The War Wagon


1h 41m 1967
The War Wagon

Brief Synopsis

A rancher and a hired gun join forces to take on the criminal who betrayed them both.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Western
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
Chicago opening: 24 May 1967
Production Company
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Badman by Clair Huffaker (New York, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In the 1870's Taw Jackson is paroled from prison after being framed and cheated out of his gold-rich land by Frank Pierce, the ruthless owner of a mining company. Determined to have his revenge, Taw devises an elaborate plan to hijack Pierce's huge, armor-plated war wagon when it is carrying a half million dollars in gold dust. He enlists the aid of Lomax, a flamboyant gunman previously in the employ of Pierce; Wes Catlin, a supply wagon driver; alcoholic Billy Hyatt, a young demolitions expert who soon becomes attracted to Catlin's young wife, Kate; and Levi Walking Bear, a renegade Indian. Although Pierce tries to lure Lomax back into his employ by offering him $12,000 to kill Taw, the gunman sees a chance for greater profit in the heist. Assisted by Kiowa Indians, Taw puts his plan into motion. A road is blocked, nitroglycerin charges are set off, and the war wagon is blown into a steep ravine. Pierce is shot through the head by Lomax, and the sacks of gold dust are loaded into barrels of flour in Catlin's wagon; but the Kiowas suddenly turn on their companions, shoot Catlin, and attempt to steal the gold. A charge of exploding nitroglycerin kills the Indians and sends Catlin's wagon hurtling over a ledge, whereupon hordes of starving Indians gather up the gold dust, believing it to be flour, and make off with it. Enraged at losing his share of the bounty, Lomax takes Taw's horse as partial payment and rides off. Taw, unbeknownst to Lomax, has prevented the loss of some gold Lomax had hidden from the others. He gives Billy and Kate enough to live on temporarily and sends word to Lomax that he may claim his share of the recovered gold. Soon Lomax appears and angrily demands his share, but Taw insists that the gold remain in his own secret hiding place for a waiting period of 6 months. Until that time Lomax will have to guard Taw's life 24 hours a day.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Western
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
Chicago opening: 24 May 1967
Production Company
Batjac Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Badman by Clair Huffaker (New York, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The War Wagon - Kirk Douglas - The War Wagon


"Mine hit the ground first." "Mine was taller."

So say Kirk Douglas and John Wayne, respectively, just after gunning down two outlaws in The War Wagon (1967), a funny and very enjoyable Western in which the two stars play friendly rivals who put aside their differences to join forces on a daring gold heist. It's daring because the $500,000 batch of gold is traveling in a fortified wagon armed with a Gatling gun, and under guard by two dozen men on horseback.

The rivalry between Douglas and Wayne is the heart of what makes The War Wagon work so well. They play off each other well, with a rapport that is entertaining and believable. When production started in Durango, Mexico, in 1966, Douglas and Wayne had already worked together twice in the previous two years, on In Harm's Way (1965) and Cast a Giant Shadow (1966). Undoubtedly that history helped, but another contributing force here was certainly director Burt Kennedy. One of Kennedy's great strengths was in fostering this kind of easygoing character rapport, and he achieved it consistently both in the movies that he directed (like The Rounders, 1965 and Support Your Local Sheriff, 1969) and the ones that he wrote (like The Tall T, 1957, Seven Men From Now, 1956, and Ride Lonesome, 1959, all directed by Budd Boetticher).

Still, unless the director was John Ford, Wayne was not an easy man to direct, especially if his company was also producing the picture - as was the case with The War Wagon. Douglas recalled years later that even though the Duke was starting to develop lung problems during this production, "he was always the first one on the set, usually checking out what the special-effects guys were doing. He butted into everything¿ He would push directors around¿ Burt Kennedy was having trouble with Wayne. Burt was a very talented director, but gentle. Wayne was a less talented director, and far from gentle."

Kennedy acknowledged the tensions, saying that Wayne "felt responsible for everything; he'd make it tough," but he added, "you cannot change him. He is obdurate and obstinate and he thinks one way. Sometimes he is rough and sometimes he is mean, but he is always himself and he is not phony and bogus."

Kirk Douglas was 50 when he made The War Wagon, an impressive fact when you see him leaping railings and vaulting onto horses with the athleticism of someone much younger. Douglas loved making Westerns and had made nearly a dozen of them. He said, "No actor I know would turn down a good role in a Western. They may claim they want to do one as a change of pace, or a chance to show their versatility. The truth is that they are just as much drawn to the gun-toting hero as the child who wants his first present to be a 'hogleg' and holster and cowboy hat."

Producer: Marvin Schwartz
Director: Burt Kennedy
Screenplay: Clair Huffaker
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Film Editing: Harry W. Gerstad
Art Direction: Alfred Sweeney
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: John Wayne (Taw Jackson), Kirk Douglas (Lomax), Howard Keel (Levi Walking Bear), Robert Walker, Jr. (Billy Hyatt), Keenan Wynn (Wes Fletcher), Bruce Cabot (Frank Pierce).
C-101m. Letterboxed.

by Jeremy Arnold
The War Wagon - Kirk Douglas - The War Wagon

The War Wagon - Kirk Douglas - The War Wagon

"Mine hit the ground first." "Mine was taller." So say Kirk Douglas and John Wayne, respectively, just after gunning down two outlaws in The War Wagon (1967), a funny and very enjoyable Western in which the two stars play friendly rivals who put aside their differences to join forces on a daring gold heist. It's daring because the $500,000 batch of gold is traveling in a fortified wagon armed with a Gatling gun, and under guard by two dozen men on horseback. The rivalry between Douglas and Wayne is the heart of what makes The War Wagon work so well. They play off each other well, with a rapport that is entertaining and believable. When production started in Durango, Mexico, in 1966, Douglas and Wayne had already worked together twice in the previous two years, on In Harm's Way (1965) and Cast a Giant Shadow (1966). Undoubtedly that history helped, but another contributing force here was certainly director Burt Kennedy. One of Kennedy's great strengths was in fostering this kind of easygoing character rapport, and he achieved it consistently both in the movies that he directed (like The Rounders, 1965 and Support Your Local Sheriff, 1969) and the ones that he wrote (like The Tall T, 1957, Seven Men From Now, 1956, and Ride Lonesome, 1959, all directed by Budd Boetticher). Still, unless the director was John Ford, Wayne was not an easy man to direct, especially if his company was also producing the picture - as was the case with The War Wagon. Douglas recalled years later that even though the Duke was starting to develop lung problems during this production, "he was always the first one on the set, usually checking out what the special-effects guys were doing. He butted into everything¿ He would push directors around¿ Burt Kennedy was having trouble with Wayne. Burt was a very talented director, but gentle. Wayne was a less talented director, and far from gentle." Kennedy acknowledged the tensions, saying that Wayne "felt responsible for everything; he'd make it tough," but he added, "you cannot change him. He is obdurate and obstinate and he thinks one way. Sometimes he is rough and sometimes he is mean, but he is always himself and he is not phony and bogus." Kirk Douglas was 50 when he made The War Wagon, an impressive fact when you see him leaping railings and vaulting onto horses with the athleticism of someone much younger. Douglas loved making Westerns and had made nearly a dozen of them. He said, "No actor I know would turn down a good role in a Western. They may claim they want to do one as a change of pace, or a chance to show their versatility. The truth is that they are just as much drawn to the gun-toting hero as the child who wants his first present to be a 'hogleg' and holster and cowboy hat." Producer: Marvin Schwartz Director: Burt Kennedy Screenplay: Clair Huffaker Cinematography: William H. Clothier Film Editing: Harry W. Gerstad Art Direction: Alfred Sweeney Music: Dimitri Tiomkin Cast: John Wayne (Taw Jackson), Kirk Douglas (Lomax), Howard Keel (Levi Walking Bear), Robert Walker, Jr. (Billy Hyatt), Keenan Wynn (Wes Fletcher), Bruce Cabot (Frank Pierce). C-101m. Letterboxed. by Jeremy Arnold

TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th

PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE


TCM will air the following films featuring the late actor Howard Keel this Monday, November 15th :

6:00 AM
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)

7:30 AM
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)

9:30 AM
War Wagon (1967)

11:30 AM
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)

12:00 PM
Showboat (1951)

2:00 PM
Kiss Me Kate (1953)

4:00 PM
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

6:00 PM
Kismet (1955)

HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):

Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.

He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.

After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.

After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.

Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.

By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.

Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

by Michael T. Toole

Important Milestones on Howard Keel:

1933:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"

1947:
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"

1948:
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"

1950:
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"

1951:
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable

1951:
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"

1952:
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"

1954:
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"

1955:
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"

1958:
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"

1967:
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"

1968:
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"

1977:
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"

1978:
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow

1983:
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"

1994:
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s

Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.

TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE

TCM will air the following films featuring the late actor Howard Keel this Monday, November 15th : 6:00 AM Callaway Went Thataway (1951) 7:30 AM Ride, Vaquero! (1953) 9:30 AM War Wagon (1967) 11:30 AM "MGM Parade Show #14" (Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955) 12:00 PM Showboat (1951) 2:00 PM Kiss Me Kate (1953) 4:00 PM Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) 6:00 PM Kismet (1955) HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004): Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85. He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager. After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein. In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom. After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films. Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical. By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show. Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. by Michael T. Toole Important Milestones on Howard Keel: 1933: Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate) Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma" 1947: Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma" 1948: Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice" 1950: Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun" 1951: Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable 1951: First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat" 1952: First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search" 1954: Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" 1955: Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet" 1958: Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear" 1967: Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk" 1968: Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers" Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate) Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks" 1977: Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific" 1978: Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow 1983: Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So" 1994: Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.

Quotes

Mine hit the ground first.
- Lomax
Mine was taller.
- Taw Jackson
I can't afford to let you get killed, unless I do it!
- Lomax

Trivia

As Lomax is riding into Chabisco, the music coming from the saloon is an instrumental version of "The Ballad of the War Wagon."

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Mexico.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1967

Released in United States 1967