share of the spoils. Recognizing the potential for riches, Dan decides to head for Wagon Mound. Before Dan leaves, the bartender gives him a twenty-dollar piece with a bullet hole in it that he found near the barn and tells him that all the brothers wore one around their necks. Feigning that he is on the run from the law, Dan rides past a "Keep Out" sign into the burned-out town of Wagon Mound, and is shot in the arm by Ma. The four young widows are excited by the arrival of the handsome, virile stranger and are soon competing for his attention. To explain his presence there, Dan pretends to have met a man who told him that if he was ever in trouble, he should go to Wagon Mound. Although Ma wonders why the man, possibly her only living son, did not send her a message, she allows Dan to stay overnight, but locks him in his room. The next day, Ma assigns the aloof and enigmatic Sabina to change the bandage on Dan's wound and announces that he will be leaving later that day. Dan meets the other widows, the flighty Birdie, a former "actress"; the conniving Ruby and the demure Oralie, all of whom are anxious to win over Dan. Ma cannot tolerate her man-hungry, daughters-in-law lusting after Dan and is anxious that he move on. Just as Dan is about to leave, Sheriff Tom Larrabee and a posse arrive, having been told that Dan is the returning McDade brother. After the sheriff informs Dan that there is a five-thousand dollar reward for the capture of McDade and another five thousand if the gold is recovered, Dan offers to notify him if the brother returns by ringing the church bell. When the posse leaves, Dan manages to convince Ma that he should stay on a little longer until the rains come. Later, each of the young widows, except Sabina, attempts to seduce Dan into forming an alliance to find the gold and leave with her. When Ruby tells Dan that she is sure that Ma knows where the gold is hidden, Dan disappears and when Ma searches for him, he watches as she checks a gravesite in the cemetery. The rains come and as Dan prepares to depart, Sabina tells him she is surprised that he is leaving without the gold and observes that the coin he carries must have come from its original owner, who sent him to collect the gold. When Dan denies knowing where the gold is hidden, Sabina admits that she knows where it is and has only been waiting for a strong man to help her recover it. Sabina and Dan agree that they will meet later, outside of town. The other women watch sadly as Dan rides off, but he returns secretly to take the buckboard and, when he meets Sabina, shows her that he already has the gold on board. Stunned, Sabina asks why he waited for her and Dan explains that, of the four women, he found her to be the most compatible. Meanwhile, Ruby alerts Ma that Sabina is missing and Ma rushes to the grave, but finds it empty. While they ride in the buckboard, Sabina confesses to Dan that Boone was the brother who survived but that they were never married. Shortly after Boone told her about the gold, he was killed and she decided to pose as his widow. Suddenly, the church bell tolls as Ma alerts the sheriff. Soon the posse is hot on their heels and Dan, aware that they will be caught, decides to cut his losses by stopping the buckboard and unloading all of the gold except for one sack, which he gives to Sabina. After telling her to ride on and give the sack to a priest, who is safekeeping his other money, Dan says he will catch up with her later. When the sheriff and posse arrive, Dan informs them that it was he who rang the bell, as he had found the gold and needed an escort, and that he has taken the five thousand due him as a reward. Dan then rides to the mission, where the priest tells him that, upon being informed by Dan's lovely wife that Dan had been hanged, he gave all of the money to her. Dan chases after Sabina, but finds her waiting for him with the money intact. After Sabina suggests to Dan that they make a good team because they are kindred souls, and that it is no fun winning the game if you are alone, they ride off together.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Last Man in Wagon Mound
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Western
Release Date
Dec 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 Dec 1956
Production Company
Gabco Productions, Ltd.; Russ-Field Corp.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
St. George, Utah, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

The King and Four Queens


By the mid-1950s, Eleanor Parker had costarred with many of Hollywood's most famous leading men, including Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, Robert Taylor, William Holden and Frank Sinatra. She would recall, however, being especially excited at the prospect of acting in The King and Four Queens (1956) opposite Clark Gable: "I was a real fan."

In this lighthearted United Artists Western directed by Raoul Walsh, Gable plays a dashing desperado who wanders into a ghost town called Wagon Mound, where a crusty, rifle-toting matriarch (Jo Van Fleet) watches over her four man-hungry daughters-in-law. It seems that, two years earlier, three of the old woman's sons had died in a fire (although no one knows which three) after stealing and hiding a fortune in gold. Sizing up the situation, Gable uses his manly charms to wheedle information from the ladies about the whereabouts of the treasure.

Parker plays the most cynical and shrewd of the daughters-in-law, a fiery redhead described by Gable as "tougher than Wang leather, smarter than spit and colder than January." Jean Willes is a sultry Mexican, Barbara Nichols a dumb-blonde dancer, and Sara Shane a prim young thing. The chemistry Parker shares with Gable makes it easy enough to predict that she's the one who will share his final ride into the sunset.

The movie was the only project from Gable's own production company, GABCO, and was produced in partnership with actress Jane Russell and her husband, Robert Waterfield, who served as executive producer. (Gable, Russell and Walsh had teamed the year before on another Western, The Tall Men).

Location filming for The King and Four Queens was done in and around St. George, Utah, where RKO's The Conqueror (1956) also had just filmed. The latter film was notorious for allegations that many of the cast and crew (including director Dick Powell and stars John Wayne and Susan Hayward) had fallen victim to cancer after spending time near atomic testing grounds.

Several sequences shot for The King and Four Queens never made it onto the screen. These included the return of the surviving son (John Compton, whose entire role ended on the cutting-room floor); a rain-drenched scene where Gable and Parker retrieve the stolen gold from a river; a romantic interlude with Parker apparently clad only in a striped blanket; and an alternate ending where Parker, now married to Gable, gives birth to his son!

Producer: David Hempstead, Robert Waterfield (Executive Producer)
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Margaret Fitts, Richard Alan Simmons, from story by Fitts
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Production Design: Wiard Ihnen
Original Music: Alex North
Editing: Howard Bretherton
Costume Design: Renie
Cast: Clark Gable (Dan Kehoe), Eleanor Parker (Sabina McDade), Jo Van Fleet (Ma McDade), Jean Willes (Ruby McDade), Barbara Nichols (Birdie McDade), Sara Shane (Oralie McDade), Roy Roberts (Sheriff Tom Larrabee), Arthur Shields (Padre), Jay C. Flippen (Bartender).
C-85m. Letterboxed.

by Roger Fristoe
The King And Four Queens

The King and Four Queens

By the mid-1950s, Eleanor Parker had costarred with many of Hollywood's most famous leading men, including Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, Robert Taylor, William Holden and Frank Sinatra. She would recall, however, being especially excited at the prospect of acting in The King and Four Queens (1956) opposite Clark Gable: "I was a real fan." In this lighthearted United Artists Western directed by Raoul Walsh, Gable plays a dashing desperado who wanders into a ghost town called Wagon Mound, where a crusty, rifle-toting matriarch (Jo Van Fleet) watches over her four man-hungry daughters-in-law. It seems that, two years earlier, three of the old woman's sons had died in a fire (although no one knows which three) after stealing and hiding a fortune in gold. Sizing up the situation, Gable uses his manly charms to wheedle information from the ladies about the whereabouts of the treasure. Parker plays the most cynical and shrewd of the daughters-in-law, a fiery redhead described by Gable as "tougher than Wang leather, smarter than spit and colder than January." Jean Willes is a sultry Mexican, Barbara Nichols a dumb-blonde dancer, and Sara Shane a prim young thing. The chemistry Parker shares with Gable makes it easy enough to predict that she's the one who will share his final ride into the sunset. The movie was the only project from Gable's own production company, GABCO, and was produced in partnership with actress Jane Russell and her husband, Robert Waterfield, who served as executive producer. (Gable, Russell and Walsh had teamed the year before on another Western, The Tall Men). Location filming for The King and Four Queens was done in and around St. George, Utah, where RKO's The Conqueror (1956) also had just filmed. The latter film was notorious for allegations that many of the cast and crew (including director Dick Powell and stars John Wayne and Susan Hayward) had fallen victim to cancer after spending time near atomic testing grounds. Several sequences shot for The King and Four Queens never made it onto the screen. These included the return of the surviving son (John Compton, whose entire role ended on the cutting-room floor); a rain-drenched scene where Gable and Parker retrieve the stolen gold from a river; a romantic interlude with Parker apparently clad only in a striped blanket; and an alternate ending where Parker, now married to Gable, gives birth to his son! Producer: David Hempstead, Robert Waterfield (Executive Producer) Director: Raoul Walsh Screenplay: Margaret Fitts, Richard Alan Simmons, from story by Fitts Cinematography: Lucien Ballard Production Design: Wiard Ihnen Original Music: Alex North Editing: Howard Bretherton Costume Design: Renie Cast: Clark Gable (Dan Kehoe), Eleanor Parker (Sabina McDade), Jo Van Fleet (Ma McDade), Jean Willes (Ruby McDade), Barbara Nichols (Birdie McDade), Sara Shane (Oralie McDade), Roy Roberts (Sheriff Tom Larrabee), Arthur Shields (Padre), Jay C. Flippen (Bartender). C-85m. Letterboxed. by Roger Fristoe

The King and Four Queens - Clark Gable in THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS on DVD


The pleasant but undistinguished western The King and Four Queens was partly produced by "The King of Hollywood" himself, Clark Gable. His second outing with veteran director Raoul Walsh has a clever concept but a weak finish, and relies on an interesting cast to keep our attention.

Gambler-drifter Dan Kehoe (Clark Gable) learns of five women living by themselves at a lonely ranch called Wagon Mound. Ma McDade (Jo Van Fleet) shoots trespassers; everyone knows that her absent sons are bank robbers. The sons' four young brides have been awaiting their return for two years: Sabina, Ruby, Birdie and Oralie (Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Barbara Nichols & Sara Shane). The girls are convinced that none of the husbands are coming home. The part of the story that interests Dan Kehoe is the McDade treasure -- Ma McDade is said to be guarding $100,000 dollars in stolen money.

Pretending to be on the run from the law, Dan enters the ranch. Ma hits him with a rifle shot, and the girls insist that he become a visitor while his wound heals. The sultry Ruby appeals directly to the handsome stranger, while the ex- dance hall entertainer Birdie tries to attract his attention with revealing costumes. Oralie is shy but interested, and Sabina is the most patient. Ma insists that the girls remain faithful to their missing husbands, but they're more interested in getting the stubborn matriarch to reveal where the treasure is buried.

Being the wives of desperate outlaws, more than one of the women has a sneaky plan to steal away with both the loot and the man. The irony is that the self-confident Dan has little choice but to play along with his hostesses' games. Barbara Nichols (Sweet Smell of Success) plays her standard bird-brained floozie character; and is even given the name Birdie. Sara Shane's Oralie possesses an utterly beguiling smile but has difficulty asserting herself. Busy actress Jean Willes (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) pours herself into a red dress to seduce the rogue male. Dan, of course, chooses the one woman who doesn't throw herself at him. Higher-billed Eleanor Parker plays the calculating Sabina, the McDade bride most willing to level with him about the mysterious treasure.

Stealing the show outright is Jo Van Fleet, the great stage actress who made her film career playing crusty older women in pictures like East of Eden and Wild River. The remarkable Ms. Van Fleet is only 41 in this film, fifteen years younger than Clark Gable and not that much older than the other actresses.

The King and Four Queens wants to be a full-on farce, but the script instead takes its "fox in the henhouse" situation at face value. As this is 1956 and the Production Code is in full force, Clark Gable's handsome stranger engages in little more than kissing with each of the four wives (depending on how we interpret one scene fade-out). What could have been a sexy romp is simply too restrained. Dan Kehoe allows each of the four babes to dally with him according to their personal styles, while the sour-faced Ma sits with an itchy trigger finger on her rifle. Director Raoul Walsh plays this challenge to male supremacy mostly straight, revealing few surprises about his characters. The amusing The King and Four Queens doesn't fully exploit its potential.

We wonder what Billy Wilder might have done with the situation of four sex-starved beauties confronted with the desirable Clark Gable; it sounds like a setup for one of the director's famous dirty jokes. The script already makes use of telling role reversals. Dan Kehoe is caught bathing naked in a pond, a ritual usually reserved for the leading lady. Birdie arrives, and instead of hiding Dan's clothing, hurries to undress and join him! Good taste, the Production Code and the unwillingness to make The King and Four Queens an outright comedy prevail. The film instead settles for conventional character twists and a subdued, non-violent conclusion. The plain fact is that it needed either a more compelling dramatic finale, or bigger laughs.

MGM-Fox's DVD of The King and Four Queens is a good enhanced transfer given a bare bones presentation. The disc has no extras and no menus; the feature film plays directly upon loading the disc. There are no scene selections either, only chapter stops at ten-minute intervals. The relaxing, amusing western features beautiful color cinematography by Lucien Ballard and attractive sets by the interesting designer Wiard Ihnen -- Ma McDade's desert "shack" is actually very spacious and accommodating. It looks as though one or more of Ballard's CinemaScope lenses weren't properly adjusted, as many shots feature vertical lines that lean to the left or the right -- doorways, support posts, etc.

The design of the cover art is not bad, but only Clark Gable is identifiable -- it's difficult to match up the likenesses of the "four queens" with the film's four actresses.

For more information about The King and Four Queens, visit The King and Four Queens. To order The King and Four Queens, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The King and Four Queens - Clark Gable in THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS on DVD

The pleasant but undistinguished western The King and Four Queens was partly produced by "The King of Hollywood" himself, Clark Gable. His second outing with veteran director Raoul Walsh has a clever concept but a weak finish, and relies on an interesting cast to keep our attention. Gambler-drifter Dan Kehoe (Clark Gable) learns of five women living by themselves at a lonely ranch called Wagon Mound. Ma McDade (Jo Van Fleet) shoots trespassers; everyone knows that her absent sons are bank robbers. The sons' four young brides have been awaiting their return for two years: Sabina, Ruby, Birdie and Oralie (Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Barbara Nichols & Sara Shane). The girls are convinced that none of the husbands are coming home. The part of the story that interests Dan Kehoe is the McDade treasure -- Ma McDade is said to be guarding $100,000 dollars in stolen money. Pretending to be on the run from the law, Dan enters the ranch. Ma hits him with a rifle shot, and the girls insist that he become a visitor while his wound heals. The sultry Ruby appeals directly to the handsome stranger, while the ex- dance hall entertainer Birdie tries to attract his attention with revealing costumes. Oralie is shy but interested, and Sabina is the most patient. Ma insists that the girls remain faithful to their missing husbands, but they're more interested in getting the stubborn matriarch to reveal where the treasure is buried. Being the wives of desperate outlaws, more than one of the women has a sneaky plan to steal away with both the loot and the man. The irony is that the self-confident Dan has little choice but to play along with his hostesses' games. Barbara Nichols (Sweet Smell of Success) plays her standard bird-brained floozie character; and is even given the name Birdie. Sara Shane's Oralie possesses an utterly beguiling smile but has difficulty asserting herself. Busy actress Jean Willes (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) pours herself into a red dress to seduce the rogue male. Dan, of course, chooses the one woman who doesn't throw herself at him. Higher-billed Eleanor Parker plays the calculating Sabina, the McDade bride most willing to level with him about the mysterious treasure. Stealing the show outright is Jo Van Fleet, the great stage actress who made her film career playing crusty older women in pictures like East of Eden and Wild River. The remarkable Ms. Van Fleet is only 41 in this film, fifteen years younger than Clark Gable and not that much older than the other actresses. The King and Four Queens wants to be a full-on farce, but the script instead takes its "fox in the henhouse" situation at face value. As this is 1956 and the Production Code is in full force, Clark Gable's handsome stranger engages in little more than kissing with each of the four wives (depending on how we interpret one scene fade-out). What could have been a sexy romp is simply too restrained. Dan Kehoe allows each of the four babes to dally with him according to their personal styles, while the sour-faced Ma sits with an itchy trigger finger on her rifle. Director Raoul Walsh plays this challenge to male supremacy mostly straight, revealing few surprises about his characters. The amusing The King and Four Queens doesn't fully exploit its potential. We wonder what Billy Wilder might have done with the situation of four sex-starved beauties confronted with the desirable Clark Gable; it sounds like a setup for one of the director's famous dirty jokes. The script already makes use of telling role reversals. Dan Kehoe is caught bathing naked in a pond, a ritual usually reserved for the leading lady. Birdie arrives, and instead of hiding Dan's clothing, hurries to undress and join him! Good taste, the Production Code and the unwillingness to make The King and Four Queens an outright comedy prevail. The film instead settles for conventional character twists and a subdued, non-violent conclusion. The plain fact is that it needed either a more compelling dramatic finale, or bigger laughs. MGM-Fox's DVD of The King and Four Queens is a good enhanced transfer given a bare bones presentation. The disc has no extras and no menus; the feature film plays directly upon loading the disc. There are no scene selections either, only chapter stops at ten-minute intervals. The relaxing, amusing western features beautiful color cinematography by Lucien Ballard and attractive sets by the interesting designer Wiard Ihnen -- Ma McDade's desert "shack" is actually very spacious and accommodating. It looks as though one or more of Ballard's CinemaScope lenses weren't properly adjusted, as many shots feature vertical lines that lean to the left or the right -- doorways, support posts, etc. The design of the cover art is not bad, but only Clark Gable is identifiable -- it's difficult to match up the likenesses of the "four queens" with the film's four actresses. For more information about The King and Four Queens, visit The King and Four Queens. To order The King and Four Queens, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This film's working title was The Last Man in Wagon Mound. The film was a co-production between Clark Gable's company and one owned by actress Jane Russell and her then-husband, Robert Waterfield. An April 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Gable was to have a participation deal in the film's profits, and stated that producer David Hempstead wrote the screenplay with Margaret Fitts. Only Fitts and Richard Alan Simmons, however, receive onscreen credit for the screenplay. According to the film's pressbook, the principal exterior set, the town of Wagon Mound, was constructed seventeen miles from St. George, UT. According to news items, interiors were shot at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, where the scoring was also completed. The onscreen credits list Howard Bretherton as film editor, but other sources list David Bretherton, Howard's son, and a pressbook contained in copyright records displays Howard Bretherton's name handwritten over the crossed-out, typed name "David Brotherton [sic]."
       A Hollywood Reporter production chart adds John Compton to the cast, but his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to an September 18, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, because of concern over how the film would end, director Raoul Walsh shot three different versions and planned to allow preview audiences to determine the best choice. Additional Hollywood Reporter news items noted that United Artists had arranged for a novelization of the film with Dell Publishing Co. and that Gable would be making his television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in an interview filmed on location in Utah. The interview was noteworthy as Gable had been a harsh critic of the medium and had previously refused to do television publicity for any of his films.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 1956

CinemaScope

Released in United States Winter December 1956